Of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, at least 14 were developed in sting operations by the FBI. Others, like the Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, may have also been helped by US government agents.
When you take all of this information into consideration, you have to wonder if aspiring terrorists would ever act without being encouraged by law enforcement to do so. You should also ask yourself if the these sting operations might actually increase the threat of terrorism.
Source: 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.
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.
And that's the gray area. Who is susceptible? Anyone who plays along with the agents, apparently. Once the snare is set, law enforcement sees no choice. "Ignoring such threats is not an option," Mr. Boyd argued, "given the possibility that the suspect could act alone at any time or find someone else willing to help him."
Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech -comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas -then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups. Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk, but others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find.
Take the Stinger missile defendant James Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer with a criminal record that included no violence or hate crime, despite his rants against Jews. "He was searching for answers within his Islamic faith," said his lawyer, Clinton W. Calhoun III, who has appealed his conviction. "And this informant, I think, twisted that search in a really pretty awful way, sort of misdirected Cromitie in his search and turned him towards violence." It took 11 months of meandering discussion and a promise of $250,000 before an FBI informant could to lead Cromitie, 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 .They included men who wanted to attack fuel lines at Kennedy International Airport; destroy the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago; carry out a suicide bombing near Tampa Bay, Fla., and bomb subways in New York and Washington.
This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at the New York Times.