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On July 21st HBO Documentaries will premiere The Newburgh Sting, which purports to be the story of how the FBI entrapped four poor unsuspecting African-American men in a scheme to blow up airplanes at the Stewart Airport National Guard airbase and two synagogues in the Bronx. The filmmakers, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, claim that the documentary contains never before seen undercover footage that reinforces the story’s narrative of four desperate men enticed by offers of money from a government informant. Yet this narrative falls apart when the real motivations of the ringleader, James “Abdul Rahman” Cromitie, are examined in his own words.

Claims that Cromitie was interested solely in money being offered by government informant Shahed Hussein a.k.a Maqsood dissolves utterly when Cromitie’s statements are examined. Additionally, the Newburgh Sting film relies on the testimony of those with a disturbing history of bias in favor of terrorists and terror supporters in order to make its case.

The Newburgh ringleader can be seen to possess a clear understanding of jihadist doctrine and ideology that is readily apparent to a knowledgeable observer.. Cromitie repeatedly states that jihad, and not financial gain, is his principle motivation. The prevalence of this material within the court documents suggests that the filmmakers required a willful disregard of the facts in evidence, in order to support an ulterior agenda other than merely presenting the facts of the story.

In the Cause of Allah

When James Cromitie met government informant Shahed Hussein in the parking lot of the Masijd Al-Iklas, on June 13th, 2008, Hussein testified that Cromitie discussed the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and expressed a desire to “die like a shahid, a martyr” and to “go to Paradise.” He later added that he wanted “to do something to America.”[1]

This initial statement was followed by repeated comments during the course of the many months in which Hussein and Cromitie interacted (under video and audio surveillance from the FBI), that make clear that Cromitie understood the implications of these statements.

While regaling Hussein with a story of an encounter with a Jewish man he met at his hotel, Cromitie explains how the man made him so angry he wanted to kill him. Hussein then mentions jihad, to which Cromitie explains:

CROMITIE: No, because you angry.

CI (Shahed Hussein): Angry.

CROMITIE: No, you have to do it where it’s Fisabilillah.

CI: Fisabilillah.


CI: Yeah.[2]

Fisabililah means, “in the cause of Allah,” and is a phrase often associated with violent Jihad. Cromitie here is describing the requirement of “intention.” In other words, for the act of killing to be legitimate, it must be done “fisabilillah” and not out of other motives, including financial gain or anger. This concept is clearly elucidated in such jihadist works as Sheikh Abdul Qadir Ibn ‘Abdul-Aziz’s “Jihad and the Effects of Intention Upon It”, where the Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader wrote:

As the reward promised for the Mujahidin is all contingent upon the condition of the action being “in the path of Allah.” And the Muslim must not train or perform Jihad with the aim of reaching a financial benefit or leadership and surpassing anyone beside him.[3]

Cromitie reiterates his insistence that he interested in engaging in Jihad Fisabilillah at multiple points in the recorded conversation. On October 19th, 2008, Hussein and Cromitie again discuss the question of motivation, where Cromitie says:

Cromitie: What, what, what’s SurahSurahSurah Bakr.

CI: Surah Bakr…Ah Surah Bakr.

Cromitie: I had one sixteen… [Ed.: Cromitie misspeaks, as he means Surah 2:216 which he proceeds to paraphrase.]

CI: Mhmm.

Cromitie: Where the fighting is prescribed for you whether you like it or not. You understand? When pre-, Fighting is prescribed for you, that means Allah said, “this is fisabilillah to fight.” You see? It’s prescribed for you, and for those who it’s prescribed for, some of them don’t like it…”[4]

Cromitie mentions this requirement of “Fisabilillah” or acting “for a cause” in recorded conversations on October 12th, October 19th, October 29th, December 17th of 2008 and February 23rd, April 7th, April 16th, and April 23rd of 2009. Yet none of these references appear in the HBO documentary.

On April 23rd 2009, Cromitie explains to Hussein that a man (identified as “Chase” in the transcript), had demanded $25,000 in exchange for serving as one of the drivers in the plot. Cromitie indicates that this is unacceptable. Cromitie and Hussein then proceed to ask Defendant David “Daoud” Williams about his motives, insisting that they not be for financial gain. They make this point repeatedly, at which point David Williams confirms saying, “It’s for Allah, so there’s nothing really I can say.”[5]

Throughout their conversations together during the period of the FBI operation Cromitie makes clear that he possesses as much, if not more understanding of jihadist doctrinal motivation then does Hussein, a fact of which he is well aware, and which he brings to Hussein’s attention on more than one occasion.

