New ‘(T)error’ Documentary exposes the life of Saeed Torres, a former FBI informant, to the big screen

These are the words of Lyric Cabral, director for the new documentary (T)error that aired at April’s Tribeca Film Festival. The person she is speaking of, is Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a man she would shortly find had a very twisted past that included spying on American citizens.

Shariff was my neighbor. One day, after four years of talking almost every day, I came to his apartment and it was just cleared out…almost no indication that someone had lived there….And then I get a call from him and he sounded incredibly frantic… almost like I could picture someone at the other end of the line with a gun to his head, that’s the tone in which he was speaking.”

Saeed would become the subject of followups by Cabral for the next decade after this call. She would find out later on after getting off the phone that he had relocated to South Carolina, from their previously shared residence of New York City. The only question remaining for her was, why? In 2011, she would get her answer when Saeed decided to come clean to her without telling his superiors during his current operation.

At the age of 62, Saeed had put at least 20 years in as an informant for the FBI. Cabral stated in an interview with Al-Jazeera,

Saeed is a Vietnam veteran. He became a Black Panther because he possessed this anti-government ideology, and now he has a job where he depends on the government. He’s an ex-felon. He is solely dependent on the government, and if that dependence is not through informing, it is through social services.”

In one part of (T)error, Saeed is questioned on his methods of getting information and how he was trained:

They [FBI] never trained me for nothin’. It’s how I use the language. If they trained me, I would never get what I wanted to get, because they’re strictly textbook. There’s a difference between telling somebody [what to do] and making a suggestion. See, entrapment is if I tell someone, “yo let’s go rob a bank”, and that was not his intention… that’s my intention. I may go to him and say, “Damn, there’s a lot of money in there boy”, and he feeds into it, and he go, “…I’d sure like to take that.”

As Cabral and fellow director David Felix Sutcliffe‘s cameras roll during Saeed’s current targeting OP, he uses these tactics he’s mastered to befriend and imprison Khalifah Al-Akili, who’s just one of the Americans that have fallen victim to him. Sutcliffe told Al-Jazeera,

We wanted to ultimately paint Saeed and Khalifah as human beings who have made poor personal decisions, but that lack power in these situations. We wanted to show how they are being taken advantage of by a system that has questionable motivations and questionable tactics.”

The documentary is currently hoping to take home several awards for it’s unprecedented in-depth look at how the FBI anti-terror scope has centered on American citizens.

-Curt Cramer (@CurtisRemarc)