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Excerpt: "The United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years - or so it has seemed."

The FBI has been facilitating terrorist plots to catch potential terrorists. (art: Clay Rodery)
The FBI has been facilitating terrorist plots to catch potential terrorists. (art: Clay Rodery)

Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the FBI

By David K. Shipler, The New York Times

29 April 12


HE United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years - or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.

When an Oregon college student, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, thought of using a car bomb to attack a festive Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the F.B.I. provided a van loaded with six 55-gallon drums of "inert material," harmless blasting caps, a detonator cord and a gallon of diesel fuel to make the van smell flammable. An undercover F.B.I. agent even did the driving, with Mr. Mohamud in the passenger seat. To trigger the bomb the student punched a number into a cellphone and got no boom, only a bust.

This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves - too sure, perhaps.

Carefully orchestrated sting operations usually hold up in court. Defendants invariably claim entrapment and almost always lose, because the law requires that they show no predisposition to commit the crime, even when induced by government agents. To underscore their predisposition, many suspects are "warned about the seriousness of their plots and given opportunities to back out," said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. But not always, recorded conversations show. Sometimes they are coaxed to continue.

Undercover operations, long practiced by the F.B.I., have become a mainstay of counterterrorism, and they have changed in response to the post-9/11 focus on prevention. "Prior to 9/11 it would be very unusual for the F.B.I. to present a crime opportunity that wasn't in the scope of the activities that a person was already involved in," said Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer and former F.B.I. agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups. An alleged drug dealer would be set up to sell drugs to an undercover agent, an arms trafficker to sell weapons. That still happens routinely, but less so in counterterrorism, and for good reason.

"There isn't a business of terrorism in the United States, thank God," a former federal prosecutor, David Raskin, explained.

"You're not going to be able to go to a street corner and find somebody who's already blown something up," he said. Therefore, the usual goal is not "to find somebody who's already engaged in terrorism but find somebody who would jump at the opportunity if a real terrorist showed up in town."

And that's the gray area. Who is susceptible? Anyone who plays along with the agents, apparently. Once the snare is set, law enforcement sees no choice. "Ignoring such threats is not an option," Mr. Boyd argued, "given the possibility that the suspect could act alone at any time or find someone else willing to help him."

Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech - comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas - then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups.

Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk: for example, Waad Ramadan Alwan, an Iraqi in Kentucky, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded roadside bomb near Bayji, Iraq, and Raja Khan of Chicago, who had sent funds to an Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan.

But others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find. Take the Stinger missile defendant James Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer with a criminal record that included no violence or hate crime, despite his rants against Jews. "He was searching for answers within his Islamic faith," said his lawyer, Clinton W. Calhoun III, who has appealed his conviction. "And this informant, I think, twisted that search in a really pretty awful way, sort of misdirected Cromitie in his search and turned him towards violence."

THE informer, Shahed Hussain, had been charged with fraud, but avoided prison and deportation by working undercover in another investigation. He was being paid by the F.B.I. to pose as a wealthy Pakistani with ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group that Mr. Cromitie apparently had never heard of before they met by chance in the parking lot of a mosque.

"Brother, did you ever try to do anything for the cause of Islam?" Mr. Hussain asked at one point.

"O.K., brother," Mr. Cromitie replied warily, "where you going with this, brother?"

Two days later, the informer told him, "Allah has more work for you to do," and added, "Revelation is going to come in your dreams that you have to do this thing, O.K.?" About 15 minutes later, Mr. Hussain proposed the idea of using missiles, saying he could get them in a container from China. Mr. Cromitie laughed.

Reading hundreds of pages of transcripts of the recorded conversations is like looking at the inkblots of a Rorschach test. Patterns of willingness and hesitation overlap and merge. "I don't want anyone to get hurt," Mr. Cromitie said, and then explained that he meant women and children. "I don't care if it's a whole synagogue of men." It took 11 months of meandering discussion and a promise of $250,000 to lead him, with three co-conspirators he recruited, to plant fake bombs at two Riverdale synagogues.

"Only the government could have made a 'terrorist' out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope," said Judge Colleen McMahon, sentencing him to 25 years. She branded it a "fantasy terror operation" but called his attempt "beyond despicable" and rejected his claim of entrapment.

The judge's statement was unusual, but Mr. Cromitie's characteristics were not. His incompetence and ambivalence could be found among other aspiring terrorists whose grandiose plans were nurtured by law enforcement. They included men who wanted to attack fuel lines at Kennedy International Airport; destroy the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago; carry out a suicide bombing near Tampa Bay, Fla., and bomb subways in New York and Washington. Of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.