In one example, during a discussion where Hussein asks whether Cromitie could get a “blessing” from an imam for a terrorist operation. Cromitie responds negatively to the idea that he requires any one’s blessing, a notion that reflects the belief, common among modern day jihadists, that Jihad is an individual obligation (Fard ‘ayn), and therefore one that requires no blessing or direction to undertake. From the recording:

CI: Oh is he uh… I mean do you think you would be blessing, he would give you blessing?

CROMITIE Nope. Stop telling me that too.

CI: No but, I don’t know … I can uh.

CROMITIE: They cannot bless me. No one, not even you.

CI: No, it’s not but… Imam, you’re not Imam.

CROMITIE: Imam cannot bless me.

C1: Okay.

CROMITIE: With nothing. Listen to me carefully.

Cl: I’m listening.

CROMITIE: I don’t know how much Islam you think…

CI: Oh uh ..

CROMlTIE: … believe me …

CI: A lot came from here, ya know?

CROMITIE: I know more than you. Don’t be surprised. Don’t let your pride get in the way where… I might know more than you, you’ll be surprised, you know I know enough… [6]

Prominent jihadist scholar and Islamist jurist Abdullah Azzam, who, together with Osama Bin Laden founded the group that would become Al Qaeda, played a key role in establishing the belief that modern jihad represented an individual obligation that does not require an Imam’s approval. In his seminal work “Come Join the Caravan,” Azzam wrote,

  1. We have spoken at length about the status of jihad today in Afghanistan, Palestine, and other usurped Muslim lands of the like. We have confirmed what has been agreed upon by the earlier (salaf) and latter (khalaf) generations of hadith scholars, exegetes, jurists, and scholars of religious principles (usul), namely that: “When a span of Muslim land is occupied jihad becomes individually obligatory (fard `ayn) on the inhabitants of that piece of land. The woman may go out without her husband’s permission with a mahram, the one in debt without the permission of the one to whom he owes, the child without his father’s permission. If the inhabitants of that area are not sufficient in number, fall short, or are lazy, the individually obligatory nature of jihad extends to those around them, and so on and so on until it covers the entire Earth, being individually obligatory (fard `ayn) just like salah, fasting, and the like so that nobody may abandon it.”

Azzam continues:

4. There is no permission needed from anybody in the case of an individual obligation (fard `ayn), according to the principle, “there is no permission necessary for an individual obligation (fard `ayn).” [7]

This is not the only issue on which Cromitie corrects Hussein statements for what he believes to be errors or inaccuracies. Later in the same conversation, Cromitie takes issue with a statement by Hussein about “ his people” (meaning the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, of which Hussein pretends to be a member). This statement appears to offend Hussein, who notes that Hussein should not refer to “his people” as a particular group but should be the Muslims in general. He tells Hussein:

Cromitie: Hold up. I, I said that to be, what do you think I am? I am Muslim. Who’s your people? Is that them? I’m your people too. What’s the difference. You see how you said my people would be very happy? I thought I was your people.

CI: I am, you are my people.

Cromitie: Okay, so I uh… I would be very happy too.

CI: My organization. Do you, do you like to join my organization?

Cromitie: Did you hear what I just said? I am your people too, so how would you not say that. I would be more than happy. What are you talking about? I would be more than happy if I can (UI) something and know I’m gonna get away.

Cromitite’s understanding seems to once again echo language in Abdul Qadir’s “Jihad and the Effects of Intention Upon It’, where Qadir writes:

 And the Muslim should not train or perform Jihad with the aim of supporting a specific Jama’ah or party, so that if Jihad is with other than his group he abandons it. So this one is not fighting so that the Word of Allah will be highest, rather so that the banner of his party or the Jama’ah will be the highest…[8]

Cromitie’s understanding of jihad doctrine may likely stem from what he says is his examination of Sharia, Islamic law, which includes law on matters such as jihad. He tells Hussein:

Cromitie: I, I,I,I actually, I think I understand the Sharia more than most Muslims, because that’s what I like to study most. Because that is law. No, not just because over here in America they make up their own laws. Islam don’t make up laws. Laws are given by Allah subhana wa tala, and you can’t do nothing about it. It’s not man made. ‘Cause that’s Allah’s law. Okay? And to carry out that law, I will carry out that law. Believe me. It has nothing to do with me not understanding Islam. I’m just gonna carry out, no, I’m gonna investigate the matter, then I’m gonna carry out the law.

