Such high-tech other-worldly surveillance emphasizes the importance placed on this case.
TV news clips are shown. Terrorsts! Arrested!! In a huge raid!!! Important politicians – Mayor Blumberg, Police Commissioner Kelly, Senator Schumer – are interviewed. Terrorists! Danger! The FBI caught the bad guys!
News video show the arrested men looked ashamed, heads downs as they are paraded before the public. Terror plot! FBI foils plot! America is Safe!
The story begins to unfold. A TV reporter asks questions of politicians – who eventually admit that no one was ever in danger from this plot, all the bombs and the stinger missile used in the plot were fake and made or provided by the FBI, the attack was invented by the FBI, and that the defendants had been followed around by the FBI for a year.
After the dramatic beginning which appears to show the FBI thwarting this horrific plot to blow up a Jewish Community Center in Riverdale and shoot down planes on an air force base, the rest of the story is told in interviews of family and friends of the accused, their lawyers, and experts such as a retired FBI agent and the Imam of the mosque in Newburgh.
Interspersing the FBI surveillance videos with interviews of people who knew the arrested men, the story slowly comes out – these men were played for fools by the FBI and entrapped in a plot that was scripted like a movie.
These impoverished men, not one of them having a passport, car or even a driver’s license, were not capable of carrying out such a plot. As Alicia McWilliams, aunt of David Williams (one of the defendants), often said – these men could not organize a barbeque, let alone a terror plot.
The FBI surveillance videos are primarily filmed at the house the informant rented in Newburgh, NY and his car. Some surveillance videos were of a warehouse in CT where the informant kept the stinger missile. In one video clip, David Williams (one of the defendants) was sitting in the back seat of the informant’s expensive car. The informant, Shahed Hussain, is explaining to David how the missile will be used to shoot airplanes at Stuart Air Force Base. David expresses concern about people getting hurt, saying that people could be cleaning the planes, and he did not want anyone to get hurt.
I was most interested in the videos of the informant himself, Shahed Hussain, as he was the informant in the case of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, two muslim men entrapped in Albany, NY a few years prior to the Newburgh Sting.
I attended some of the court sessions of the trial of the four men entrapped in the Newburgh Sting and saw Shahed Hussain on the stand. I found him very difficult to understand, due to his heavy accent and soft voice.
I was quite surprised in the FBI surveillance tapes in the film, because in the movie, Shahed Hussain speaks perfect English. Yes, he has a slight accent, but, everything he said was perfectly understandable, unlike when I attended court. I am left wondering why he was so hard to understand in court and so easy to understand in the movie. Also, the video I saw when I attended some court sessions was grainy and blurry and the audio was unintelligible. In the movie, all the FBI video surveillance was crystal clear and the audio was perfect. Made me wonder why.
Alicia gave an excellent interview in the movie. Extensive clips of her interview were used in the movie. Alicia summed up the case quite well, saying how can the government do this to us? How can our government entrap people?
Also intereviewed was David Williams’ mother; a friend of Onte Williams; Leguerre Payen’s lawyer, Sam Braverman; and the Imam and assistant Imam of the mosque in Newburgh. Both of the religious leaders gave powerful comments on the case.
The movie starts out with an OMG how can these guys want to blow stuff up to OMG how could our government entrap these men to fit a movie script?
The men who were arrested are never interviewed. During the Q&A after the film, the film maker stated that he tried very hard to get permission to interview the men. He even had a letter from ABC requesting permission to interview them. Not even with this type of media backing could get the filmmaker inside the prison walls to hear directly from the men. It makes one wonder why it is so important to keep the defendants’ stories hidden.
Attending this film showing at Tribeca was great. My friend, Ayesha and I went to dinner, then arrived at the movie theater about an hour early, where we met up with Alicia McWilliams (David Williams’ aunt). Alicia introduced us to David Heibroner and Kate Davis who made the movie. We got to see the pre-movie photos that were taken.
We sat with Alicia in reserved seats to watch the movie.
After the movie was a question and answer. Alicia gave an brief excellent speech summarizing the case.
We were driven in a van to the after party, where we were treated to excellent food and wine.
The entire experience was surreal. After all of these years, going to protests with Alicia, presentations with Alicia, talking about the Newburgh Four case, the Newburgh Sting is now a major movie.
Perhaps now more people will take an interest in the wrongful targeting of Muslims in this country.
The movie will be shown on HBO on July 21, 2014.