Does this remind anyone else of Minority Report?

Yesterday, a young New York man was sentenced to 30 years in prison. In a city where each day’s news reports shootings, robberies, child abuse, etc., this isn’t so unusual. What is unusual (to me, at least) is the crime.

Shahawar Matin Siraj was arrested in August of 2004 for conspiring to bomb the Herald Square subway station- certainly a serious accusation. My problem is how “conspiracy” was defined. Shahawar and the others involved had no actual explosives, no well-defined plans (such as a timetable) for the bombing, and no connections to any terrorist group. In fact, the entire charge seems to be based on conversations recorded by a paid NYPD informant. (That the informant claimed to be a member of a terrorist group, regularly shared stories and pictures of Muslims being abused by Americans, and promised to provide explosives to the “conspirators” only adds to an already questionable situation.)

No matter how horrific the proposed crime, it seems incredibly dangerous to arrest, hold, and sentence people based purely on what they thought about maybe doing in the future. By this argument, anyone who mused about, say, causing injury to a certain US president (admit it, you’ve thought about it) should be arrested.

Discussion Question: As it’s not stated in the NY Times article, discuss why Mr. Sharif (a young, male, Muslim Pakistani immigrant) was the target of this investigation in the first place.

**Just to be perfectly clear, I am not advocating, supporting, or planning any crimes of any kind, including against the President. I had considered stealing a pencil from the office to do a crossword puzzle on my way home, but changed my mind, and did not commit said crime.**


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