By the turn of the 21 century, the FBI believed it had put the dark legacy of J. Edgar Hoover behind it—a legacy that included the illegal surveillance of anti-war groups, civil rights organizations, and the Black Panther Party. But undoubtedly, the most grievous illegal actions Hoover put in place was encouraging agents, or recruited informants, to infiltrate black communities through their schools and churches to turn people against each other.
The Hoover FBI also created the COINTELPRO program to dismantle “left-wing” organizations and even pressure Martin Luther King, Jr. to kill himself because of sordid “blackmail” evidence the Bureau had compiled against the fame civil rights leader.
Edgar Hoover was a dirty, rotten little man throughout his entire law enforcement career—and he ultimately destroyed the false pristine image of the FBI he had cultivated over decades.
On September 4, 2001, a career federal prosecutor named Robert S. Mueller, III, whose resume included the successful prosecution of the men responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103, became the new director of the FBI. Exactly one week later, the nation suffered its worst terrorist attack in what became known simply as “9/11.”
The dark shadow of J. Edgar Hoover reemerged in the FBI under Mueller’s leadership. With all the 9/11 terrorists killed during their three attacks—Twin Towers, Pentagon, and Shanksville—the FBI needed live terrorists to arrest and prosecute to justify ramping up the “war on terror.”
Reminiscent of Hoover’s corrupt surveillance programs, Mueller’s FBI recruited thousands of informants. Many of their informants were violent criminals, registered sex offenders, deranged psychopaths, and criminal opportunists. Their goal was to infiltrate the nation’s Muslim communities through mosques and social organizations to discover terrorist activities or, in some cases, to manufacture “terrorist plots” that could be prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).
The Mueller model of “fighting international terrorism” was inherited by the Bureau’s successive directors, James Comey and Christopher Wray. Both directors accepted the Mueller model as a strategy to deal with the massive public fear of international terrorism while ignoring or refusing the more significant threat of “domestic terrorism.”
Under the Mueller model, nearly 1,000 “terrorism defendants” have been prosecuted by the DOJ for terrorism-related charges since 9/11 through November 2022—material support for terrorism, criminal conspiracy, immigration violations, or making false statements. Many of these offenses involved either vague or manufactured terror plots against the government.
Federal prosecutors have obtained nearly 650 guilty pleas in exchange for lower possible prison sentences using the threat of devastating, potentially life-long incarceration. Another 200 were found guilty by a jury or judge. Only three defendants were acquitted of the charges against them, and another four others had the charges dismissed against them by the government after evidence of the so-called plots fell through.
Currently, 51 defendants are awaiting trial. Three hundred thirty-three are still in prison.
One of those 333 defendants is Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, who was arrested in June of 2011 in connection with an alleged plot to attack a military installation in Seattle, Washington.
Abdul-Latif was ensnared in what amounted to a manufactured terror plot set up by a paid FBI informant named Robert Childs. Childs was a registered child sex offender who informed the Bureau that Adul-Latiff, an old friend and former business partner, had made terrorist-like statements against the government.
The Bureau then paid Childs at least $90,000 and promised to make a pending child sex charge go away if he would cultivate a criminal relationship with Abdul-Latif to draw him into a terror plot that the feds could prosecute.
Childs was successful in enticing Abdul-Latif into conversations that the FBI secretly recorded. The two discussed how to attack a Seattle-based military installation.
It was enough evidence for the FBI to arrest Abdul-Latif, along with another mentally disabled man, on June 21, 2011. Abdul-Latif was indicted for conspiring to kill military personnel and other people at the Military Entrance Processing Station. The installation processes military enlistees from the Seattle area.
The prosecution of Abdul-Latif was undertaken by Seattle’s Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, who praised the use of Childs as an informant, saying: “It’s not the saints who can bring us the sinners.”
Durkan used the sex offender/informant evidence to pressure Abdul-Latif in December 2012 into accepting a coerced plea bargain to avoid a life sentence.
On March 25, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart sentenced Abdul-Latif to 18 years in federal prison.
In the wake of Abdul-Latif’s guilty plea and sentencing, evidence came to light that Seattle Police Detective Samuel DeJesus, who was working with the FBI on a terrorism joint task force, had deleted evidence. DeJesus, who became Childs’ quasi-FBI handler, had deleted over 400 text messages from the pedophile’s cell phone before giving the phone to the government for processing.
