Sting: Two New Reports on How the FBI Creates Terrorists

In the last several days, two important new reports on the FBI’s creation of Muslim terrorists.

The first is an Al Jazeera English video, above, from Trevor Aaronson, who also wrote The Terror Factory. He interviews both informants and the men who entrapped them, the latter of whom describe the FBI’s method. The video includes an extended look at a Toledo informant not previously profiled.

Today Human Rights Watch released a report (I’m part way done with it). That did both statistical analysis of the terrorism cases since 9/11 and close reviews of 27 cases across the country. They did interviews with a number of detainees. They examined the use of pre-trial solitary confinement.

Both reports make a key point: by putting informants in mosques, the FBI is effectively inserting potentially dangerous criminals inside faith communities rather than imprisoning them. The HRW report notes that in some cases, those informants “trolled” for potential leads.

Some of the cases we reviewed appear to have begun as virtual fishing expeditions, where the FBI had no basis to suspect a particular individual of a propensity to
commit terrorist acts. In those cases, the informant identified a specific target by
randomly initiating conversations near a mosque. Assigned to raise controversial
religious and political topics, these informants probed their targets’ opinions on
politically sensitive and nuanced subjects, sometimes making comments that
appeared designed to inflame the targets. If a target’s opinions were deemed
sufficiently troubling, officials concerned with nascent radicalization pushed the
sting operation forward.

HRW’s primary recommendation is more controls on the use of informants. In particular it describes how FBI sometimes uses an effort for spiritual advice to push a (usually young) target towards violence.

Both reports provide valuable new details on how the FBI makes terrorists. We’re getting closer to mapping how all these systems fit together.

16 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    not “more controls on [the fbi’s] use of informants”; that’s much to wishy-washy of hrw.

    the use of criminal informants with any promise of reduced charge or sentence should be banned in all fbi work – terrorism related or not. sub rosa promises of potential reduction of criminal sentence in return for co-operating with the fbi should result in misconduct charges against a prosecutor and dismissal of charges against the accused.

    informants should only be trained fbi agents, just as are interrogators.

  2. orionATL says:

    al-jazeera’s report was very disturbing, not least due to the evident inartfulness of several of the informers as they plyed their trade.

    this is no new inovation to keep america safe from terrorists. this is informant-using behavior that is as old ad the fbi itself.

    by the way, perhaps readers noted last week a news article revealing that the fbi headquarters spied on nelson mandela after he was released from prison – likely commie, don’t you know.

    the fbi is an undisciplined, ineffectively structured police burearacracy potentially dangerous to the well-being of any american citizen.

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Remember, folks, if someone approaches you and slyly implies being linked to Al Qaida, the prudent thing to do is immediately shoot them dead.

    You will have exactly as much legal justification as the CIA does for their drone strikes.

    • Don Bacon says:

      If the US obeyed the law to the degree that we are required to obey the law, it would be a much better world. But then the US has an Office of Legal Counsel to do its bidding and “legalize” its actions, and we don’t.
      Perhaps if Obama cared as much about live Americans as he does about dead Dutchmen — nah, forget it.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    It’s nothing new, unfortunately–
    Gerry Spence, the famous trial lawyer:
    “I found that the minions of the law–the special agents of the FBI–to be men who proved themselves not only fully capable, but also utterly willing to manufacture evidence, to conceal crucial evidence and even to change the rules that governed life and death if, in the prosecution of the accused, it seemed expedient to do so.”
    -– From Freedom to Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny in America, p. 27

  5. jo6pac says:

    I can’t believe there is a law against doing this to save us Amerikan and I’m thankful. I truly believe they the govt is protecting Amerikans from those that hate us for are Freedoms.

    It has nothing to do with 100 + base around the world spreading death and distraction. Sad

  6. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    OT: Further thoughts on the BRICS Development Bank and why it was inevitable.
    “The New Development Bank doesn’t need to be fair, it doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t even need to have that much cash to succeed. All it needs to do is be better than the IMF and World Bank, and that isn’t going to be a particularly challenging task. ”

  7. Les says:

    The informants groom the target. The FBI devises the whole plot. That’s why you’ll often see in the news stories a small disclaimer specifying the agents informed the target that there’d be casualties if he went through with the plot, giving him a last chance to get out. Otherwise, the whole case would be thrown out as the FBI created the plot, provided funding, and sold him the weapons and explosives. In a few cases, the FBI had to provide transportation as the target didn’t have a driver’s license.

    HBO ran a program last night on the Newburgh Sting.

  8. Les says:

    Forgot to mention. Often, there’s also the $250,000 finder’s fee for the informant and a $250,000 payoff promised to the target of the sting.

  9. orionATL says:

    an exceptionally malign aspect of the fbi setups of young muslim men is that devising and carrying out these fake “threats to the nation!!!!!” is highly rewarding to the agents involved in terms of their careers and pay.

    as well, such security theatre can be highly rewarding to the agents’ department within the fbi, giving both the appearance to the congress and public of having done useful work and providing fodder for requests for more money.

    as for the lives ruined, collateral damage – it’s unavoidable

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