This understanding of a need to uphold Islamic shariah as opposed to man-made laws, is a hallmark of modern Islamist thought as evinced by numerous quotations from Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb, whose book Milestones declared the existence of man-made law “jahiliyaah” (pre-Islamic ignorance) that must be abolished. Qutb wrote:

The establishing of the dominion of Allah Almighty on earth, the abolishing of the dominion of man, the taking away of sovereignty from the usurper to revert it to Allah Almighty, and the bringing about of the enforcement of the Divine Law (Shari’ah) and the abolition of man-made laws cannot be achieved only through preaching.“[9]

And elsewhere in Milestones:

This movement uses the methods of preaching and persuasion for reforming ideas and beliefs and it uses physical power and Jihad for abolishing the organizations and authorities of the Jahili system.[10]

As used by Qutb, Jahili means any system of governance that is not based on shariah. As noted by the 9/11 Commission, Qutb’s work provided ideological credentials for men like Osama Bin Laden.

While the court documents note that James Cromitie was an “improvished man”, as acknowledged by the trial court judge[11], this in no way dismisses the reality that he was also a man with a functional working knowledge of jihadist doctrine, and who openly dismissed offers for financial inducement. At one point, the appellate court notes Hussein’s statement to Cromitie, “I told you, I can make you $250,000, but you don’t want it brother. What can I tell you?” [12] James Cromitie is also a man who expressed a desire to kill Americans, most particularly Jews, repeatedly, and without any prompting from Hussein. While watching a news report on the Mumbai massacre, which included the targeting of the Mumbai Chabad center, Cromitite says “I’d like to get one of those. I’d like to get a synagogue. Me. Yeah, personally.” Later he expresses a hope to “Take down” “a whole synagogue of men.”[13]

Cromitie and the team of men he recruited and assembled were indeed arrested having placed what they believed to be improvised explosive device (IEDs) outside the Riverdale Temple Synagogue and Riverdale Jewish Center before they can set out to Stewart Airport base to target airplanes with what they thought were stinger missiles. Had Cromitie met with an actual terrorist rather than a government informant, or if he had, as he repeatedly threatened, conducted his own terror attack with whatever weapons were at his disposal, a successful terror conviction may instead have been a tragedy.

The question raised then, is why, when evidence of the jihadist motivations of Cromitie, the man who recruited and led the defendants, is so clear, does the Newburgh Sting film utterly ignore them. The documentarians include in their film two men, Nihad Awad, and Salam al-Marayati, who have a particular vested interest in undercutting the government’s use of informants, and the minimizing of the role play by jihadist ideology in encouraging terrorism.

Firstly, Nihad Awad. Awad is the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and formerly the Public Relations Director for the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), both of which were established as organs of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America, a fact evinced in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance Trial in 2008. Listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial, which centered around efforts to fund Hamas, CAIR attempted to sue in order to have their name stricken from court record. In his Memorandum Opinion Order, Federal Judge Jorge Solis issued the definitive word on CAIR’s ties to Hamas when he said the evidence presented at trial was, “sufficient to show the association of these entities [including CAIR] with HLF, IAP, and Hamas.”[14]

Because of the evidence produced in that trial, CAIR was banned from associating with the FBI as a community outreach partner. In a letter to Senator Jon Kyl, FBI Assistant Director Richard Powers explained:

“During that trial, evidence was introduced that demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders (including its current President Emeritus and its Executive Director) and the Palestine Committee. Evidence was also introduced that demonstrated a relationship between the Palestine Committee and HAMAS, which was designated as a terrorist organization in 1995. In light of that evidence the FBI has suspended all formal contacts between CAIR and the FBI.[15]

CAIR has been actively engaged in the campaign to terminate law enforcement counterterrorism programs, including the NYPD intelligence program[16], and was successful in utilizing Associated Press reports of questionable accuracy[17] to create political pressure to kill the program.[18][19]


These facts regarding CAIR, and in particular Nihad Awad’s connections to groups involved with a known terrorist organization are not classified, and are easily obtainable by any filmmaker with an interest in appropriately vetting their interviewees. The decision to feature Awad at best exhibits extreme carelessness on the part of the filmmakers and at worst represents their participation in a deliberate effort to misinform the American public.

The participation of Salam al-Marayati, founder and president of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), is equally problematic, although his group’s troubling ties are not as clear cut as Awad’s. MPAC was founded as a branch of the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC), which itself was founded by Maher and Hassan Hathout, two Egyptians with known ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Hassan in particular was a close associate of Brotherhood founder Hassan Al Banna.

While al-Marayati and MPAC do not appear in evidentiary documents available about the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas produced in the Holy Land Foundation, al-Marayati and MPAC has been aggressively involved in defending homegrown terrorists and terrorism financiers who have been indicted, and convicted, in the United States.

