FBI Entrapment Leads to TSA Pat-Downs

A couple of weeks back, I pointed to John Pistole’s testimony that directly justified the expansion of VIPR checkpoints to mass transport locations by pointing to a recent FBI-entrapment facilitated arrest.

Another recent case highlights the importance of mass transit security. On October 27, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a Pakistan-born naturalized U.S. citizen for attempting to assist others whom he believed to be members of al Qaida in planning multiple bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C., area. During a sting operation, Farooque Ahmed allegedly conducted surveillance of the Arlington National Cemetery, Courthouse, and Pentagon City Metro stations, indicated that he would travel overseas for jihad, and agreed to donate $10,000 to terrorist causes. A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returned a three-count indictment against Ahmed, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings to cause mass casualties at D.C.-area Metrorail stations.

While the public was never in danger, Ahmed’s intentions provide a reminder of the terrorist attacks on other mass transit systems: Madrid in March 2004, London in July 2005, and Moscow earlier this year. Our ability to protect mass transit and other surface transportation venues from evolving threats of terrorism requires us to explore ways to improve the partnerships between TSA and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement, and other mass transit stakeholders. These partnerships include measures such as Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams we have put in place with the support of the Congress. [my emphasis]

Now to be clear, as with Mohamed Mohamud’s alleged plot, Ahmed’s plot never existed except as it was performed by FBI undercover employees. In fact, at the time the FBI invented this plot, now TSA-head Pistole was the Deputy Director of FBI, so in some ways, Ahmed’s plot is Pistole’s plot. Nevertheless, Pistole had no problem pointing to a plot invented by his then-subordinates at the FBI to justify increased VIPR surveillance on “mass transit and other surface transportation venues.” As if the fake FBI plot represented a real threat.

And according to Gary Milano (who appears to be TSA’s Federal Security Director for Tampa), that’s what they’re now doing–telling the bad guys (among whom they include “immigration law violators” and “bulk cash” smugglers) they’re going to be searching Greyhound for them. (Randy Balko posted the YouTube here.)

Now, to be sure, these no-warning searches are more effective than the security theater Pistole has ramped up at airports.

But that doesn’t excuse the logic: John Pistole points to a plot the FBI–under his management–cooked up, as if it represents a “real” threat. He uses it to justify expanding VIPR to mass and surface transit venues. And then when TSA does set up one of those VIPR checkpoints, we learn they’re not looking for TATP (which is what Pistole implied in his testimony to Congress), but instead illegal aliens and cash smugglers.

I guess that all makes it okay, right? The plot justifying this checkpoint never existed, but then, they’re not really looking for the things they suggested they were looking for as defined by that plot. So it doesn’t matter that it was a fake terrorist plot, since the whole point of it seems to be to justify immigration and smuggling raids.

  1. Fractal says:

    God. What a totalitarian fuckwad! Let’s find him lying about the radiation & TeraHertz radio wave dangers of the porno-scanners, then we can sic FDA on his ass. Or at least a few NIH carcinogenesis research scientists.

    • Charl says:

      What if, rather than cooking up a phony bomb plot, guaranteed to excite and ramp up the anger in an angry young man, the FBI, armed with copies of Mohamed Mohamud’s e-mails to overseas “terrorists”, had made a call on him to let him know that, because there was reasonable cause to suspect him of something, he would be subject to legal surveillance for some period of time.

      Would Mohamud have proceeded to build a bomb and ignite it at a tree-lighting ceremony? Highly unlikely. If the agents had felt that they were dealing with a real wacko, they could recommend close surveillance, but if instead they saw a young person who could be straightened out, they might recommend to him some ways to get help, such as an anger management program, along with surveillance or some type of probation.

      Who might provide such a program? Why, the U.S. Department of Peace. (Oh, that’s right. This idea proposed by Dennis Kucinich was widely scorned.) But you get the idea.

      Instead, Mohamud stands a very good chance of being locked up for a very long time, if not for the rest of his life, the government has reinforced the idea that there’s a terrorist hiding behind every tree, and that other angry young people will become more upset, because they will see this as a case of entrapment, regardless of what a jury might someday decide.

  2. JohnLopresti says:

    Even with the long gestation period for the decoy operation, the gambit appears to me to be part of what FBI needed to be doing, given the scope of the civil disruption the **plot** and its genre suggest.

