If “Anarchists” Threaten to Blow Up a Little-Used Bridge Over Federal Property, Is It a Plot?

The bridge on 82 in this picture is the bridge a bunch of purported “anarchists” have just been arrested for threatening to blow up.

You’ll note the idyllic parklands through which it travels You’ll note the presence of two bridges in the immediate vicinity (not to mention the major freeway bridges not far away), to which traffic could easily be diverted if an attack succeeded. You’ll notice the almost complete lack of traffic on the bridge, at least when Google took its satellite picture.

In short, it makes zero sense for anyone to want to target the bridge. It would have almost no visibility. It would do almost nothing to disrupt traffic.

It would be, at best, an expensive curiosity.

It makes a far more implausible target for terrorists than the one the alleged plotters originally considered: bank signs in downtown Cleveland. The signs would have visibility. They would strike at a logical anarchist target. It would create news.

As one of the plotters said, “The signs are the most important part because they need to make sure everyone knows the action was against corporate America and the financial system, not just some random acts.”

The bridge, on the other hand, has just two advantages. First, as the affidavit notes, the bridge “has support columns within the boundaries of the National Park” and also (being not that far from the PA border) occasionally has cars with out of state plates drive over it. Those things–in spite of this being a little-used bridge on a state road–make blowing the bridge up interstate commerce, something the FBI can pursue.

And, the bridge, unlike some signs, would require an explosive like C4 to bring down.

So well before you get to the parts where a paid informant was offering to find money to get the C4 that the plotters said would otherwise be too expensive, you really have to wonder what purpose this plot serves.

Besides to give the FBI something to point to on May Day to justify arresting peaceful protestors.

20 replies
  1. Charlie says:

    Mot taking away from the analysis, the 82 bridge is more than “little used”. I grew up there and it separates brecksville from sagamore hills and rt 8 shopping.

  2. Bill says:

    It says a lot that the FBI is threatened enough by the Occupy protests on May 1, without actually being able to find anything threatening about them, that they have to manufacture this patently absurd plot in order to distract media attention. I’m not sure what part I’m disgusted most by:
    (i) the fact that all plots in the US seem to be manufactured by the FBI,
    (ii) the fact that the FBI uses “law enforcement” purely as a media tool,
    (iii) the fact that the FBI is attacking the Occupy movement without seeming to even understand why they are doing it, or
    (iv) the fact that they put so little effort into making this one sound even slightly plausible.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is probably the same FBI that could never find evidence of organized crime in Youngstown, OH, let alone in unions, real estate development, or trash collection.

    True, it is easier to find and entrap amateurs than to investigate systemic fraud in the banking industry, whose crimes are so widespread as to constitute a pervasive, corrupt business model. But it enhances no one’s security, except that of bureaucrats who trot out manufactured success as if they were counting bodies in Southeast Asia.

  4. Strangely Enough says:

    “a paid informant”

    I knew the punchline was coming as soon as I saw the letters FBI.

  5. PeasantParty says:

    Those Damned Citizen Anarchists! They should be right well happy the Government and Banks are starving them and shipping jobs out. Heck, they should be happy the banks are removing their families from the burden of mortgages by throwing them in the streets. I just don’t get it. Why would anybody be upset? Not to mention the need for the FBI to help plot something for them to make up good news about those evil citizens. (snark)

    Can’t wait for the local nooze outlet to get that story going. They had been warning the area about May Day for three days already. Man! The viewers will really be on the edge of their seats now with this new development. Tune in at 11:00! (More snark at the stupid)

  6. kd says:

    Wow. Per the affidavit, on April 1, 2012, when the actual conspiracy occurred (i.e. the deal for the explosives was made) the recording device failed. It functioned every other day just failed on the most important day.

  7. Kathleen says:

    And this story will be the one that the MSM focuses on if Occupy Mayday events across the country make the MSM news outlets tonight at all.

  8. orionATL says:

    from the days of code orange:

    the strategic press release – an essential tool in fighting terrorism and prevailing in politics.

