(AP Photo/Courtesy of Jamill Noorata)
Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bangladeshi descent who has denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called "create and capture." He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. He earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.
"We need you to pretend to be one of them," Rahman recalled the police telling him. "It's street theater."
Rahman s now believes his work was "detrimental to the Constitution." After he disclosed details to friends he stopped receiving text messages from his NYPD handler, "Steve," and his handler's NYPD phone number was disconnected.
Rahman's account shows how the NYPD unleashed informants on Muslim neighborhoods, often without specific targets or criminal leads. Much of what Rahman said represents a tactic the NYPD has denied using.
Informants like Rahman are a central component of the NYPD's programs to monitor life in Muslim neighborhoods since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The programs were built with unprecedented help from the CIA.
Rahman said he received little training and spied on "everything and anyone." He took pictures inside the many mosques he visited and eavesdropped on imams.
On the NYPD's instructions, he went to more events at John Jay, including when Siraj Wahhaj spoke in May. Wahhaj, 62, is a prominent New York imam who has attracted the attention of authorities for years. Prosecutors included his name on a list of people they said "may be alleged as co-conspirators" in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged.
In 2004, the NYPD placed Wahhaj on an internal terrorism watch list and noted: "Political ideology moderately radical and anti-American."
That evening at John Jay, a friend took a photograph of Wahhaj with a grinning Rahman.
Rahman, who was born in Queens, said he never witnessed criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.