Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S.-born citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was arrested in September 2011 for plotting to attack the Pentagon and the Capitol Building with remote-controlled model airplanes carrying C-4 explosives, as well as for providing material support to al Qaeda. He pled guilty in federal district court in Boston and, in November 2012, was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Ferdaus’s arrest was controversial in some quarters because it came out of an FBI sting operation and thus raised the specter of entrapment. Counterterrorism sting operations and the resulting controversy have become a routine feature of national-security law enforcement. Just last week, the trial began of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 21-year-old Somali-American nabbed in an FBI sting involving a plot to detonate a bomb in downtown Portland, Oregon. Mohamud’s defense counsel, while admitting Mohamud’s involvement, asked in his opening statement, “Did the government create the crime? . . . Did the F.B.I. foil its own plot?”
In this episode of the podcast, I spoke to Miriam Conrad, Ferdaus’s defense attorney and Federal Public Defender for the districts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, about the case and counterterrorism sting operations more generally.