Monthly Archives: September 2011

US threat of military action unites Pakistan


People rally against the U.S. in Multan, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 28 after Pakistan lashed out at the U.S. for accusing the country’s most powerful intelligence agency of supporting extremist attacks against American targets in Afghanistan. Khlaid Tanveer  /  AP

Accusations that the country is helping Afghan insurgents triggers backlash

NBC | Sep 29, 2011

ISLAMABAD — U.S. accusations that Pakistan is supporting Afghan insurgents have triggered a nationalist backlash and whipped up media fears of an American invasion, drowning out any discussion over the army’s long use of jihadi groups as deadly proxies in the region.

In the process, Adm. Mike Mullen’s allegations that Pakistan’s spy agency is effectively sponsoring terrorism across the border have led Pakistan, a country divided along political and regional lines, to unite against a common enemy: the United States.

The U.S.-Pakistani relationship, which officials on both sides had said less than a month ago was improving after strains caused by the unilateral U.S. raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, has now dipped to a new all-time low.

Limited room to act

The reaction shows the problem facing the United States as it presses Pakistan for action: Strong statements in Washington provoke a negative public response that makes it more difficult for the army to act against the militants — even if it decided it was in the country’s interest to do so.

Pakistan’s mostly conservative populace is deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions a decade after Washington forged an alliance with Islamabad. Many people here believe the United States wants to break up Pakistan and take its arsenal of nuclear weapons, and America is very unpopular throughout the country.

By contrast, Pakistanis lack unity against Islamic militants. Politicians and media commentators are often ambiguous in their criticism of the Pakistani Taliban, despite its carrying out near weekly bombings in Pakistan over the past four years.

One small private television channel has aired an advertisement that features images of Mullen, America’s top military officer, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta along with scenes of the Pakistani army fighting and raising the country’s flag.

Each time the Americans appear, a shrill voice sings: “Enemies, you have challenged a nation which has a growing knowledge of the Quran and the support from Allah. Our task in this world is to eliminate the name of the killers!”

Firestorm over Mullen’s comments

Mullen’s comments on Capitol Hill last week set off the storm.

He said the Haqqani network, the most deadly and organized force fighting American troops in Afghanistan, was a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the strongest public statement yet by U.S. officials on Pakistan’s long suspected duplicity.

Calls from American lawmakers to cut or limit aid and to consider expanding U.S. military action inside Pakistan have further inflamed discussions and media frenzy in Pakistan, prompting headlines like “When will US attack?”

Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Defense has said that any attack on Pakistan would be met with a “befitting response,” NBC News’ Amna Nawaz reported from Islamabad.

Most analysts view that scenario as highly unlikely because of the risks it entails for U.S. interests in the region. But that has not quelled tensions in Pakistan.

The head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, dismissed Mullen’s comments as “very unfortunate and not based on facts.” Pakistan’s foreign minister accused Washington of making Pakistan its “scapegoat” for its own lack of success in Afghanistan.

Frantic U.S. effort

In recent days, the United States has launched a frantic diplomatic effort to calm the waters, withAmerican officials meeting with Pakistan’s military and government leaders.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Marc Grossman, took to the airwaves Wednesday night to make his case to the Pakistani people.

In an interview with Pakistan’s Express News channel, Grossman stressed the need for the two countries to continue “work together” against the “common threat” of terrorism.

“This is not about ending relationships or moving away from relationships, rupturing relationships,” Grossman told Express News. “It’s about continued engagement in the relationship.”

On Thursday, the leaders of Pakistan’s feuding political parties will put aside their differences to sit under one roof to discuss the issue. In announcing the meeting, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the lawmakers will discuss “the security situation in the wake of threats emanating from outside the country.”

The Sunni Ittehad Council, an organization representing the country’s Barelvi sect, often referred to as the most moderate among Pakistani Muslims, issued a statement saying it was obligatory on all Muslims to wage jihad against the United States if it attacked Pakistan.