  9. rjs says:

    @Charlie: yep, it goes from one shopping center to another…people will have to take a different route to get their groceries…

    as an aside, there’s not much interstate traffic on that, with the Ohio turnpike & other thru freeways so close…

  10. emptywheel says:

    @Charlie: Fair enough. BUt when they first said Cuyahoga I thought, “of course, they’d take out the bridge over the OH Turnpike.” Less traffic still, but spectacular since it’s so high and directly over the freeway.

    To say nothing of the Turnpike bridge over the river (which woudl admittedly require a lot more to bring down).

  11. Jeff Kaye says:

    Much to comment on if you look into this complaint. I’m pretty sure from internal evidence that the Confidential Human Source (CHS) was female. Doug talks big to her, informing her about the “bank signs” plans (though doesn’t actually know how he’d do it). Then we’re supposed to believe that about four months went by until mid Feb. 2011, CHS brings up the bank signs “job”, something Doug never brought up again after their, what? a date? (Wonder what is in those emails “back and forth” before the Nov. 15-17 meetings.

    Doug is a big time anarchists (/snark), having been one for “twelve years,” i.e., since he was … fourteen years old! Ha!

    Doug was certainly lacking judgment on a number of scores. He tells the CHS that others in the group “were unsure” about CHS, but of course, he’d already vouched for her/him.

    Doug tells CHS there aren’t enough anarchists in Cleveland to do what he wants to do (“Black Rock” riots).

    Imagine the romance, looking up how to make smoke bombs in the Anarchist Cookbook… Doug not being sure what works best (what a terrorist this guy is! – Then, later in the complaint, Doug and Baxter admit they don’t even have the Anarchist Cookbook, too afraid to download it online, for fear they will be traced). He is smart enough to abide by the law, as he doesn’t want an illegal weapon, because he’s not allowed to have a gun b/c previous convictions. And yet, talking of various anarchist actions using “stink bombs” and “paint guns”, suddenly we’re to believe this terrorist who didn’t want to own an illegal gun wants to buy C4??? Hesitating only b/c of cost?

    In the quoted material, you can see CHS pushing Doug on the explosives issue: “You gotta get with me…. if we gonna be trying to do something in a month, you need to get with me as soon as possible on how much money we gonna need.”

    It just goes on and on like this. (I haven’t finished it yet,as I must get back to work.) An example, Doug tells CHS that making explosives is easy, all you need is “bleach”. How so, asks CHS? Well, Doug doesn’t really know, he just heard it somewhere.

    Was this script written by the Coen Bros. or what?

    Shameful entrapment of fools.

  12. MadDog says:

    Totally OT – A couple of interesting news reports:

    Via CNN – Documents reveal al Qaeda’s plans for seizing cruise ships, carnage in Europe

    Via ABC News – NYC Security Surge, Worry of Body Bombs on Osama bin Laden Anniversary

    Also, while putting together the link for the ABC News bit, my eyes caught the familiar face of John Brennan at the Wilson Center in the video embed at the top of the ABC News piece, and to my surprise, it looked like Jane Harman had done his introduction.

    Surprise, surprise! I’m sure that it was just a coincidence that we had been talking about her here recently.

  13. charlie says:

    Yes, the turnpike bridge is a mile or two south than 82. Same amount of explosive. Given how sturdy the 82 bridge would be, I imagine the same amount. The Turnpike bridge would also cross NPS property. (also, 271). I’d hazard a guess that the 82 bridge gets MORE traffic than the turnpike, but less than 271.

    Yes, I agree — typical plot. Again, let’s remember that the majorty of federal plots in the spring are about reminding you to pay taxes (branch dravidian) rather than terror cases. Things change, but not so much.

    Does a pillar or two in NPS really give the feds juridisction?

  14. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: From what I understood in watching this bit of Scott Pelley’s interview of Leon Panetta on CBS Evening News tonight, more will be forthcoming in a later 60 Minutes piece.

    In any event, I did find this snippet interesting:

    “…Pelley: Was there ever a notion of capturing Osama bin Laden in this mission?

    Panetta: Yes. There could be a situation that would allow them to capture him. Then they were to make use of that.

    Pelley: Where were you gonna take him?

