When FBI entrapment becomes personal
I don’t know how much attention the NC-7 terrorism trial has been getting nationwide, and this post would go on forever (it kind of does already) if I started talking about how messed up that case was. But in related news, two people were recently arrested for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill witnesses who testified in the case. The hit man turned out to be an informant hired by the FBI.
This really hit me hard. When you hear the news of all these foiled terror plots, you think “oh, well those people were disturbed. Even though my conscience tells me these arrests are unethical (informants are often practically bribedinto manipulating people who are vulnerable — those who are uneducated, struggling to make a living, and often have a history of mental instability), the crimes that these suspects are accused of plotting are even more unethical. These are people who, if given the chance, might have assisted in killing people.” So you brush it aside, justifying your apathy by thinking it’s not really the kind of person you’re bothered enough to be too upset about being taken off the streets. Or at least that’s what I do.
Nevine was different. I knew her. I took a class with her at my mosque, and I always thought she was intelligent, extremely well-spoken, and progressive. She was not an extremist, and definitely not the kind of person I’d expect to have run-ins with the law in any way. She was a special education teacher at an elementary school for nine years for goodness’ sake!
But you know what, it’s okay… People aren’t always who they seem. I accept that. And it’s entirely possible that something in this woman, visiting her friend in jail who she may have felt was unjustly sentenced to 45 years, just snapped when she was offered a chance to avenge him. If these charges brought against her are true, then so be it.
But what I just can’t wrap my head around is the circumstances surrounding her arrest. I know that I’m going to see headlines for the next few months calling this woman a terrorist. And I just don’t understand how that’s an acceptable term for someone who was arrested for allegedly taking the bait of an FBI informant, and I don’t understand how it’s acceptable to call someone a terrorist for a crime that hasn’t even happened yet. These are cases in which people are arrested because they might have committed a crime if not stopped, and these are cases in which the target, the motive, the ideology, and the plot are all led by the same organization that makes the arrests. The Guardian wrote an article last November about several similar cases in which people were lured into fake terror plots by paid informants.
Critics say the FBI is running a sting operation across America, targeting – to a large extent – the Muslim community by luring people into fake terror plots. FBI bureaux send informants to trawl through Muslim communities, hang out in mosques and community centres, and talk of radical Islam in order to identify possible targets sympathetic to such ideals. Or they will respond to the most bizarre of tip-offs, including, in one case, a man who claimed to have seen terror chief Ayman al-Zawahiri living in northern California in the late 1990s.
That tipster was quickly hired as a well-paid informant. If suitable suspects are identified, FBI agents then run a sting, often creating a fake terror plot in which it helps supply weapons and targets. Then, dramatic arrests are made, press conferences held and lengthy convictions secured.
But what is not clear is if many real, actual terrorists are involved. […]
[Mike German, an expert at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent] said suspects convicted of plotting terror attacks in some recent FBI cases bore little resemblance to the profile of most terrorist cells. “Most of these suspect terrorists had no access to weapons unless the government provided them. I would say that showed they were not the biggest threat to the US,” German said.
“Most terrorists have links to foreign terrorist groups and have trained in terrorism training camps. Perhaps FBI resources should be spent finding those guys.”
I can’t help but agree.