“The Pakistani government and the armed forces should start preparing to counter any possible American attack as Islamic law suggests ‘keeping the horses ready’ to counter any sort of foreign aggression,” the statement said.

There have been a few small street protests since Mullen’s comments, but nothing major.

In some respects, the situation mirrors the atmosphere after the May 2 American helicopter raid on bin Laden, which was carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani army. There was outrage then over the infringement of the country’s sovereignty by the United States, but little on how bin Laden had been living in the army town of Abbottabad for so long.

Now, the focus is on Pakistan’s public humiliation at the hands of a supposed ally — and the threat of American action.

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Census: Hispanics fuel US white population growth

Associated Press | Sep 29, 2011

By HOPE YEN

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a twist to notions of race identity, new 2010 census figures show an unexpected reason behind a renewed growth in the U.S. white population: more Hispanics listing themselves as white in the once-a-decade government count.

The shift is due to recent census changes that emphasize “Hispanic” as an ethnicity, not a race. While the U.S. government first made this distinction in 1980, many Latinos continued to use the “some other race” box to establish a Hispanic identity. In a switch, the 2010 census forms specifically instructed Latinos that Hispanic origins are not races and to select a recognized category such as white or black.

The result: a 6 percent increase in white Americans as tallied by the census, even though there was little change among non-Hispanic whites. In all, the number of people in the “white alone” category jumped by 12.1 million over the last decade to 223.6 million. Based on that definition, whites now represent 72 percent of the U.S. population and account for nearly half of the total population increase since 2000.

Broken down by state, California and Texas were home to nearly half of Hispanics who identified as white, followed by Florida and New York. Together, these four states comprised nearly two-thirds of the “white alone” population who were Hispanic. Overall, Hialeah, Fla.; Fargo, N.D.; Arvada, Colo.; Billings, Mont., and Scottsdale, Ariz., posted the highest shares in the “white alone” category, at roughly 90 percent or more.

“The white population has become more diverse as evidenced by the growth of the Hispanic white population and the multiple-race white population,” including black-white and white-Asian people, according to the 2010 census analysis released Thursday.

Some demographers say the broadened white category in 2010 could lead to a notable semantic if not cultural shift in defining race and ethnicity. Due to the impact of Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing group, the Census Bureau has previously estimated that whites will become the minority in the U.S. by midcentury. That is based on a definition of whites as non-Hispanic, who are now at 196.8 million.

That could change, if the common conception of white were to shift.

“What’s white in America in 1910, 2010 or even 2011 simply isn’t the same,” said Robert Lang, sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, citing the many different groups of European immigrants in the early 20th century who later became known collectively as white. He notes today that could mean a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant in upstate New York or Jews and Italians in the lowest East side of Manhattan.

Predicting a similar shift for Hispanics, Lang and others noted that mixed marriages are now more common between whites and Hispanics. U.S.-born Latino children of immigrants also are more likely than their parents to identify as white. “The definition of white has always been expansive,” he said. “I could see the census in 2030 or 2040 dropping the differentiation between Hispanics and whites.”

Roderick Harrison, a Howard University sociologist and former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, agreed that growing numbers of second- and third-generation Hispanics may lose some of their cultural identity as they become more assimilated in the U.S. “Some portion might indeed become, for most social purposes, ‘white,'” he said.

The latest census figures also show the number of Americans who identified themselves as partly black and partly white more than doubled to 1.8 million. For the first time, the black-white combination is the most prevalent group among multiracial Americans, making up 1 in 5 members of that subgroup. They exceed the number of multiracials who identified as being white and “some other race,” composed of mostly Hispanics, as well as white-Asians and white-American Indians.

States in the South including South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama tripled their numbers of people identifying as a mix of black and white, mostly because their overall numbers are smaller. In those places, less than 3 percent of blacks identified that way — lower than the national average of 4.5 percent.

