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The Alleged Jihadist ‘Bad Bitches’ May Have Been Set Up

04.03.15 Liam Mathews

On April 2nd, Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, sensationally self-described as “bad bitches” who were “all about jihad,” were arrested and accused of plotting to build an explosive device for “ISIS-inspired” attacks in the United States. Both women, residents of Queens and U.S. citizens, are described as having sympathies with radical Islam. Siddiqui allegedly had contact with al-Qaeda members, including publishing a poem in an al-Qaeda magazine, while Velentzas allegedly fantasized about attacking a police funeral with a pressure-cooker bomb like the one used during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

But The Intercept notes that the criminal complaint against the women, which was unsealed Thursday, indicates that they may have been set up by an undercover Joint Terrorism Task Force officer. The officer allegedly provided the would-be terrorists with a copy of explosives manufacturing guide The Anarchist Cookbook. “It was only after [this]… that their amateurish efforts gained any traction,” according to The Intercept’s Murtazah Hussein.

Hussein is skeptical about Velentzas and Siddiqui’s intention and ability to carry out an attack on their own, and implies that the officer encouraged and offered instruction in bomb-making:

Over the following weeks, the informant repeatedly met with both defendants, even watching jihadist recruitment videos with them. On November 23, 2014, the informant brought a printed copy of The Anarchist Cookbook for Velentzas, even bookmarking the page containing bomb-making instructions.

At this point, according to the complaint, the informant and Velentzas had a discussion about “what they’re trying to achieve” with all the research about bombs. Velentzas then told the informant that she didn’t have any existing plans to do anything, and that “she would never want to hurt anyone.”

Over the next several weeks Velentzas seems to have become concerned about the informant’s background, searching the informant’s name in unnamed databases and browsing Web pages on topics such as “Identifying Informants/Undercover Police” and “Is S/he an Informant.”

Nonetheless, their discussions allegedly progressed, with the informant and Velentzas meeting to talk in greater detail about how to create a bomb, using information gleaned from The Anarchist Cookbook, and discussing whether it would be appropriate to target a gathering of police officers with such a device. At several points in the complaint, Velentzas indicates her reticence about doing anything that might harm “regular people,” even criticizing the Boston Marathon bombers for killing and injuring civilians. During this time, the informant also provided both Velentzas and Siddiqui with printed copies of Inspire, including selected passages about how to create explosives.

This story is reminiscent of the plot in 2009 where four men from the impoverished upstate city of Newburgh were railroaded by an FBI informant into conspiring to bomb synagogues in New York City. In that case, the informant, who was facing time for a different case, came to the would-be bombers with the idea, the weapons, and an offer of $250,000, raising issues of entrapment. Those men are serving 25 years in federal prison.

(Image: Jane Rosenberg)