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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Crime & Courts

Feds want agent anonymity in Tampa terrorism trial

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TAMPA — Fearing “dire consequences” if an undercover FBI agent’s identity became known, prosecutors are asking a judge to keep the public from the courtroom when the agent testifies in an upcoming terrorism trial.

Sami Osmakac, a naturalized citizen from Kosovo, was arrested last year following an FBI sting. He is scheduled to go on trial in October on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered machine gun. Authorities said he planned to attack a busy Tampa night spot, then take hostages and demand the release of Muslim prisoners.

According to an affidavit by FBI Counterterrorism official R.J. Holley, failing to protect the identity of the agent involved in the case could compromise several national security investigations and put the agent and his family in jeopardy.

The prosecution is asking a judge to allow the agent to testimony using a pseudonym, prohibit the defense from asking any questions designed to seek identifying information and allow the agent to wear a “light disguise,” such as changing his facial hair, hairstyle or clothes.

The prosecution also wants the agent to be allowed to use a non-public entrance to the courthouse and courtroom and bar the public from the courtroom during the agent’s testimony. Under the prosecution’s proposal, only the court, essential personnel, the jury, defendant and defense and prosecution attorneys would be allowed inside the courtroom. The public would be allowed to view the trial through a closed-circuit broadcast that did not show the agent’s image.

Finally, the prosecution wants to obscure the agent’s face on any video recordings played over the closed circuit feed during the proceedings.

The undercover agent met Osmakac in 2011 after Osmakac told an informant he wanted to carry out a violent attack, according to prosecution court filings. The informant introduced the agent to Osmakac as someone who could provide firearms and explosives.

The prosecution says Osmakac told the agent he wanted to get “one AK at least,” “a couple of Uzis,” “10 grenades minimum,” and an explosive belt with a multi-directional blast range of approximately 15 yards.

The agent also agreed to Osmakac’s request that he help build an improvised explosive device, according to the prosecution. Initially, Osmakac told the agent he wanted to attack Ybor City on a Thursday night because there would be a lot of people there. But he later changed his mind because there was too much law enforcement in the area.

On Jan. 7, 2012, Osmakac met the agent, who gave him six fake grenades, a non-functional automatic AK-47, inert ammunition, a non-functioning .45 caliber Colt Mark IV pistol, a fake explosive belt, and a bogus vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

During the same meeting, according to the prosecution, Osmakac had the agent film him explaining his motives for the planned attack, saying he wanted vengeance for wrongs done to Muslims.

Osmakac was later arrested.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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