The Washington Post gives us a glimpse at the work of one FBI informant:
[Craig] Monteilh's mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.
He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat.
Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his "handlers" trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.
Some details on the case that collapsed:
In May 2007, Monteilh said he recorded a conversation about jihad during a car ride with [Ahmadullah Sais] Niazi and another man. Monteilh said he suggested an operation to blow up buildings and Niazi agreed. An FBI agent later cited that and other taped conversations between the two in court as evidence that Niazi was a threat.
A few days later, [Hussam] Ayloush [of the L.A. Council on American-Islamic Relations] got an anguished phone call from Niazi and the other man in the car.
"They said Farouk had told them he had access to weapons and that they should blow up a mall," Ayloush recalled. "They were convinced this man was a terrorist."
Ayloush reported the FBI's own informant to the FBI. He said agents interviewed Niazi, who gave them the same account, but the agency took no action against Monteilh.
Yet it was years before the case against Niazi was dropped, and that conversation with Monteilh was still used as evidence against the man. As Adam Serwer writes, "Niazi did what, ideally, the FBI would have wanted him to do–and they tried to nail him anyway. Given that the government acknowledges a toxic relationship between the American Muslim community and law enforcement would be a disaster for terrorism investigations, one wonders why the FBI was busy trying to make a case against the kind of person who will drop a dime on someone [he] believed was a terrorist. Prosecutors ultimately dismissed the case, but it's extraordinary that it even got as far as a courtroom."