Shorter FBI: You’re a Threat to “Community” If You Want to Kill the Same Guy US Government Wants to Kill

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.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. jerryy says:

    Does this also imply that (US) military recruiters and the kids they recruit are in jeopardy of being arrested? After all many of the recruiters will offer the opportunity to fight against ‘our enemies’.

    Does this also mean Casablanca will have to be remade so that Rick is no longer known to have been a gun runner during that Spanish war?

  2. P J Evans says:

    If he wants to go fight in Syria, then he isn’t a danger to people in the US.

    I’d wondered if the FBI is really that stupid, but the answer seems to be obvious.

  3. Jeff Kaye says:

    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.

    I beg to differ. The Syria fight is a cynical manipulation by the West of a disparate number of groups opposing the minority Assad government, which over the years has done service (via torture) for the US government. Many of the “freedom fighters” have a reactionary program, which would include the feudal-like enslavement of women, the imposition of a theocratic state, etc.

    In Spain, the attackers were from the right, mostly military, attacking the newly elected Republican government. The “freedom fighters” in Spain fought FOR the government, not against it. Also, their program was liberationist-left, and the groups were primarily Communist, Trotskysist, and anarchists.

    There is no analogy between Spain and Syria, and while I can understand using the term “freedom fighters” in fighting the tyranny of the Assad regime, the kinds of “freedom” envisioned by Jabhat al-Nusrah and the leftist International brigades that went to Spain are something totally incompatible.

    Otherwise, great article on the latest FBI frame-up atrocity.

  4. jo6pac says:

    @Jeff Kaye:Thanks Jeff
    They also hand over the list terrorist cells throughout Europe to the retired former CIA station chief in the region who had the smarts to share with Europe before taking it home with him to the bush the lesser govt. I use to read Syrian Comment for yrs and when this started there were some really telling comments, even the owner of the site said on returning to Syrian for 6 month visit he couldn’t believe the positive changes in the country especially the education system.

  5. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    Too bad Orwell wasn’t cynical enough to think up stories like this…

  6. greengiant says:

    More absurdity, Harroun is charged with weapons of mass destruction, that is firing a rocket propelled grenade?

  7. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @greengiant: I’ve mentioned in previous comments that the UN has a defintion of WMD’s and does so because:

    ” it was so integral to discussions of disarmament that the United Nations tasked a committee to generate an authoritative definition.

    That committee generated the following definition:

    [WMD are] . . . atomic explosive weapons, radio active material weapons, lethal chemical and biological weapons, and any weapons developed in the future which have characteristics comparable in destructive effect to those of the atomic bomb or other weapons mentioned above.

    Disarmament diplomacy has relied on that definition ever since. ”

    See page 5 here:

    This is important because any lesser defintion of WMD’s supports the accusation that Saddam had WMD’s. Of course he had rocket propelled grenades for example. Which means the war of aggression against Iraq, a war crime, is no longer a war crime.

    Very clever of these war criminals to redefine WMD’s thus removing any criminality.

  8. Wondering says:

    You say that many of the “freedom fighters” have a reactionary program, which would include the feudal-like enslavement of women, the imposition of a theocratic state, etc. …

    Doesn’t that sound reminiscent of the Taliban?

  9. joanneleon says:

    COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told a crowd here Friday night that Israel has bombed Syria.
    Graham, a Republican who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was addressing the South Carolina Republican Party’s annual Silver Elephant fundraising dinner. He mentioned the purported attack in passing, amid a longer discourse on U.S. national security policy.

    “Israel bombed Syria tonight,” Graham said flatly, before moving on to a longer, dire discourse on the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Comments are closed.