There’s a lot that’s stark raving insane about the FBI’s latest entrapment scheme, involving 18 year old Abdalla Ahmad Tounisi, who had planned to go fight jihad in Syria.
But my favorite is the argument FBI makes about the threat to the community Tounisi represents, in arguing against the judge’s decision to put Tounisi in home confinement.
The defendant presents a danger to the community (a term that includes the worldwide community, see United States v. Hir, 517 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2008)), if only because he withstood prolonged efforts by others to dissuade him from engaging in violent jihad.
Remember, had Tounisi succeeded (a very unlikely proposition, since by his own admission he didn’t know anyone and needed the FBI to buy him a bus ticket to travel within Turkey), he would have joined the Jabhat al-Nusrah in Syria and fought against Bashar al-Assad.
The guy we’re trying to kill, too. Or at least chase into exile.
But there’s more to it. First, last year, when the FBI tried to entrap Tounisi along with his friend Adel Daoud last year to attack a Chicago nightclub, Tounisi backed out because he didn’t want to attack random Americans. Daoud told the FBI’s undercover officer on August 18, 2012,
I don’t think [Tounisi] will help giving to [attacking] random Americans. He is more there for there armies, money, etc. … cuz he not convinced dat you can give zakat to every American. … he wasn’t convinced … about giving to [attacking] random Americans though … but he convinced about the cause in general … like overseas and so forth.
Now, a sane counterterrorism program would take Tounisi’s refusal to attack civilians and use it to intervene to prevent him from doing anything else stupid. The FBI, instead, set up its own jihad-recruiter website, which is what Tounisi used to set up his intended trip to Syria.
Meanwhile, even while (if the FBI claims are accurate) there’s reason to believe Tounisi was well aware that fighting with Jabhat al-Nusrah would be illegal (in part, because they have him reading stories about the last guy we arrested for fighting against Assad, Eric Harroun), it’s just as clear Tounisi knew the US was fighting against Assad.
On May 29, 2012 — apparently even before he developed a plan to travel overseas to fight jihad — Tounisi noted that “the west sent in special forces to Jordan to do practice operations on the syrian border w jordanian troops. I think they plan to invade syria …” Indeed, that was around the time when Hillary and David Petraeus were arguing Obama should arm the Syrian rebels (albeit with vetting).
More and more aspiring freedom fighters are going to follow this path, in part because the Syria fight has become what the Spanish Civil War once was. But given that the US openly endorses killing our enemies, including Assad, and given that our allies are funding even the terrorists among the freedom fighters, it is increasingly hard to distinguish how Tounisi’s aspirations differ from the government’s own plans.
Which I guess makes sense, since the FBI has set up a recruiting site for guys like him.