Civil Liberties

The FBI: Making Sure We Don't Need to Import Terror From Overseas

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…when we can just make it here ourselves! David K. Shipler, author of Rights at Risk, explains the FBI's terror strategy in the New York Times:

THE United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested….. 

Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps.

Carefully orchestrated sting operations usually hold up in court. Defendants invariably claim entrapment and almost always lose, because the law requires that they show no predisposition to commit the crime, even when induced by government agents. To underscore their predisposition, many suspects are "warned about the seriousness of their plots and given opportunities to back out," said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. But not always, recorded conversations show. Sometimes they are coaxed to continue.

Undercover operations, long practiced by the F.B.I., have become a mainstay of counterterrorism, and they have changed in response to the post-9/11 focus on prevention. "Prior to 9/11 it would be very unusual for the F.B.I. to present a crime opportunity that wasn't in the scope of the activities that a person was already involved in," said Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer and former F.B.I. agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups. An alleged drug dealer would be set up to sell drugs to an undercover agent, an arms trafficker to sell weapons. That still happens routinely, but less so in counterterrorism, and for good reason.

"There isn't a business of terrorism in the United States, thank God," a former federal prosecutor, David Raskin, explained.

Indeed, mostly not. Shipler's piece goes on to detail the sketchiness of the actual terror intentions of James Cromitie, the guy alleged to want to blow up synagogues and shoot stinger missiles:

Reading hundreds of pages of transcripts of the recorded conversations is like looking at the inkblots of a Rorschach test. Patterns of willingness and hesitation overlap and merge. "I don't want anyone to get hurt," Mr. Cromitie said, and then explained that he meant women and children. "I don't care if it's a whole synagogue of men." It took 11 months of meandering discussion and a promise of $250,000 to lead him, with three co-conspirators he recruited, to plant fake bombs at two Riverdale synagogues.

"Only the government could have made a 'terrorist' out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope," said Judge Colleen McMahon, sentencing him to 25 years. She branded it a "fantasy terror operation" but called his attempt "beyond despicable" and rejected his claim of entrapment.

The judge's statement was unusual, but Mr. Cromitie's characteristics were not. His incompetence and ambivalence could be found among other aspiring terrorists whose grandiose plans were nurtured by law enforcement….

I asked "Where's the Terror?" back on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and have returned to the issue of FBI-created terror since here and here.

NEXT: What the Data Actually Say About Illegal Immigration

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  1. But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training.

    If someone suggests using missiles or explosives, or offers training in terrorist tactics, they’re likely a government agent.

    The average person knows better than to talk openly about shit like that.

  2. Of course many of these cases were imported from overseas. Either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants. Diversity kills.

    1. “Diversity kills.”

      Homogeneity kills too.

  3. So…only the government could have made a terrorist out of this buffoon, but we’re going to put him in prison for 25 years anyway. Awesomesauce.

  4. It is just a matter of time before the FBI loses track of one of these morons they are trying to entrap and one of them actually pulls off a terror attack. Won’t that be great.

    1. Talk about missing the point.

      1. see below you miss the point

    2. How? The morons are utterly helpless losers.

      Without the FBI handler holding their hand, I doubt they could build a bomb that worked. Let alone deliver it successfully.

      1. That is true until it is not. One of these days the FBI is going to entrap someone who either through skill or luck actually builds a bomb and manages to set it off before they can stop them.

        Forget justice issues for a moment. Do you really think it is a good idea for the government to be going around encouraging people to engage in terror plots? You really don’t think there is any way that might go wrong?

        1. One of these days the FBI is going to entrap someone who either through skill or luck actually builds a bomb and manages to set it off before they can stop them.

          Again, you’re missing the point.

          The FBI isn’t going to entrap such a person because the way the agent gets involved is by offering to provide the hardware.

          The person who gets sucked into the mess either put out word that they were looking to blow stuff up, or more likely responded to some trolling agent’s offer to provide explosives.

          If the person could provide their own working hardware, then they wouldn’t get involved with the agent.

          So the only people the FBI is going to catch by this method are people who are not an actual threat.

        2. One of these days the FBI is going to entrap someone who either through skill or luck actually builds a bomb and manages to set it off before they can stop them.

          On dark days, I sometimes wonder how much this meme had to do with the OKC bombing? No, I’m not suggesting that the FBI gave him the bomb or the materials and told him to go forth. Rather, I wonder just how much the FBI knew about his cell ahead of time, and let it proceed in the hopes that it’d lead them to larger fish? (Fish like members of Ramzi Yousef’s group that didn’t leave after the 1993 WTC bombing? Or a true nascent American neo-Nazi terrorist group?)

          Not the FBI’s fault then, if they underestimated McVeigh’s technical sophistication and capabilities. I’m with you though John, eventually they’re going to incite a group where they don’t have the degree of control that they think they do, and something awful will happen. No malice needed; just human frailty and bureaucratic incompetence. Isn’t Gunwalker/F&F an example of just this?

          1. Rather, I wonder just how much the FBI knew about his cell ahead of time, and let it proceed in the hopes that it’d lead them to larger fish?

            I’m thinking somewhere between zip and zilch.

            Someone with the skill and inclination to pull something like this off will not be infiltrated by the FBI.

            What they’re doing here is nothing but theater.

        3. . Do you really think it is a good idea for the government to be going around encouraging people to engage in terror plots?

          Nooooo. I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. I take your point.

  5. Regardless of his stupidity and incompetence, in some sense this guy deserves what he got for being willing to commit such an atrocity.

    Of course the flip side is that the govt has no basis to claim such prosecutions “protect America” since there was negligible danger from such an individual to begin with. If these are the only terror prosecutions the govt can win, then either (a) there really isn’t much threat from terrorism, or (b) they’re totally missing the real threats.

  6. We don’t need no furren terrists stealin out jerbs, if a building needs blowin up then by god it’ll be a’Murrican at the controls of the plane.

    1. Or the truckful of fertilizer.

      AMERICAN fertilizer!

      /Oklahoma City

  7. How dare you write of security kabuki when the brave mutant ninja men and women guarding our borders succeed in putting Japanese tortoise smugglers behind bars?

    Let us never forget how Atsushi:

    “Yamagami, 39, and Norihide Ushirozako, both of Osaka, were arrested in January 2011 at Los Angeles International Airport as part of an undercover investigation by federal agents known as Operation Flying Turtle.

    The 55 turtles and tortoises were hidden in snack food boxes found in a suitcase. Federal prosecutors argued the measures taken by the men constituted animal cruelty and the reptiles posed a risk of transmitting salmonella.

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponlin…..l?ref=news

    1. The 55 turtles and tortoises were hidden in snack food boxes…

      Someone could have EATEN one of those things by accident, and might have choked on the shell! But they did not, thanks to the excellent work of our brave men and womyn in uniform!

      All praise…whatever branch forest of goverment did that.

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