    That said, there is something vaguely similar in a bureaucratic discourse by the honorable Richard Thornburgh included in testimony for the confirmation hearing of JGRobertsJr September 12-15,2005 @p457/469 (gpoaccess dot gov calls the transcript sh109-158 filesize 45MB): the exAG quoting as follows from Roberts* judicial view recorded in the DC court opinion, Thornburgh reading the Roberts language into the hearing record:

    He said, **No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation. A 12-year-old girl was arrested, searched, and handcuffed. Her shoelaces were removed and she was transported in a windowless rear compartment of a police vehicle to a juvenile processing center, where she was booked, fingerprinted, and detained until released to her mother some three hours later, all for eating a single french fry in a Metrorail station. The child was frightened, embarrassed, and crying throughout her ordeal. The District Court described the policies that led to her arrest as foolish, and indeed, the policies were changed after those responsible endured the sort of publicity reserved for adults who make young girls cry. The question before us, however, is not whether these policies were a bad idea, but whether they violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. Like the District Court, we conclude that they did not.**

      • JohnLopresti says:

        It kind of takes exception to the entrapment part of the argument. Further, the quote was allusion in support of much else in ew*s post, namely, that folks like Thornburgh in the past in a separate matter, but also related to the DC Metro system, have confused bureaucratic process with the real impacts on people*s lives. I included the cite as a sort of obscure humor.

        Also, I have had difficulty, like the author, with plans like the money in the freezer, which one defends by the speech and debate preserve clause.

        I think pedestrian affairs in Times Square are different now than in prior years, but there was a nice musing article by Kiellor shortly afterward describing his passage thru that famed ambience only days separated from the incident there; Kiellor takes an inspired literati view of the texture of the event but also the charge which is a jaunt in the Square in terms of its mirroring the populace, a common theme in tourism writings. Terraism in some respects can be about public sphere impingements. I*m not sure tsa has finalized its interpretation of what it should do in any of these matters. As usual, I appreciate ew*s superb examination of what generates policy, and how lame excuses need thoughtful review. Still, the civil shifts of clumsy agency effort are a factor, to which as you suggest, government ought to attend and monitor.

    • solerso says:

      The Constitution, that high holy, sacred, allmightly, sacrosacnt, fossil document, is as worthless and useless a protection of our rights, as the old testament is at protecting us from sea monsters and the wrath of God. Time for a real new deal.

  3. Fractal says:

    I take this personally because me, my family and most of my friends use the DC Metro trains constantly. Don’t trump up a fake threat to our Metro unless you want a million pissed off riders hunting for ways to discredit you, Pistole. Half of whom were just told by our progressive President that they deserve a pay cut. Hands Off Our Metro you dipwad.

  4. parsnip says:

    Can we compare the patsies in these FBI-contrived plots to ‘deadbeat borrowers’? Granted a few people intentionally lied their way into loans they had no intention of paying. But the vast majority of people being foreclosed were fraudulently induced into loans that the banks knew they would never be able to pay, in large part because the banks’ servicers’ software was designed to carry out what the industry calls a ‘countercyclical diversification strategy,’ which the banks use to intentionally force people into default, and eventual foreclosure by design.

    The FBI response to this scheme would be to have the banks foreclose on everyone pre-emptively so that they couldn’t force them into becoming ‘deadbeat borrowers’.

  5. Mary says:

    Sup Ct Chief Justice John Roberts questions government torture!!!!!!!


    OK – apparently his only concern is the torture of language, but who knew he had any concern period?

    Chief Justice John Roberts said the administration was asking the court “to torture the language in FOIA” to keep the documents from being made public. Roberts also noted the public’s frustration with FOIA, even when the government is willing to turn over material. “It takes forever to get the documents,” he said.

    Oh well – you take what you can get. For today, at least, pronouns and adjectives can sleep a little more soundly, knowing that the Chief Justice has their back.

  6. rosalind says:

    ot: oh this will end well – ‘Bomb factory’ house to be destroyed

    A house in unincorporated Escondido where pounds of volatile homemade explosives and hazardous chemicals have been found will be burned down, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Tuesday night at a community meeting…The explosives found at Jakubec’s home on Via Scott were hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), and erythritol tetranitrate (ETN).

    no worries, nothing bad will happen – they think. but just to be on the safe side neighbors on either side of the house were ordered to remove all of their belongings by the end of day.

    the article quotes chemistry expert Neal Langerman:

    “I’ve personally been involved in the destruction of highly reactive materials that we’ve tried to cook off and did not successfully cook off, and had to go in after we burned it and had to do something else,” Langerman said.

