Terrorism

FBI Terrorism Stings Make Country Less Safe

Focusing on trapping bumbling fools like Nafis draws antiterrorism resources away from potential real threats

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When Mario Buda blew up the first car bomb, in 1920 in front of the U.S. Sub-Treasury on Wall Street, he had something in common with Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, who is accused of trying to do more or less the same thing this week in front of the New York Federal Reserve building a few blocks away: Both wanted to harm the U.S. through a symbol of its financial center.

There was also a big difference. Buda, who escaped to Italy and was never brought to justice, belonged to an extended ring of anarchists who planned and executed terrorist attacks including the spectacular seven-city midnight attacks in June 1919. Nafis, on the other hand, hoped to connect himself to al- Qaeda, yet was acting almost in isolation—except for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York Police Department agents who had set him up, strung him along and given him his 1,000 pound fake bomb. In plain English, Nafis was a patsy.

Should we care? Since 2004, the most impressive visible domestic victories against terrorism have involved elaborate sting operations. (Faisal Shahzad, who set a car bomb in New York's Times Square, would have succeeded if two street vendors hadn't noticed smoke coming from the car.) Since Congress closed domestic courts to prosecutions of terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, all the high-profile terror convictions in U.S. courts have come from setup operations except for Shahzad.