Film Review: “The Newburgh Sting”


The Newburgh Sting

HBO DOCUMENTARY FILMS*

Drawing on a trove of covert FBI video footage, this well-argued doc offers a spirited defense of four men charged in 2009 with plotting to blow up Air National Guard planes and set off bombs outside Jewish community centers in the Bronx—a story first detailed in our 2011 investigation “The Informants.” The men, occasionally observant Muslims from impoverished Newburgh, New York, some with prior convictions for drug dealing, thought they would make $250,000 for the job—a life-changing sum. But it was a setup. An FBI informant provided everything: the plan, the bombs and missiles, even a car to get them to the scene of the would-be crime. Like the defendants in similar stings, the men cried entrapment but were convicted anyway. Many viewers won’t sympathize with men who seemed willing to kill civilians for a price, and fair enough. But footage of the Boston Marathon bombing near the end of the film begs the question: What kinds of threats are slipping through the cracks while the FBI spends millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours setting up a crew of street hustlers in the Newburgh ghetto?

*Correction: The original version of this review, which also ran in our 2014 July/August print issue, incorrectly identified the film distributor.

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