For the first time since announcing charges against six Minneapolis men accused of conspiring to join overseas terrorists, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger fielded questions Saturday from Somali community members who have voiced concerns about the case.
Luger and Richard Thornton, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Twin Cities division, met with about 100 Somali-Americans in south Minneapolis.
Though they said they couldn’t talk specifically about the case, Luger and Thornton took on criticism from the community.
Some members have suggested a paid informant entrapped the men as they allegedly planned to leave the country and join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Luger and Thornton said informants and recordings of private conversations are staples of federal criminal investigations, key in pursuing drug, gang and white-collar crime cases.
“We don’t entrap people,” said Luger. “We don’t set people up. It’s wrong. It’s contrary to what justice requires.”
Sadik Warfa, an organizer of the event, said questions about the FBI investigation leading to the charges have swirled in the Somali community. Some have bashed the use of the informant, a friend of the men who offered to help them with an alleged attempt to leave the country earlier this year.
“The community is very concerned about entrapment,” Warfa said. “We don’t want the trust in law enforcement to keep going down, down, down.”
Luger pointed out that his office’s work is subject to scrutiny from federal judges and defense attorneys in open court.
Thornton added that the community cannot expect authorities to stop young people from joining radical groups and then let them off without pursuing charges.
Luger urged continued support for a Department of Justice pilot program to combat recruitment by engaging youth in mentorship, job creation and other programs.
In recent weeks and especially since the charges, some have questioned whether the program is really a front for spying on the community.
At the Saturday event, some community leaders backed the program; others said they continue to question whether law enforcement agencies can truly keep policing and outreach separate as they spearhead such a pilot program.