That led Judge Robart to observe later that Durkan’s handling of the Abdul-Latif case was “at-best sloppy.”
These revelations notwithstanding, AUSA Durkan used the Abdul-Latif case as a political springboard to being elected Seattle’s mayor in 2017.
The well-paid Childs moved on, looking for another hapless victim to set up for the FBI. The FBI reveled in their work which led to the conviction. Meanwhile, Abdul-Latif went to federal prison.
However, the informant became disillusioned with the FBI. He believed the FBI had taken care of the pending child rape charge involving a 12-year-old victim. This offense was unrelated to two child molestation convictions he had picked up in Washington in 1994 and 2000 involving underage girls, which landed him on both the Washington State and federal sex offender registry.
The Mueller model of handling FBI terrorism informants—as many as 15,000 since 9/11—did not eliminate Child’s child sex offense but only held it in abeyance for possible future control and leverage.
Still, the FBI and federal prosecutors had so assured the pedophile informant that he was “safe” from prosecution that he felt comfortable moving to Florida without registering as a sex offender as required by both federal and state law. After all, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in Seattle, Laura Laughlin, had graciously called the pedophile informant a trustworthy concerned “citizen” who foiled the alleged terrorist plot in press releases.
While in Florida, Childs began having second thoughts about how he had set up Abdul-Latif and wanted to reveal the whole truth behind the plot. But he was concerned about the backlash from the Bureau—rightly so. The Bureau got wind of the pedophile’s discontent, and suddenly the Seattle Police Department decided in 2019 to test the 12-year-old victim’s “rape kit,” some 13 years after the sexual assault.
On February 21, 2019, Florida’s Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office arrested Child for the rape of the 12-year-old. In January 2022, Childs was convicted of that sex offense and sentenced to life in prison.
Feeling betrayed and used by the FBI, Childs decided to open up entirely to an intrepid journalist named Trevor Aaronson, who, on November 26, 2022, published a complete account of his investigation of both Abdul-Latif and Childs. This report included the informant’s recantation in the Abdul-Latif case as well.
“Abdul-Latif may have had some hardline ideology and radical speech, but he was never in any place to be a terrorist,”…
“If I had not been encouraged to ‘turn him in’ or threatened to keep him on course, he would not be in prison now and no attack would have ever been perpetrated by him. He’s in prison because I was too cowardly to tell the truth,” said Child’s in a letter to Aaronson.
“In the letter, Childs also admitted that he’d wiped his … phone not to delete pornography, but because it contained text messages between him and his handler in which he discussed his view that Abdul-Latif was no threat to anyone. Childs also explained that he was coming forward now, as he embarked on a life sentence, because he no longer feared the FBI. “I have tried to relay this information before,” Childs wrote in his letter, “but was always cut off and threatened with losing my freedom as well.”
“Childs added: “The so-called plot to attack the [Military Entrance Processing Station] location was created by me, approved by my handler, and then fed to Abdul-Latif to make it look like he came up with it himself.”
Aaronson also reported that Federal District Judge Robart has become so concerned about the FBI’s handling of Childs in connection with the Abdul-Latif case that he appointed an attorney earlier this year to investigate the alleged wrongdoing and file an appeal on behalf of Abdul-Latif.
The FBI’s use of a convicted pedophile and serial child rapist as an informant to manufacture a terrorist plot involving members of the American Muslim community is not an anomaly. It is rooted in the Mueller model, a direct descendant of the J. Edgar Hoover citizen surveillance models. Get the “bad guys” by any means necessary.
Meanwhile, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies refused to act on credible intelligence that domestic terrorists planned to storm the nation’s Capitol on January 6 and overthrow a legitimate presidential election.
It is ironic that Abdul-Latif has been forced to watch from his prison cell as dozens of January 6 defendants, whose insurrectionist attacks on the government were far worse than his alleged “terror” attack plot, plead guilty in exchange for probated sentences, home detention, or a few months in jail.
Fear and law enforcement “Wars on (fill the blank),” have always led to unjust prosecutions and punishments.