A veteran says the FBI is targeting him

A veteran says the FBI is targeting him

01 Mayıs 2018 - 02:00

By Erin Banco  
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com


On a weekday afternoon in the spring of 2014, Affraz Mohammed looked across his newly purchased brown leather couch at the two men he had let into his apartment in Springfield.

He didn’t know their names.

But they knew his.

The men flashed their badges and identified themselves as agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

According to Mohammed and his sibling, who was listening from a room down the hall, the agents didn't fully explain why they were there.

They asked about Mohammed’s mosque and if he had seen or heard anything suspicious during his time there.


And then, they asked about Mohammed's medication and how often he sought mental health care.

“It scared me that they knew all these specifics about my doctors and my medicine,” Mohammed said.

Before leaving, Mohammed said one of the agents left his contact information. (The FBI would not confirm to NJ Advance Media the agent’s name or position in the bureau.)

Since that visit in 2014, Mohammed and his therapist at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have experienced a series of largely unexplained check-ins, including in-person visits and phone calls by the FBI, local police and homeland security, according to documents obtained by NJ Advance Media and interviews with law enforcement conducted over five months.

For years, Mohammed and his doctors have raised questions with authorities about the visits and phone calls. Why was the government so interested in tracking Mohammed? Would it ever stop? 

Interviews with three former federal agents, including two who still work with the FBI on an ad-hoc basis, shed new light on Mohammed's story.

The former agents confirmed to NJ Advance Media the existence of a previously unreported national policy championed by the FBI, in coordination with the Department of Defense (DOD), that allows for the tracking of non-active military members it deems high risk.

The agents, who requested to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, described the policy as part of the intelligence community’s larger focuses on thwarting individuals who develop extremist ideologies in the U.S. over the past five years.

Two former FBI agents said thousands of former military members could be tracked as a result of the policy.

The FBI did not deny the existence of such a policy to NJ Advance Media. In an emailed statement, the bureau said it "investigates activity which may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security".  "Our focus is on criminal activity, not personal status or membership in a group," the statement said. The DOD did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Mohammed and his doctors believe that federal agents obtained his VA medical information as part of its tracking efforts.


Mohammed and his ex-wife Natalie with their children Wafaa, 5, and Abdur Raheem, 6. (Ed Murray |NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Mohammed, now 41, recounted the law enforcement check-ins in a series of interviews over five months with NJ Advance Media. 

Most of those interviews were conducted from his home in Springfield -- a place that has become a safe haven for him since his discharge from the marines.

In his apartment, a military portrait of him in a cleanly pressed navy-blue uniform sits on a wooden stand near the couch. His living room is furnished with pictures of his family, including his three children.

Mohammed, who is tall with tangled grey hair, said he was not used to visitors in the years following his discharge from the United States Marines in 2005.

He often fell into deep cycles of depression — a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD ) which he developed during his time in the service.

Today, he is still struggling with that diagnosis. But, he said, his medication, doctors, and support groups are helping him move forward. He spends his days caring for his children, driving them to school and sports practices, and cooking dinner.

Despite the progress he's made, Mohammed said he continues to think about that first FBI meeting in 2014. He said it set off a series of encounters with federal agents and local police.  

“I know this all sounds crazy,” he said. “That’s my biggest fear -- that people are going to think I am just some crazy guy yelling. But they won't leave me alone.”


The sting at Quantico


Mohammed grew up in the North Ward of Newark in the early 1980s, between North 6th Street and Park Ave. His parents, who moved to Newark from Trinidad when Mohammed was 6, worked odd jobs and tried to cobble together enough money to feed his twelve brothers and sisters.

When he was old enough, Mohammed said he knew he wanted to enter the military because several other of his family members had served.

He was a respected marine, according to interviews with his colleagues. Press clippings from 2001 show Mohammed was even selected to help the secret service escort President George W. Bush during his inauguration.

But things changed for Mohammed in 2002. It was beginning of the end of his career as a marine, he said.

Mohammed was the target of an operation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in August of 2002, according to court materials, including documents and audio files, obtained by NJ Advance Media.


Evidence from court shows a man named Daniel Amankwah, a marine at Quantico who was facing a court martial for a variety of offenses, was working as an informant for NCIS. He told federal agents he knew of a man on base (Mohammed) who wanted to buy an AK-47, according to court audio recordings.

But Mohammed didn’t want a semi-automatic weapon, he said in court. He wanted to purchase Amankwah’s 9 mm hand pistol that he could carry with a concealed weapon permit.

“Marines always bought weapons off each other,” Mohammed said. “People would post on the bulletin board about what they wanted to get rid of.”

Although Mohammad wanted a .9mm, he said Amankwah persuaded him to buy the AK-47. Amankwah was selling the gun for $160 – a good price for a semiautomatic.

That’s when NCIS and ATF moved in for the arrest. (NCIS argued in court that the weapon was actually a fully automatic, but it did not provide evidence to prove its claim). 


After he was acquitted of all charges in his court martial, Mohammed received a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

During court proceedings, Mohammed said the agents never asked about the weapon. Instead, he said, they asked about his local mosque and members of his Muslim community. They also asked for names of Muslim terrorists, he said.

"Mohammed could have a loud mouth at times, but he never would have been involved in what NCIS was accusing him of," said Mark Hurst, a former marine at Quantico who was close to Mohammed.

Mohammed spent the night in the Alexandria Detention Center—the prison that once held men accused of participating in the 9/11 attacks. There, Mohammed said he was beaten.

“(The agents) told me the quicker you make a statement, the quicker you can leave,” Mohammed said.

After two days, federal agents brought him back to the base at Quantico and offered no further explanation or instructions. He was eventually acquitted of all charges during a court martial. To this day, he has just two minor traffic violations on his record.

Following the court martial, Mohammed, who never saw combat, developed PTSD symptoms, according to medical assessments obtained by NJ Advance Media. It became impossible to complete daily tasks, he said.

“It stripped me of the life that I thought I was going to have,” Mohammed said. He was eventually discharged honorably in 2005.

“I wanted to be a marine man,” he said. “It was going to be my career.”



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