    Panetta: We clearly were gonna move him out and put him into a detained area for a while, while we obviously interrogated him, and then made the decision as to what would happen…”

    With all the former CIA black sites supposedly closed (on then CIA Director Panetta’s orders), just where was this “detained area” Panetta mentions?

    Afghanistan and the US detainee facilities? Another US Navy ship? I rule out Gitmo, but perhaps I shouldn’t.

    And then, who was going to do the interrogations? The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG)? Or perhaps just the good ol’ boys and girls who worked the CIA’s black sites?

  15. Jeff Kaye says:

    @P J Evans: As I read on, it gets more and more murky. Unintelligible transcription of key conversations, places where the tape recorder unaccountably doesn’t function during the most important purchase of the C4 conversation. But even in the narrative of the latter, you see the CHS pushing the agenda. Doug only wants to purchase two bricks C4 — he doesn’t want anyone hurt, maybe blow up part of a bridge (he is, of course, an asshole to be even thinking this way… an idiot) — but CHS intervenes: will that be enough C4, and voila, they end up with 8 bricks.

    Of course after the “purchase” from the undercover agent, CHS is able to turn on the tape recorder (huh?).

    I’d note in paragraph 47, contrary to my suppositions in earlier comment, CHS is referred to as a “he”, vs. always he/she in other parts. Could be sloppiness, or?

    Then another consprirator, BAXTER, has 2nd thoughts about blowing up a bridge. CHS: well what are we going to do with the C4? Dumb Doug: “we have eight pounds of f–ing C4.”

    What follows is an insane discussion of other ways to use the C4, along with some thoughts of going after the Klan or Nazis, but also derailing a train, blowing up some oil wells, or driving a car into the Federal Reserve. Of course, they don’t know how to use C4, but CHS assures them (after some proforma for an informant speech about not pushing them to anything and they have to know what to do).

    The discussion gets pretty wild, with talk about taking out a Fusion Center. Sounds like a lot of bluster and trying to impress each other with their supposed radicalism. CHS: so are you changing from the bridge to the Fusion Center?

    As late as April 10, they haven’t decided what to do, and BAXTER admits he’s never done anything like this before. Doug starts to talk about blowing up a cargo ship.

    It goes on an on, and one can see the key role the CHS played. But would this have never all even gotten to this point without the FBI? Was this entrapment? I’ll let someone like bmaz make the legal points (if he were to so care, or EW). But it certainly fits a pattern where the FBI finds some jokers, probably psych profiles them, determines they can play them, but as a group they are inept, without experience, and of probably of little danger beyond making a ruckus, petty crime, etc. Certainly they are guilty of stupidity. Their concern about taking innocent lives, their hatred of oppression and of fascists, and their wish not to be “terrorists” (as one says at one point) makes them almost endearing… if they weren’t so stupid, so full of themselves, so clueless about how to bring about social change, and mistaken about the effects such actions could cause (although BAXTER does seem to note at one point how this could backfire on them in terms of public opinion).

    More than once they are suspicious about this being a sting by the cops/FBI, but they go ahead anyway.

  16. Debra says:

    How the story would have been delivered SO much frightening if it would have been the Tea Party! Tired of the hypocrisy in the news.

  17. Procopius says:

    Well, obviously the most widespread terror organization in the United States is the FBI. Their fingerprints are all over a dozen cases a year, cases that would never have occurred unless organized and funded by the FBI. So what can we do about it? What organization exists that could bring the FBI to justice for its heinous crimes? Apparently we can’t count on local law enforcement agencies, since they all seem to have been either corrupted or intimidated by the FBI. The NSA supposedly does not have an enforcement arm. Could the NSA hire Dyncorp or Xe to conduct arrests for them? How about the Defense Intelligence Agency? As far as I know they have no current function except to provide sinecures for people who have left other intelligence agencies. Could they somehow be used? The CIA would seem to be the best as far as resources and capabilities goes. Of course they are prohibited by a number of laws from operating inside the U.S., but, hey, who cares about a little thing like that? Certainly not our courts. Yeah, I think the best option for guaranteeing the security of the U.S. is to have the CIA take out the FBI. Don’t know what we’ll do afterward, but think about it then.

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