In raw numbers, states that had the biggest increases in the black-white category were California, Florida, Texas, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Some blacks who are partly white have been reluctant to openly embrace their white background, due to a strong black identity in their communities. Historically, several states previously had a “one drop” rule that classified whites with any African blood as black.

In the 2010 census, President Barack Obama was among those who identified himself only as African-American, even though his mother was white.

“There is no question that racial lines are blurring in the United States, especially among ‘new’ minorities — Hispanics, Asians and growing mixed race generations. Yet it’s particularly significant that we are seeing breakdowns in white-black separation,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “Strong gains in interracial marriages and higher mixed-race identification among youth suggest that past racial categories will need to be radically changed or even dispensed with in the next two or three decades.”

The share of Hispanics identifying themselves as white increased over the past decade from 48 percent to 53 percent, while the proportion of those who marked “some other race” dropped from 42 percent to 37 percent. Many Hispanics previously preferred to check the “some other race” category to express their nationalities — such as Mexican or Cuban.

The Census Bureau has been examining different ways to count the nation’s demographic groups. One experiment is a possible change to the questionnaire that would effectively treat Hispanics as a mutually exclusive group. It would allow people to check off just one of five race or ethnic categories — white, black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native — rather than asking people who identify themselves as Hispanic to also check what race they are.

Other findings:

—The multiple-race white population, including black-whites and white-Asians, increased by at least 8 percent in every state, with the biggest gains in the South.

—The non-Hispanic white population declined in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.

—The majority of blacks, both non-Hispanic blacks and those in combination with Hispanics or other races, lived in the South. About 60 percent of their total population lived in 10 states — New York, Florida, Texas, Georgia, California, North Carolina, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and Ohio. The biggest gains in blacks over the past decade occurred in Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.

—Cities with the highest share of blacks, both non-Hispanic and in combination with others, include Detroit at 84 percent. It was followed by Jackson, Miss., Miami Gardens, Fla., and Birmingham, Ala.

Poppy crop will decline only slightly due to coalition


The acreage devoted to poppies will decline by only about 5% this year.

USA TODAY | Sep 30, 2011

By Jim Michaels

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan will go down only slightly this year despite intense coalition and Afghan efforts to reduce a crop that funds Taliban operations.

The trend reflects the challenge of weaning farmers off poppy even as coalition and Afghan forces have made progress in many other areas, including improved security across large swaths of Afghanistan.

Related

Coalition Not Ready To End Afghan Opium Trade

“To fix this issue it is going to be a much longer timeline than we initially expected,” said Marine Maj. Gordon Hilbun, economic plans officer for Task Force Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan.

Reducing poppy cultivation is considered critical to undermining the insurgency because of the strong ties between drug trafficking and the Taliban. The Taliban generated $155 million from the drug trade in 2009, according to the United Nations. Afghanistan supplies about 90% of the world’s opium.

“The insurgency and narcotics are indelibly tied and we don’t see it changing anytime soon,” Hilbun said. “This generation of fighters and their leader have grown up in a poppy-fueled insurgency.”

The growing of opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, has dropped in some areas where coalition troops have arrived in force. But cultivation is forecast to rise in other provinces, according to the United Nations and military officials.

An infusion of coalition and Afghan troops into Helmand province has led to a dramatic decrease in Taliban presence there. Most of Afghanistan’s poppy is grown in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

The number of acres devoted to poppies will decline by about 5% in Helmand this year, according to Hilbun. Still, poppy farming has spread to remote corners of the sprawling province .

We Tolerate The Cultivation Of Opium Poppies

Poppies also are appearing in northern Afghanistan, including areas that were once poppy-free, said Martin Raithelhuber of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The effect will be a slight decline in poppy cultivation nationwide.

The success of Afghan and coalition forces against the Taliban in the south has helped efforts to seize the processed poppies. The coalition announced this week that a joint operation in Helmand seized $350 million worth of drugs, including 220 pounds of heroin and 176 pounds of opium.

