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FBI, Don’t You Have Anything Better to Do?

February 8, 2013

It appears that the FBI has once again thwarted its own terror plot, in the words of Glenn Greenwald. He’s referring to cases where the FBI “infiltrates” a supposed extremist group, encourages a member or members to plan a terrorist attack against the United States, supplies the “materials”  to execute the attack (i.e., fake explosives), allows the supposed homegrown terrorist go through or almost go through with the attack (which wouldn’t have caused any harm because the materials are fake), and then arrests the perpetrator and makes a to-do about it in the press.

The latest “success” comes today in nearby Oakland, where the FBI arrested suspect Matthew Aaron Llaneza and charged him with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Llaneza pressed a cellphone trigger that was supposed to detonate a fake car bomb built by the FBI outside a Bank of America branch office. In their court filings today, the FBI said Llaneza supported the Taliban and wanted to wage jihad against the United States. His only accomplice was an undercover FBI agent “who had been meeting with him since Nov. 30.”

Now, can I say with certainty that Llaneza would not have attempted to commit a terrorist attack if the FBI wasn’t encouraging him? No. However, it appears to be FBI policy to engage individuals who it thinks for whatever reason (often race, it seems) should be encouraged to plan terrorist attacks. His FBI accomplice had been in touch with him for supplied the supposed weapon. Would he have gone through with it without the accomplice and weapon? It seems much less likely. Greenwald gives a list of other examples:

Last year, the FBI subjected 19-year-old Somali-American Mohamed Osman Mohamud to months of encouragement, support and money and convinced him to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon, only to arrest him at the last moment and then issue a Press Release boasting of its success. In late 2009, the FBI persuaded and enabled Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian citizen, to place a fake bomb at a Dallas skyscraper and separately convinced Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, to bomb the Washington Metro. And now, the FBI has yet again saved us all from its own Terrorist plot by arresting 26-year-old American citizen Rezwan Ferdaus after having spent months providing him with the plans and materials to attack the Pentagon, American troops in Iraq, and possibly the Capitol Building using “remote-controlled” model airplanes carrying explosives.

He continues, addressing the FBI’s method in supporting the plots:

None of these cases entail the FBI’s learning of an actual plot and then infiltrating it to stop it.  They all involve the FBI’s purposely seeking out Muslims (typically young and impressionable ones) whom they think harbor animosity toward the U.S. and who therefore can be induced to launch an attack despite having never taken even a single step toward doing so before the FBI targeted them. (emphasis his)

Beyond being a waste of resources, these schemes go against the concept of rule of law: effectively, once the FBI identifies its mark, the individual is treated as if they’ve already committed a crime. The FBI stops trying to prevent crime and in fact foments it. But there was no trial where the mark was found to be inclined to commit terrorist acts, and with good reason: we base criminal punishment on peoples actions, what they actually, not what they think about doing (unless Tom Cruise is involved).

Greenwald goes on to connect the FBI’s tactics as part of a larger pathology within the American security apparatus that reinforces the idea that we are at war, despite the fact that we do most of the invading these days. Whether or not that’s true, these operations are a waste of FBI resources that ensnare initially innocent young men without making us any safer. It’s a firefighter putting out a fire she started: you deserve no points.

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