These cases include James Cromitie and the other members of the “Newburgh 4,” Ahmed Ressam (the Millennium Bombing Plot), The Virginia “Paintball Jihad” cell (which included active CAIR employee Ismail Royer[20]), Adurahman Alamoudi (convicted al-Qaeda financier and self-identified member of the Muslim Brotherhood), Sami-Al-Arian (convicted organizer of Palestinian Islamic Jihad), Daniel Boyd (Convicted of recruiting his own sons to engage in a terror plot) and others.[21]

MPAC has led repeated campaigns to oppose the use of government informants in terror cases involving Muslim Americans. The latest MPAC effort in this regard, is what they have termed the “Safe Spaces Initiative”, which seeks to prevent government informants from being present in mosques, like the one where Cromitie and Hussein met. The Safe Space Initiative equates those working with the government to apprehend potential terrorists with the very people who are recruiting terrorists, a gross disservice to American Muslims helping law enforcement prevent terror. This equation is explicit, as noted in an MPAC op-ed by Salam Al-Marayati:

Safe spaces are needed so that government informants and extremist recruiters are prevented from violating the sanctity of the mosque. In essence, we want to enhance both a spiritual safety and public safety…[22]

The end goal of MPAC’s effort is not a safer, more secure community for America-Muslims. It is instead to secure the Muslim community for extremists, by creating areas where they can operate free of legitimate government surveillance, creating an opportunity for men motivated by a hateful jihadist ideology, men like James Cromitie, to recruit among the Muslim community.

Whether the filmmakers, or HBO for that matter, were aware that, far from being disinterested advocates for the Muslim community these spokesmen had themselves a long standing history of supporting and defending terrorists, is moot.

By disingenuously presenting the recorded statements in order to hide the clear and unmistakably intent by James Cromitie to recruit a team of men in order to engage in terror on behalf of a jihadist ideology, the filmmakers, and now HBO, are permitting their names and brand to be utilized in a campaign aimed at blinding American law enforcement efforts, and making us all less safe.



[1] United States v. Cromitie, 11-2763(L), p. 12. (2d Cir. 2011)

[2] United States v. Cromitie, I 01-E2-T, 08/12/08

[3] Sheikh Abdul Qadir Ibn ‘Abdul-Aziz “Jihad and the Effects of Intention Upon It”, AL-Tibyan Publications, Pg 2.

[4] United States v. Cromitie, 101-E2-T, 08/12/08

[5] United States v. Cromitie 112-E2-T, 4/23/09

[6] United States v. Cromitie, 101-E2-T 8/29/08

[7] Abdullah Azzam, “Come Join the Caravan, Part 3: Clarifications about the Issue Of Jihad Today”

[8] Sheikh Abdul Qadir Ibn ‘Abdul-Aziz “Jihad and the Effects of Intention Upon It”, AL-Tibyan Publications, Pg 2.

[9] Sayid Qutb, “Milestones” Special Edition, Maktabah Booksellers and Publishers, Birmingham, U.K, 2006

[10] ibid.

[11] United States v. Cromitie, 11-2763(L), p. 2. (2d Cir. 2011)

[12] United States v. Cromitie, 11-2763(L), p. 3. (2d Cir. 2011)

[13] United States v. Cromitie, 11-2763(L), p. 3. (2d Cir. 2011)

[14] United States of America V. Holy Land Et. Al 3:04-CR-0240-P Memorandum Opinion Order on Motion for Equitable Relief from Government Public Naming of Them as Unindicted Co-Conspirators

[15] Richard Power, Assistant Director for Congressional Affairs, “Letter to Senator Jon Kyl,” April 28, 2009.

[16] Stephen Schwartz, “CAIR vs. The NYPD”, The Weekly Standard, April 11, 2008

[17] Mitchell Silber, “Who Will Defend the Defenders” Commentary Magazine, June 1, 2012

[18] Ryan Mauro, “CAIR vs. The NYPD Counterterrorism Program”, Frontpage Magazine, Sept 14, 2011

[19] Jake Pearson and Tom Hays, “End of NYPD Survelliance Program Applauded,” April 16, 2014.

[20] Daniel Pipes, “CAIR’s Legal Tribulations,”, updated May 2, 2010,

[21] The Investigative Project on Terrorism, “Behind the Façade: The Muslim Public Affairs Council,” accessed:

[22] Salam Al-Marayati, “Altmuslim Publishes MPAC Op-ed on ‘Safe Spaces Initiative’ & Dealing with Extremism”, April 1, 2014, accessed:

Center for Security Policy

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