The Afghan government also eradicates poppy fields in addition to trying to persuade farmers to grow other crops. But the United States and its coalition partners do not, having concluded that eradication alone hurt mostly poor farmers and alienates the population. Agriculture accounts for about 35% of Afghanistan’s economy.

“Eradication … thrusts farmers into the hands of the Taliban,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

Instead, the coalition has backed efforts to bolster Afghanistan’s roads, storage facilities and irrigation so that legal crops, such as wheat, are viable. By contrast, poppy is an easy crop to grow, store and sell and requires little water or herbicides.

The government also has encouraged religious leaders to talk to villagers about the immorality of being linked to a destructive drug. Yet farmers grow it because they need the money, said Lt. Col. Howard Schauer, coordinator for agribusiness development teams in Afghanistan.

“It’s survival for them.”

US playing the good cop, bad cop


Bad Cop Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen

dw-world.de | Sep 30, 2011

Admiral Mullen’s allegations about Pakistani support for Islamist insurgents has caused tensions with Islamabad. The Obama administration is now cautiously distancing itself from the criticism made by Mullen.

Pakistani officials were outraged last week when Admiral Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the Pakistani military’s spy agency were backing the Haqqani Network, an Islamist grouping which allegedly masterminded the attack on the US Embassy in Afghanistan in September.

These were the most serious allegations levied at Pakistan since the beginning of the Afghan war. They carried special weight because they came from Mullen, who is considered to be one of the Pakistani military’s closest allies in the US administration.

Bad cop Mullen

Mullen described the Haqqani Network as an arm of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI. He said, that the ISI provided the Haqqani Network with funding, logistical support and a safe haven. Faced with Pakistan’s vehement denials, the White House, Pentagon and State Department carefully refused to endorse Mullen’s comments on Wednesday.

When asked by National Public Radio on Wednesday whether he would change anything he said last week, Mullen replied,”Not a word. I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased.”

Good cop Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Wednesday that,”I have no argument with anyone who says this is a very difficult and complex relationship because it is.” She went on to say that she believes strongly that both the US and Pakistan have to work together despite the difficulties.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani indicated on Thursday that his government was committed to work with the US but he made it clear that no military action against the Haqqani Network was on the cards. Gilani told political and military leaders meeting to formulate a response to Mullen’s allegations that,”Pakistan cannot be pressured to do more.”

As Associated Press reports, Daniel Markey, a Pakistan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said Mullen’s comments seems to reflect internal disagreements over how to deal with Pakistan’s alleged links to the Haqqani Network.

Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center at the US based Atlantic Council, said he was worried about who was taking the lead on Pakistan in the Obama administration, given the paucity of experts on the country.

Pakistan has refused to target the Haqqani Network’s sanctuary in North Waziristan, saying its troops are stretched too thin by operations in other parts of the tribal region. Many analysts believe, however, that Islamabad doesn’t want to threaten its historical links with the group because it could be a useful ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

Markey said the Pakistanis are clearly upset by Mullen’s statements,”but they would not do anything constructive about it, so we will end up in a worse relationship with no positive benefits on the counterterrorism or counterinsurgency side.”

Heathrow airport triples snow clearance fleet to prevent more winter chaos

BBC | Sep 29, 2011

£11m has been invested in equipment to avoid chaos.

Heathrow airport has tripled the number of snow clearance vehicles to tackle severe winter weather.

Operator BAA also has three times as many staff ready to clear snow compared with last year.

Thousands of passengers were left stranded at the airport as 4,000 flights were cancelled over five days for heavy snow before Christmas.

But BAA said it now has 185 snow clearance vehicles and has 468 staff per shift, compared to 117 last year.

The operator said it has invested £32.4m so far to tackle severe weather.