    PETN is fairly stable and not sensitive to friction, he said. In a fire, it will either cook off and burn like a highway flare, or it will detonate and send out a violent pressure wave. “It depends on the heat of the fire and how tightly confined it is,” he said. HMTD is very shock sensitive, he said, and the most worrisome.

    • PJEvans says:

      A few years ago they found some old dynamite in a storage unit in Van Nuys, a block from both the 405 and the railroad. They ended up burning it in place, after dousing it with oil. AFAIK nothing else happened – and apparently some of the stuff in Escondido is sensitive to pressure, like what injured the gardener. I’d rather see them burn the house down, hoping that it will destroy most if not all the explosives, then have some investigator accidentally set off a large explosion that will damage a lot of stuff around it.

  7. b2020 says:

    During the Housing Bubble it sometimes seemed as if most of the country was trying to sell each other real estate. Welcome to the Security Bubble: Now one half of the people can try to recruit the other half for not-so-real crimes. Employment will be guaranteed!

  8. JTMinIA says:

    Is there any chance that the SCOTUS will be any help here? Or is the 4th A really dead? [/xxx-Paul mode]

  9. mzchief says:

    So just where are these VIPR teams operating? At any place Federal matching funds are accepted? Out of fusion centers? So many good questions, so few answers.

  10. Mauimom says:

    I just flew from Washington Dulles. While waiting in the “security” line, I had to listen to the repeated playing of a “recorded message” from Pistole. It was all I could do to remain cool so I wouldn’t be subject to “special” search.

  11. captjjyossarian says:

    VIPR sounded over the top silly to me even before getting the background on John Pistole.

    Marx did say that history repeats first as tragedy, second as farce. VIPR sounds like the TSA’s phase 2 program.

    The bus passenger quote in the video was over the top:
    “I feel safe… knowing that I get on the bus and I’m not gonna blow up”

    Personally, I don’t feel safe knowing that my government is run by power hungry sociopaths.

  12. RevBev says:

    Luckily I am not in a job that requires me to fly. What would be the effect of a real airport boycott or slowdown. The flying public needs to be as safe as possible but not bullied and intimidated or frisked, etc. What would a pushback really look like? The world has gone crazy.

      • RevBev says:

        What a depressing thread…”The center will not hold”. O after W is such a 1 – 2 punch. And Hillary is bound to be in all of this as well. Whose is the moral voice to speak against the torture now so completely exposed? The lying us into war has been known for anyone who would look. The govt. of war criminals; that’s what I thought we had voted out.

  13. fatster says:

    O/T D. Corn in MoJo:

    Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe

    “A WikiLeaks cable shows that when Spain considered a criminal case against ex-Bush officials, the Obama White House and Republicans got really bipartisan”


  14. eCAHNomics says:

    Anyone think that this whole scheme didn’t work out exactly the way it was planned from the outset?

  15. ml says:

    I didn’t expect much from Obama but he’s managed to surprise me. I thought I voted for a moderate Democrat when in fact I voted for a polite sociopath.

  16. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Ewheelies, should anyone swing by this late — Guardian has a whole set of intriguing Wikileaks articles up, including one about a subject who has now and again been mentioned here at EWs: a certain Mr. Viktor Bout.

    From Guardian 1 Dec 2010:

    Russia tried to block the extradition of the suspected international arms trafficker Viktor Bout from Thailand to America by bribing key witnesses, the US claims.

    Dubbed the “merchant of death”, Bout was seized by the Thai authorities in March 2008 but only extradited to the US on 16 November this year….

    Other cables reveal that Bout’s fleet of aircraft – allegedly used to deliver arms to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo – are currently rusting at an airstrip in the United Arab Emirates. On 7 January 2010, the US consulate reported several of his Soviet cargo planes were stuck at the “sleepy” Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) airport.

    “The airport is also working to distance itself from its reputation as a transport facilitator for clients such as international arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who used the RAK airport as a base of operations. The Wing Air aircraft once linked to Viktor Bout are grounded and effectively abandoned,” it said….

    Also, we are finally seeing Russia called a ‘mafia state’.
    About time.
    Too bad Wikileaks had to be the one to call the question.

