Any of my regular readers here at PJ Media can attest, I am no fan of the FBI’s counter-terrorism programs. Recently, I’ve been writing about the FBI’s failures to catch “Known Wolf” terrorists — individuals who were already known to law enforcement prior to their acts of terror. So no one can accuse me of being an apologist for the bureau.
But an article yesterday in The Guardian entitled “Counter-terrorism is supposed to let us live without fear. Instead, it’s creating more of it” by two individuals currently promoting the screening of their film (T)ERROR at the Sundance International Film Festival falsely claims the FBI is engaged in a deliberate effort to entrap innocent American Muslims.
Here’s the case they make:
While making our film (T)ERROR, which tracks a single counter-terrorism sting operation over seven months, we realized that most people have serious misconceptions about FBI counter-terrorism efforts. They assume that informants infiltrate terrorist networks and then provide the FBI with information about those networks in order to stop terrorist plots from being carried out. That’s not true in the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases.
Since 9/11, as Human Rights Watch and others have documented, the FBI has routinely used paid informants not to capture existing terrorists, but to cultivate them. Through elaborate sting operations, informants are directed to spend months – sometimes years – building relationships with targets, stoking their anger and offering ideas and incentives that encourage them to engage in terrorist activity. And the moment a target takes a decisive step forward, crossing the line from aspirational to operational, the FBI swoops in to arrest him.
So they accuse the FBI of setting suspects up and then arresting them — entrapment. This “entrapment” claim is commonly repeated by defense attorneys and self-styled “civil rights” groups. In fact, that’s what the authors of The Guardian article explicitly say:
The cumulative effects of FBI surveillance and entrapment in communities of color have been devastating.
I’ll leave aside their “communities of color” smear, but there is one glaring problem with their entrapment claim: in no single jihadist-related terrorism trial since the 9/11 attacks has a federal court on ANY LEVEL found that the FBI engaged in entrapment. Many suspects have made the claim, but none have successfully argued it. In only one case I remember, that of Ahmadullah Niazi, did the Justice Department voluntarily drop an indictment because of the reliability of an informant.
Those who peddle these FBI entrapment claims have been found to regularly play fast and loose with data, such as describing terror conspirators who turn state’s evidence against their partners and are sentenced to jail for their roles in terror plots as “informants.”
Another tactic taken is to equate the involvement of an informant as a de facto case of entrapment, as do the authors of The Guardian article. They cite the arrest earlier this month of a Cincinnati-area man:
A recent example: on 14 January, the FBI announced that it had interrupted an Isis-inspired terrorist plot in the United States. Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old recent Muslim convert from Cincinnati, was allegedly plotting to attack the US Capitol with pipe bombs and gun down government officials.
But then they make a colossal leap with this non sequitur:
Cornell was arrested after purchasing two semiautomatic weapons from an Ohio gun store because the man that Cornell thought was his partner was actually an FBI informant.
So the reason he bought the weapons was because there was an informant? In the information made available so far, there’s no indication that’s the case. If the record of every single jihad-related terror case since 9/11 is any guide, it’s unlikely their claim will stand. One reason why these terrorism cases have universally withstood scrutiny by the federal courts are the extensive measures taken by the FBI to prevent entrapment.
As an example of how far the FBI will go to prevent someone from turning to terror, consider the case of 19-year-old Colorado woman Shannon Conley, who was sentenced last week to four years in prison. As the court record shows, the FBI repeatedly warned Conley over a period of months not to attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIS and even talked to her parents asking them to intervene. And yet she persisted in her plans and was arrested trying to board a plane bound for Turkey. Now her parents are saying “the terrorists have won” after her sentencing, blaming the federal government for prosecuting their daughter.
If anything, this administration has bent over backwards to accommodate the concerns that they are unfairly targeting Muslims, such as special rules for dealing with the Muslim community and conducting a wide-spread purge of counter-terrorism training materials at the request of Muslim organizations. Curiously, none of this is mentioned in The Guardian article.
Attorney General Eric Holder, hardly a right-wing neo-con “Islamophobe,” has directly challenged the claims that the FBI uses entrapment targeting the Muslim community, telling one Muslim legal group:
Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as ‘entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight or do not have a full understanding of the law.
And yet The Guardian regurgitates a number of howlers, such as this:
And on campuses across the country, Muslim student associations have banned discussions of politics, terrorism and the “war on terror.”
But Muslim Student Associations (MSA) have had no trouble at all discussing politics, terrorism and the “war on terror.” In fact, you can’t shut them up from talking about it. One topic you won’t hear addressed at MSA meetings, however, is the long litany of senior MSA leaders who have been convicted in terrorism cases.
In the absence of actual evidence, The Guardian authors have to resort to anecdotes, including this one:
After a recent screening of our film at a New York City mosque, a young African-American convert to Islam, sporting a brown full-body covering with matching hijab, confessed to us that she feels uncomfortable discussing aspects of her identity. She does not speak about her religious conversion in public, for fear of attracting or encouraging informants.
Yes, because wearing a brown full-body covering with a matching hijab, no one would ever know she’s a Muslim.
This is how laughably ridiculous those who peddle this false narrative have sunk. Perhaps a review of some of the jihad-related terror cases where FBI informants weren’t involved is warranted:
Beltway snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo
UNC-Chapel Hill vehicle jihadist Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar
Seattle Jewish Federation killer Naveed Afzal Haq
Little Rock killer Carlos Bledsoe (aka Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad)
Fort Hood killer Major Nidal Hasan
Would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad
Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Cross-country jihadist spree killer Ali Muhammad Brown
Undoubtedly, if FBI informants had been used in any of these cases to prevent their terror attacks, The Guardian authors, Islamic “civil rights” groups and their ilk would be crying “entrapment.”