Related

‘Snow supremo’ needed to avert winter transport chaos

BAA had been criticised following last year’s disruptions and a report accused the operator of a breakdown in communication and lack of “preparedness” for the bad weather.

After the publication of the Winter Resilience Enquiry Report, BAA promised to invest £50m to avoid facing disruptions on a similar scale.

Announcing its “winter resilience programme”, the airports operator said it has introduced a new “reservist” role whereby up to 950 staff will be deployed to the terminals to help passengers during disruption.

‘More to do’

BAA also has plans for a new airport control centre and improvements to passenger information.

But Normand Boivin, chief operating officer of Heathrow, said: “There is more still to do.

“There will be lots of attention on Heathrow the next time it snows heavily.

“We won’t be perfect but we will be better and we will improve each time we practise our new response plans.

“There will still be times when, for safety reasons, airports have to close during severe weather, but the work detailed in today’s report means this should happen less often at Heathrow and the airport responds better when it does.”

Big Brother: GM’s OnStar service raises privacy alarms


GM’s OnStar telematics service came under fire after a change that would have allowed it to collect data even from nonsubscribers. Gm  /  Wieck

Company backs down, at least partly, after ‘Big Brother’ flap

msnbc.com | Sep 28, 2011

By Paul A. Eisenstein

In a sudden reversal, General Motors’ OnStar subsidiary has backed down on plans to keep monitoring customers even when they choose to unsubscribe from the in-car telematics service. But the service will still maintain the right to track active customers.

OnStar, with 6 million subscribers, had come under withering attack in recent days from customers, privacy advocates and federal lawmakers over what Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., described as “one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.”

Before OnStar backed down, Schumer was calling for a Federal Trade Commission investigation  into OnStar’s revised terms and conditions, which some liked to Big Brother, the fictitious, all-seeing dictator in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”

“We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers,” OnStar President Linda Marshall said in a prepared statement announcing the hasty retreat. “This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than 6 million customers.”

Related

Facing possible inquiry, OnStar drops ‘Big Brother’ plans

What kicked off the brouhaha was a seemingly modest revision to the OnStar customer guidelines which revealed the company would maintain the cellular data link installed in any vehicle subscribed to the OnStar service, “unless they (customers) ask us not to do so,” confirmed Joanne Finnorn, vice president of subscriber services.

Finnorn said that by maintaining the data link OnStar would have “the capability to alert vehicle occupants about severe weather conditions such as tornado warnings or mandatory evacuations. Another benefit for keeping this connection ‘open’ could be to provide vehicle owners with any updated warranty data or recall issues.”

But such assertions — along with an apology for creating “confusion” — failed to satisfy the company’s critics — who also included Sens. Al Franken, of Minnesota, and Chris Coons, D-Del.

Part of the problem was that OnStar also reserved the right to not only track customer driving patterns — including miles driven, routes, vehicle speed and even whether occupants wore seatbelts — but to sell that information to third parties that could include marketers, along with government and police agencies.  It didn’t help much when OnStar insisted it would aggregate such personal information and not provide identifying details.

Following OnStar’s Tuesday announcement, Coons and Franken jointly called it “the right thing to do.” But the move might not satisfy all critics.  Company spokesman Stefan Cross told msnbc.com that while OnStar so far has “not sold data to any third parties” it has not given up that right or option for active subscribers.

OnStar is the largest brand in the fast-growing field of telematics, offering a package of safety features that can perform functions like alerting authorities of serious accidents and allowing a motorist to remotely unlock a door if the keys are locked inside.

Most automakers now offer, or are planning to add, telematics services. Most versions, such as Ford’s Sync, rely on customers to “pair” the vehicle’s onboard technology with a smartphone to access services stored in the so-called “cloud.” But OnStar has its own direct, onboard data and voice link that allows it to track vehicle information even when the customer isn’t clued in.

It’s too early to tell whether the privacy flap will hurt OnStar, although comments popping up on Twitter and Facebook suggest the Big Brother image is not playing well in the public eye.

