The Global War on Wayward Knuckleheads

103 minutes into todays Global Threat Hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen got asked his first question, about what his agency is seeing as rising threats. As part of the discussion that ensued, he noted that homegrown Islamic terrorists continued to be a threat though, he admitted, such attacks would be “unsophisticated.”

He then admitted that those who get inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda are “wayward knuckleheads.”

The comment sure seems to confirm a key premise of Trevor Aaronson’s book, The Terror Factory. Our domestic war on terror — complete with FBI-concocted plots — really consists of getting wayward knuckleheads to respond to FBI incitment. “FBI’s trawling in Muslim communities has resulted largely in sting operations that target easily susceptible men on the margins of society.”

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller had a curious comment in his discussion about the ongoing al Qaeda threat. He said that airplane plots remain a threat. The individuals responsible for previous airline attempts still out there, he said.

Um, I thought we had killed at least one individual responsible for previous airline attempts in September 2011. You mean Anwar al-Awlaki wasn’t the mastermind of the UndieBomb threat?

Of course not: Ibrahim al-Asiri was the operational mastermind of it (or maybe Abu Tarak!). Which is why we had another purported attempt last year, more than six months after Awlaki died.

In any case, Mueller’s comment seems to be an at least implicit admission that the Administration oversold Awlaki’s single centrality to the first UndieBomb plot.

22 replies
  1. JTMinIA says:

    I’m not watching, so I have no idea how the panelists are reacting to each other, but wonder if Mueller took Olsen’s comment (as you did) as an attack on the FBI and, therefore, made his comment as a tit-for-tat retort.

  2. orionATL says:

    “Wayward knuckleheads” is a good phrase applied here,

    but so is “alienated young males fantasizing about receiving attention and respect for grandiose destructive actions”.

    The fbi traps these goofballs, at least some of whom are mentally unbalanced, like rats. They are easy pray for a national security bureaucracy with little to do and strong internal institutional rewards for those who can entrap and convict such insuspicious loosers.

    A commenter here recently suggested, quite sensibly i thought, that perhaps we should spend fbi time and money identifying and educating these guys, rather than entrapping them for personal advancement and then letting the public foot the bill while they rot in shakles in supermax prisons as if they had been really that dangerous.

  3. Jim White says:

    Wow, if we are targeting wayward knuckleheads, then people spanning the gamut from Dennis Rodman to Louie Gohmert are all in trouble. That list could get as long as the do not fly list.

  4. orionATL says:


    oh, and when you take this approach you may end up with the additional benfit of having the muslim community do some of your policing for you – or at least not avoid interaction with you (the fbi).

  5. What Constitution says:

    “Wayward Knuckleheads” cuts a pretty broad swath, doesn’t it? Does the First Amendment have any role here? I mean, “wayward knuckleheads” certainly covers Scientologists, doesn’t it? How about Tea Party Republicans? People who wear plaid? Citroen drivers? This is a slippery, slippery slope. Thank god the FBI is on it, what could possibly go wrong and how can we increase their funding. I’m feeling safer already.

  6. lefty665 says:

    @Jim White: Oh, Oh, can we nominate people for that list? I’d start with Cruz, Holder, Cantor, Brennan, Cheney, Geithner, …. What would it take to start a White House on-line petition to nominate knuckleheads, wayward and otherwise, for FBI targeting?

    Could we start a pool on how long it would take to reach 100k?

  7. P J Evans says:


    I’d revise that to ‘LOUD plaid’. The sort of thing no Scot would want to be seen wearing, even in private.

  8. klynn says:

    Is “wayward knucklehead” under the same secret definition page as “eminent”?

    And does Olsen know a “wayward knucklehead” when he sees it?

  9. What Constitution says:

    @MaryCh: I apologize, it was the best I could do at the moment. On further reflection, I’d probably switch “plaid” to “Birkenstocks”.

  10. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    “He then admitted that those who get inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda are “wayward knuckleheads.””

    Is there a definitive definition of Al Qaeda propaganda? Or is it just anything that the FBI arbitrarily decides Muslims should not be saying?

    Perhaps the definition is imminent.

  11. tinao says:

    Total OT… If the case does not get stated… one can not have a conversation…and that does not add up to nothin good.

  12. joanneleon says:

    Off topic. This just seems so ironic now that we know what some surveillance drones can do with wifi, routers,etc., and given that our data is hoovered up by the govt. at central switches.

    Is the court going to order the govt. to pay a fine for violating privacy rights 24/7/365 and retrain their employees on, oh I don’t know, the Bill of Rights?

    Google to pay $7 million Street View fine
    Google agreed to pay a $7 million fine for unlawful collection of data and train its employees on privacy issues.

    The company settled with attorney generals in 38 states, and also pledged to train its employees over data privacy and launch a nationwide campaign to teach people about securing Wi-Fi hotspots. (Watch the BBC’s interview with Street View creator Luc Vincent)

    As part of the settlement, Google will have to destroy data it collected from unsecured wireless networks across the U.S. between 2008 and 2010 as part of Street View. It then also improperly stored the information that came in the form of email and text messages, passwords and web histories.

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