Saturday, January 28, 2012

Internetting While Muslim: The Jamshid Muhtorov Case is Unsurprisingly Weak.

Joshua Kucera over at the Bug Pit cited me, Registan, and Central Asia analyst extraordinaire Eric McGlinchy in a somewhat incredulous look at Jamshid Muhtorov's arrest and any possible links to Karimov, NDN, and what have you. He seems to agree with me for the most part; it's very difficult to prove or disprove a link, but it's something interesting to postulate and keep an eye on.

It seems that  Catherine Fitzpatrick disagrees, though, with one post with a title replete with exclamation marks and then another which very helpfully includes .pdf copies of the criminal complaint and indictment for "Material Support of a Designated Terrorist Organization and Attempt to do the Same." I appreciate the legwork because hey, this is just a blogspot blog and I hold myself to no journalistic standards of doing research. I'm just typing stuff before going on a Saturday run. I would wish she spelled the blog name right, though. I think our main cleavage is that I approach this from a legal background whereas she's approaching it from a regional writer perspective. I'm going to naturally lean towards my current state's motto and say "Show Me." And the complaint definitely doesn't.

The prosecution has some perfectly acceptable yet kind of skeevy tactics, like calling Muhtorov "Abumumin Turkistony" to make him sound more Muzzleem. The complaint is made up wholly of an FBI agent's statement that is literally exactly what you'd expect some FBI bro who couldn't find Uzbekistan on a map if you spotted him the Caspian. The background is mostly cribbed from the NCTC (ah, law, where you have to cite for journals but not for criminal matters) and talks about all the terrible things that the IJU has done. Well, at least both of them. Well, at least one attempted attack by two German guys and one attack that the only one who says they did it is the Government of Uzbekistan, which wanted counter-terrorism goodies from the US. But that's a different blog post.

There is some more smelly stuff in graf 9: A) Turkey seized weapons of IJU operatives in Turkey, B) The group claimed responsibility for attacks, and C) LINKS TO AL-QAEDA OMG BIN LADEN BIN LADEN PAGEVIEWS

At least the IJU has a website. And Muhtorov was a big fan of this website, Sodiqlar. He made internet friends with the webmaster, and talked about politics with other friends. There is also a claim of Bay'ah by Muhtorov. Bay'ah is a weird word used often to align with Sufi orders and others. Much like how a wed couple says "death do we part," Muhtorov said "any task, even with the risk of dying." But ok.

Then more talk, some arguments between Muhtorov and his wife, and my personal favorites: the presupposition of IJU used in a passive voice throughout the complaint. Muhtorov books a flight to Turkey, says goodbye to his family, and gets into an internet slapfight over some people, using real internet-dude words like "we have the best antivirus, the Koran" which is like the nerdiest thing I've ever heard. I suppose the whole graf 27 is the crux, that Muhtorov was going to go out and kill these two commentors on Sodiqlar because they disagreed about some things. The rest of the complaint is why they need warrants to go through the rest of Muhtorov's files.

So I perhaps should add full disclosure at this point: I'm an internet nerd myself, I spend way too much time on a Cincinnati Reds blog. I've said awful things about players, coaches, and other commentors on the blog. I've shared e-mails with friends I've made on the blog written entirely in inside jokes that sound weird/awful out of context.

Look, maybe Muhtorov was really going to fly to Istanbul and kill a couple guys for disagreeing on matters of Istihan. Maybe he was going there for a wedding. Maybe he was going to be in a medrese. Maybe he fell in love with a woman online and was leaving his family. There are thousands of Uzbeks living in Turkey; as workers, as refugees, whatever. The Emniyet in Istanbul is always full of them. Whatever it is, it's not outlined in the complaint. The criminal complaint is being used as leverage to go through the rest of his internet life in hopes of finding something that actually looks like support of a terrorist organization.

If there was actually good grounds, well, remember that graf 9 about Turkey being involved in investigating IJU? If he was going to Turkey to be involved with the IJU, you can bet that MIT would've been involved in it. Instead, this is the equivalent of frisking a dude in a black neighborhood and hoping that you find a pipe.

I'm hardly going to use this as a pedestal to complain about internet security. But I made an offhand joke earlier this week about "Internetting while Muslim being the new Driving While Black" and I think it absolutely holds.

