A federal law enforcement official described the plot as "aspirational"—meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives—and described the operation as a sting with a cooperator within the group.
"It was fully controlled at all times," a law enforcement official said.
Such stings are not unusual. The equally "aspirational" Liberty City 6 scheme of 2006, for example, would not have congealed—to the extent that it congealed at all—without the government's helpful informants. In the days before 9/11, agents provocateurs infiltrated militia groups; back in the '60s, they invaded the New Left. I doubt such entrapment makes anyone safer. But it does make people scared.