“I’m thinking this will make me learn more toward Dodge next time,” posted Detroit writer Phil Foley.

This isn’t the first time the brave new world of in-car communications has triggered concerns about safety and security. There has been much written about the dangers of texting while driving, of course — and many laws now ban the practice. But there’s also growing concern about potential abuses of privacy.

Several organizations have shown it possible to hack into a vehicle’s onboard electronics remotely to access personal information — and even to operate vehicle functions, such as unlocking doors or starting the engine without a key.

Freelance security blogger Casey Halverson wrote a June 14 report in Computer World magazine revealing that the Carwings system on the new Nissan Leaf left “wide open” data about the vehicle and how it was being driven that could be readily tapped by a provider of RSS news feeds. Potentially, authorities could access that data to see if the vehicle was driven over the speed limit, while marketers could learn if a motorist were approaching a mall and then direct targeted ads at the vehicle.

While many Americans fret over such possible invasions of privacy others seem to be welcome the opportunity to offer up personal data for financial benefit.

State Farm is the latest in a growing list of insurance companies offering discounts on automotive coverage to those willing to install a small device that will monitor driving behavior.

Developed in a partnership with Hughes Telematics, the In-Drive service offers an additional twist: several OnStar-like services, such as automatic emergency response after an accident.

There’s a monthly charge of $14.99 after a six-month free trial, but In-Drive subscribers will also save about 10 percent — and possibly as much as 50 percent, State Farm says — if they’re recorded showing safe driving behavior. The company does not say whether “bad” drivers would be penalized.

A Connecticut car rental firm tried to punish customers who exceeded the speed limit several years ago by using a hidden GPS-based tracking system. The courts eventually ruled against the American Rental company’s practice.

FBI agents goaded, financed “model-plane bomber”


Rezwan Ferdaus is accused of plotting to crash explosive-filled miniature planes into the US Capital and Pentagon. Photograph: AP

Sting operation to arrest physics graduate, 26, raises concerns that US Muslims might be targeted using entrapment techniques.

the FBI has been accused of over-zealousness in its investigations and of entrapping people into terror plots who might otherwise not have carried out an attack.

FBI faces entrapment questions over Rezwan Ferdaus bomb plot arrest

guardian.co.uk | Sep 29, 2011

by Paul Harris

The dramatic arrest of a man in Massachusetts accused of plotting to crash explosive-filled miniature airplanes into the US Capitol and the Pentagon has sparked fresh concerns that the FBI might be using entrapment techniques aimed at Muslims in America.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old US citizen and physics graduate who lived at home with his parents in Ashland, near Boston, was the target of an FBI sting in which he bought a miniature aircraft that he planned to outfit as a flying bomb.

Ferdaus, who is being held without bail, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston on Thursday. The six-count indictment – which also covered his alleged efforts to provide support and resources for al-Qaida groups attacking US troops abroad – said he “planned to commit acts of violence against the United States” with the goal of “decapitating” the nation’s military center “and killing as many ‘kafirs’ [non-believers] as possible.” A detention hearing has been set for October 3.

However, some legal organisations and Muslim groups have questioned whether Ferdaus, whose activities were carried out with two undercover FBI agents posing as terrorists, would have been able to carry out such a sophisticated plot if left to his own devices. In numerous previous cases in the US, the FBI has been accused of over-zealousness in its investigations and of entrapping people into terror plots who might otherwise not have carried out an attack.

“It deeply concerns us. It is another in a pattern of high-profile cases. Would this person have conceived or executed this plot without the influence of the FBI?” said Heidi Boghosian, president of the National Lawyers Guild.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also expressed its concern and wondered if more details would later emerge at trial that showed the full scale of the FBI involvement in setting up the sting. “There is a big, big difference between a plot initiated by the FBI and a plot initiated by a suspect, and it seems this might have been initiated by the FBI,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s director of communications.

