Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man with conspiring to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, saying he tried to remotely detonate what he believed was a 1,000-pound bomb in a van he parked outside the building in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday.
But the entire plot played out under the surveillance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department as part of an elaborate sting operation, according to court papers. The man, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, who arrived in the United States in January on a student visa, tried to make contacts and recruit people to form a terrorist cell to help him carry out an attack, according to a criminal complaint in the case.
But one of these recruits was an F.B.I. informer, who later introduced him to an undercover F.B.I. agent who helped him with the plot. In addition, the complaint said, Mr. Nafis spoke of a desire to “attack and kill” a high-ranking government official. A senior law enforcement official said Wednesday night that the official was President Obama, but that Mr. Nafis’s desire never got past the talking stage. Mr. Nafis was charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to Al Qaeda. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Mr. Nafis arrived at Federal District Court in Brooklyn, looking boyish despite his trim beard. He spoke quietly when answering the questions of the magistrate judge, Roanne L. Mann.
The case appears to be the latest to fit a model in which, in the process of flushing out people they believe present a risk of terrorism, federal law enforcement officials have played the role of enabler. Agents and informers have provided suspects with encouragement, guidance, money and even, the subjects of the sting operations are led to believe, the materials needed to carry out an attack. Though these operations have almost always held up in court, they have come under increasing criticism from those who believe that many of the subjects, even some who openly espoused violence, would have been unable to execute such plots without substantial assistance from the government.