    But I wonder whether we will ever learn what it is about Mr. Viktor Bout that the Russians are so keen to keep hidden? I’m on the side of thinking there is some relationship between Bout and Anna Chapman, after all.

    Her father was KGB head in Botswana, or some such.
    Bout left the USSR and supplied arms in the African wars in the 80s and 90s, if Misha Glenny’s “McMafia” is to be believed. And that’s just for starters. (Jack Abramoff was also in the region, a College Republican, fancying himself a ‘freedom fighter’ if lore is to be believed.)

    And other links at guardian.uk appear to confirm that gas lines to the EU running through Ukraine are mostly controlled by Russian mafia (along with so much else…). Which is what I’d figured, given the way that Gazprom shut off the gas about two years ago in the dead of winter; a government doesn’t pull shit like that — but the mafia would.

    bmaz, what will it take for me to merit another hubcap? Really, mentioning Viktor Bout seems to be the only way that I ever get a hubcap around this blog ;-)

    • bmaz says:

      Pretty funny that the US whined the Russians were trying to bribe the Thais over getting Bout when we were likely extorting them in some fashion to get him. Quite a little whipsaw the Thais got caught in I should think.

  17. progress says:

    A couple of weeks back, I pointed to John Pistole’s testimony that directly justified the expansion of VIPR checkpoints to mass transport locations by pointing to a recent FBI-entrapment facilitated arrest.

    Let me continue the slippery slope argument for Mr. Pistole where we throw away our bill of rights and do the following:

    For our own safety of-course we will create Prison cells where we live with Mr. Pistole or his selected TSA agents with the keys.
    When we want to run errands we will get Porno-scanned and then groped for our own safety.
    At all check-points we will get Porno-scanned and then groped.
    Once we are back we will be Porno-scanned and then groped before let into Cell and locked for our safety of-course.

    If Mr. Pistole & TSA thinks this is safe I am wondering how he & TSA will keep us safe from Acts of God like Hurricane, Earth Quakes, Tsunamis, Twisters, Slipping on a banana peel to end the sentence with a comedic touch.

    Please note oversees Trouble makers are enjoying the roses with clean fresh air, along with Mr. Pistole during whole of this fictional episode.

  18. thatvisionthing says:

    From Antiwar Radio this summer, Scott Horton Interviews Bruce Fein (Antiwar Scott Horton, not Harper Scott Horton):

    BRUCE FEIN: It’s very striking, Scott, that if you examine the reported colloquy that was had in a New York Federal District Court up in the Southern District of New York recently between Faisal Shahzad–he was the individual who pled guilty to having the car with a bomb in New York Times Square–and the attempted conspiracy, if you will, to kill Americans–and he was asked by the judge when he pled guilty, “Well, why did you do this?” He said, “Well, we are at war with Islam; that’s what the Afghanistan and Pakistan wars are about.” And she said, “Well, but why are you killing women and children if it’s a war?” And he says, “Well, your drones don’t make any distinction when they come crashing into Afghanistan and Pakistan between women and children–they kill anybody. So why are we to play by Queensberry rules where you engage in atrocities?” And she didn’t have an answer for that.

    And this was an individual–Faisal–who was a U.S. citizen. He didn’t say, “I hate American liberty.” He didn’t say that he despised the fact that women didn’t have headscarves on or burqas that caused him to do what he did. It was retaliation for exactly what we’re doing abroad…

    SCOTT HORTON: In fact I just interviewed a writer, a journalist named Stephan Salisbury, about some of these entrapment cases, these bogus terrorism cases since September 11th. And he talks about how the informants always use Israeli policy, American policy in the Middle East as their talking points to try to provoke these people into saying something stupid into an open microphone so that they can be prosecuted. And they don’t ever say, “Don’t you hate it that women can wear skirts to a primary election?” Or something like that. They always say, “Look at what’s going on in the West Bank! How can you not fight back?” That’s what the provocateur says to entrap.

  19. chetnolian says:

    Oh dear it’s hard to be on the side of the securocrats but…

    I’m reading this while the inquest on the victims of the London Tube bombings is going on. Now be clear London is not a security pushover. We had to deal with the IRA. But we missed the tube bombers. Just because the security guys are playing your system (and keep on making them justify themselves)does not mean there is not a threat to mass transit systems. There is.