What I'm most curious about is how Muhtorov was singled out. I honestly don't think there's anything as sinister as the Uzbek Foreign Minister saying to Ms. Clinton, "You want to use our country for a highway? Here's a list of people you have to arrest." What I do think is that "closer security ties" are a requirement for anything the US does nowadays, and that Uzbekistan gave a list of people in the US they were interested in. Muhtorov was on this list, and his internet persona got him a lot more interest than he may have expected.

A little bit of skepticism goes a long way when dealing with the Uzbek government's list of baddies. The IJU as a paper tiger is not a new or novel thought. Ambassador Murray has called them a hoax (whatever you think of Amb. Murray) and Joshua Foust was writing about them back in 2009, saying:
...when you take into account the Uzbek’s history of inventing phantom Islamic resistance movements to justify its police state, the lack of sources actually discussing the group (the sources in that Jihadica post and paper are all secondary and tertiary, and even reposted Wikipedia entries, except for the one website which isn’t even written in Uzbek), and everyone’s inability to name a single member aside from that one guy in the videos who wasn’t around in 2002 when the group was invented… well, it just doesn’t add up.
 The entire experience reminds me of XKCD's citogenesis. There are fake facts repeated until they're true. This, combined with the spectre of al-Qaeda, really conceptually awful insinuations about Islam, and a few snippets of conversation with friends and family are the backbone of this case.

Even if they eventually find something, like maybe a bomb-making .doc on his computer that will get him arrested, isn't an absolution of the conduct here. The procedurally-correct and jurisprudentially-awful judicial system, spoken to at length by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker allows for these sorts of abuses. That is a different story, and besides, I won't write it better than Mr. Gopnik.

There's no actual proof anywhere yet, just the same few aspersions cast over and over. I would just be casting aspersions of my own over the US Government if I was to claim that the arrest of Muhtorov is quid-pro-quo for the opening of the NDN, I admit. But at this point, that's all the case deserves, a black mark and lots of tut-tutting.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, big guy. I'll fix the spelling of your blog name. And you don't seem to have much sense of the rule of law, for all your aspirations as a lawyer. It's ok to investigate terrorist suspects when this much evidence accrues. Why wouldn't it be? Not all persons accused of terrorism are innocent. Some might be, and you have to have an open mind about the facts. You don't -- you have a foregone conclusion that any arrest of any Muslim for terrorism is automatically suspect. So you have no credibility.

    Your cautionary notes might have more credibility if you stuck to the facts. But you don't. There isn't any effort to "make Muhtorov sound more Muslim" if they cite *the pseudonyms he himself used* -- duh. Those aren't just names they made up for him; those are names he used himself which they found in his correspondence. So I guess you have to accuse this apparent opportunistic Uzbek of attempting to sound "more Muzzleem," eh?

    Can't find Uzbekistan on a map? Well, he found Turkey on a map. Why was Muhtorov going to Turkey? Why did he say he was prepared to commit acts even leading to death? Why did he say to his young daughter he would "see her in heaven"? Of course, we have to wait to see what comes out at trial. Perhaps there are perfectly innocent reasons for all of these things, and really relatives who were planning "a wedding." But again, you seem to have a stake in proving it all wrong.

    By fixating on whether the IMU or IJU or whatever exists or doesn't exist, you don't seem prepared to look at *the acts of these groups*. Why do they even have weapons to seize in Turkey?

    You haven't presented persuasive proof that "any task, even the risk of dying" is a bound idiomatic phrase like "I'm dying to get out of here" ("to death do us part" is in fact intended to be a literal not figurative meaning in the wedding ceremony).

    If all Muhtorov did was argue on the Internets and get mad and say he'd kill some guy, there would likely not be grounds for these warrants. But the kinds of people and groups he were in touch with weren't just baseball teams.

    Your fierce eagerness to exonerate him makes no sense. I have no need to prosecute him; if it turns out he's an innocent human rights activist (or merely just a hustler) who just argues a lot and got religion, he should be let go. My worldview remains intact. But yours can't *unless* he is let go.

    I have no reason to believe anything Foust says -- he bullies people relentlessly and dishonestly and silences critics by all means, even getting their employers to remove them. That's creepy.

    Ultimately, you seem to need -- like Joshua Kucera -- a reason to believe that this arrest is "payment" for the NDN. But the NDN was already functioning at full tilt even before the waiver, and long before this arrest. To be sure, we have to look carefully at every case involving Uzbekistan because the oppressive Uzbek government may feed its bad intelligence to the US to settle its own scores. You have not contributed to building that case.

    Catherine A. Fitzpatrick