The lengthy affidavit filed by prosecutors against Ferdaus details an elaborate plot in which he repeatedly expressed his desire to kill Americans and his support for Islamic jihad. The affidavit showed he came up with a detailed plan of attack and even scouted his targets in Washington in person. He also built mobile phone “detonators” that he supplied to undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaida terrorists and expressed his pleasure when told him they had been used to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

However, the affidavit also raises several questions. Few details are given as to how Ferdaus came to the attention of the FBI. Mention is only made of a co-operating witness, known as CW, who met Ferdaus in December 2010 and soon began recording his conversations.

No details are given as to CW’s identity, but it is mentioned that he or she has a criminal record and has served time in prison. That raises the possibility that the CW may have had some ulterior motive to bring an alleged terror suspect to the attention of the FBI or could be an unreliable witness.

Another potential area of concern is a meeting on 19 April 2011, when the undercover agents met with Ferdaus and questioned the “feasibility” of his plan. That raises the prospect that the FBI agents were somehow goading Ferdaus into more action. “Ferdaus responded in a defensive manner that he had made progress,” the affidavit stated.

At the same meeting the undercover agents also gave financial assistance for Ferdaus to travel to Washington on a scouting trip: a fact that raises the question of whether he would have made the trip without that financial help. The undercover agents also supplied thousands of dollars in cash for Ferdaus to buy the F-86 Sabre miniature plane to be used in an attack.

Another portion of the affidavit also details Ferdaus’s enthusiasm for making mobile phone detonation devices that he believed were being sent to Iraq and used by terrorists. Ferdaus suggested sending a box of 50 mobile phones to war zones where terrorists were in need of them. He even wanted to set up a sort of workshop to produce up to 30 of the devices a week.

“Ferdaus indicated that he could write instructions or make a video on how to construct the cell phone detonation devices,” the affidavit said. Such an apparently outlandish idea that hinges on the idea that Islamic terrorists are desperately short of cheap mobile phones might suggest Ferdaus was, to some extent, a fantasist rather than a genuine threat.

However, some legal experts said that the case against Ferdaus appeared compelling, especially as he frequently and repeatedly indicated his desire and willingness to carry out terrorist attacks against Americans. In trying to mount a successful defence of entrapment it is vital to prove that a suspect has no pre-disposition to the crime they are accused of doing. In the Ferdaus case that would seem to be difficult, lawyers said.

“He took the weaponry and agreed to do it. That demonstrates a propensity and willingness to do it,” said Anthony Barkow, a former terrorism prosecutor and executive director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University.

Barkow defended the FBI investigation and said that the US authorities took careful steps to avoid the issue of entrapment. “The Justice Department is very aware of this issue,” he said.

Certainly the affidavit against Ferdaus paints a compelling picture of a man hellbent on waging jihad in America and eager to take the guns and explosives eventually supplied to him by the undercover FBI agents. He repeatedly states in recorded conversations that he is happy for Americans to die and that the idea for the attack was his own. “That’s excellent,” Ferdaus said when told one of his phone detonators had been used overseas and had killed Americans.

The prosecution case also reveals how Ferdaus ordered the plane and rented a storage facility in which to keep it and then took delivery from the FBI agents of 25 pounds of C-4 explosives, three grenades and six AK-47 rifles. It also shows Ferdaus explaining how he had become convinced that he needed to attack America after viewing jihadist websites online. “I just can’t stop; there is no other choice for me,” he said of his decision to launch the attacks.

Prosecutors have staunchly defended the FBI operation. “Our top priority is to protect our nation from terrorism and national security threats,” said US attorney Carmen Ortiz.

FBI officials have also said the investigation was carried out responsibly and to head off a real threat. “We have an obligation to take action to protect the public whenever an individual expresses a desire to commit violence. A committed individual, even one with no direct connections to, or formal training from, an international terrorist organization, can pose a serious danger to the community,” said Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division