Another New York City subway plot, which recently went to trial, needed no help from government. Nor did a bombing attempt in Times Square, the abortive underwear bombing in a jetliner over Detroit, a planned attack on Fort Dix, N.J., and several smaller efforts. Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it's not easy to tell the difference. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+41 # jlohman 2012-04-29 11:50
Look, war is profitable, even the threat of war. First to the defense industry, who share their booty with the politicians that made it all happen. Our corrupt political system is the problem, the ONLY problem. ONLY when voters of both stripes quit drinking the Kool-Aid, and vote 100% of the bastards out in November, we'll be able to put the toys back in the box.
+7 # hutlee 2012-04-29 15:06
Quoting jlohman:
Look, war is profitable, even the threat of war. First to the defense industry, who share their booty with the politicians that made it all happen. Our corrupt political system is the problem, the ONLY problem. ONLY when voters of both stripes quit drinking the Kool-Aid, and vote 100% of the bastards out in November, we'll be able to put the toys back in the box.

Unfortunately, there is no government, no economic system, or another organizations that are totally exempt from corruption. As long as men are willing to be corrupted, there will always be someone who will find them with the tool of corruption.

The thief, the terrorist, the cheaters are always one step ahead of the protectors. And sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.
+9 # wantrealdemocracy 2012-04-29 16:51
The people running this country like this 'threat' of terrorism just fine. It is not just about the money they are making it is also our loss of civil rights. All these new laws to strip us of our rights to demonstrate and demand changes in our government got those folks ticked off---and maybe worried that Occupy can threaten their control of the government. They make up these 'terrorist' plots make an excuse for further control over the population of thei nation. Anything can get you 'suspected' of terrorism and off you go to the hole for some enhanced interrogation. 'Our' government belongs to the 1% club, and you ain't in that club so you don't count.
-40 # MidwestTom 2012-04-29 12:04
I am glad the FBI is on our side.
-53 # Reyn 2012-04-29 12:23
Sorry, I'm always a realist, I don't believe that being on the Left means being stupid.

I do NOT want my children killed by someone because we block the FBI from doing its job. This is standard police procedure, no different from using agents to "sell" 6 year old girls to 50 year old men who will otherwise find ACTUAL 6 year old girls, as history shows us. Yes, these terrorist acts will occur without the FBI intervening, and they will succeed instead of fail. Leave our protection alone please. We have a teenage son and two daughters, both under age 5 -- I want them safe, and I do not consider anything the FBI has thus far done to be too extreme for that safety.

+25 # Ralph Averill 2012-04-29 14:45
You wouldn't feel safer if the FBI used its resources to uncover real terrorist plots?
+26 # Skippydelic 2012-04-29 15:42
If the FBI infiltrates a *genuine* terrorist cell and prevents a terrorist attack, I have no problem there. The problem, though, comes when the FBI starts setting up people who *aren't* predisposed to violence or terrorism in the first place!

Where's the line?

Having checks on the FBI can hardly be considered as "blocking them from doing their job"; if they can't do their jobs without resorting to unethical actions, what does that tell us?
-9 # Rick Levy 2012-04-29 20:54
If someone isn't predisposed to violence or terrorism, then how can they be set up? Doesn't this mean that the mark was tempted into committing a terrorist act? You can't be tempted into doing something heinous unless you already have it in you to do so.
+1 # MJnevetS 2012-04-30 13:42
[quote name="Rick Levy"]You can't be tempted into doing something heinous unless you already have it in you to do so./quote]
The whole reason why con-men are so successful is that they prey on otherwise good people who are tempted by the possibility of easy money. By your logic, every victim of a con-man's scheme deserves what they get so don't punish the con-man. With the FBI, the cases (as reported) have had situations wherein the target wanted to back out (i.e. NOT commit a crime, but they were cajoled, pushed, bullied back into the plot.) If this were a conspiracy case in state court, it could NOT stand up to scrutiny and would be deemed entrapment. While I agree, we should not block the FBI from doing its job, that job is (and should be) limited by the protections found in the U.S. Constitution.
+14 # Bodiotoo 2012-04-29 15:54
I think the difference and the point of the essay is:

Most of these wing nuts do not have $250,000.oo to grab to pull a dumb stunt...and that we are not realy protected from clowns that would not do something without the contunied encouragement of the FBI, and government money being waved at them...and that resources should be directed at detecting real threats...not manufactured stings.
+17 # Anarchist 23 2012-04-29 17:01
Be glad you weren't in the parking garage of one of the Towers when it was bombed in 1993-that whokle thing was part of a sting opeeration by the FBI-6 people died -more were injured and their 'insider' an Egyptian ex-military man-was astonished when instead of giving him fake explosives for the bomb-the FBI gave him real explosives and of course it went off and killed those Americans. It's all on tape-the Egyptian taped that particular conversation with his FBI controllers. and where were the FBI with the 911 prevention-or don't you remember colleen Rowley testifying she tried to get her superiors interested in investigating Massouri and was blocked by higher ups? Apparently not all the FBI is on our side-and never was.
+11 # Vermont Grandma 2012-04-29 22:26
Well, from my point of view, it would have been a better use of my tax $$ if the FBI informant had worked on persuading him that the Koran & Islam don't support violence against Jews, rather than pushing jihad into his thinking and dangling huge sums of $$ in front of him to keep him going. The FBI ought to be going after REAL lawbreakers, like those who filed robo-signed documents in numerous courts and stole folks homes through fraud, or the folks whose financial misdeeds took the whole economy down in 2008. There's plenty for them to investigate with inducing muddled folks into criminal activity. Those in the "Justice" Dept that authorize this kind of misuse of my tax dollars should be fired.
+24 # noitall 2012-04-29 12:28
Give these guys a big budget and they have to justify their existance. They're more inciters and recruiters than our protectors. But they realize all too clearly (since they have a massive budget that they were able to justify by FEAR, they only they truely know they don't need). If the streets never got dirty would we still have street sweepers? It's called job insurance. There doesn't seem to be any problem with the tax payers paying for that "socialism".
+35 # tedrey 2012-04-29 12:28
Anyone who leads someone into planning an act of terrorism, or presents them with means and opportunity, or drives them to the destination, should be sentenced to jail. If they are an FBI official whose job is to PREVENT terrorism, their sentence shoud be doubled.
+23 # noitall 2012-04-29 15:10
With "not so stupid" people like Reyn and MidwestTom eating this rational like hungry chickens, its no wonder American voters have allowed what their fathers and grand fathers fought and died for to protect, their constitutional rights, to be eroded to the point of unrecognizabili ty. They've given up bravery for fear.
+31 # Sandy 2012-04-29 12:35
This practice is deplorable, has been going on a long time, and SHOULD be illegal. It goes way beyond entrapment to the point of advocating, enticing and providing the means. "lookie, lookie, we caught the bad guys" ...what a crock. Message to Uncle Sam: Please use my money to promote good, not evil.
+21 # MendoChuck 2012-04-29 12:59
It would seem that jlohman sums things up very well.
What is required is a well informed public that actively participates in the election system.
What we have presently is a media system that is responsive to the bottom line first and for most.
When the day arrives that the majority of the American Public actually votes and does so with reliable information supplied by organizations that are more concerned with the well being of the country rather that what their shareholders will get paid.
Then we will have our Republic Back.
Until then corporate profits will dominate our elected positions.
+33 # Eliza53 2012-04-29 13:06
By creating "terrorist threats," the FBI justifies its budget and its existence. Disgusting. And frightening, since clearly nowadays even planning a demonstration a certain distance from officials with a certain security clearance can buy someone time in prison. So much for free speech and the freedom to peaceably assemble.
+22 # bluepilgrim 2012-04-29 14:51
It does more than that: it helps keep the fear of the public at a high level to justify ALL the abuses of the public and the authoritarian actions by the government, and it distracts people from the real problems.
+19 # William Bjornson 2012-04-29 13:51
#2) What the fbi did in Portland is clearly in violation of 18 USC § 2331(5)(B)(ii). The motive here is obvious, the means, obvious, and the victim is Mr. Mohamud, a convenient and disposable tool kept naked and in solitary for over a year and a half.

+18 # jlohman 2012-04-29 13:51
Yea, if this is just the beginning -- creating fake FBI work so we increase their funds -- we are in deep do-do. I can't help but believe that if we stopped the campaign cash flow to politicians, via public funding of campaigns, we'd put an immediate stop to the wars and fake drug war and fake FBI raids and fake everything else.
+25 # William Bjornson 2012-04-29 13:52
#1) In the fbi psyop in Portland Oregon where a bright young 18 year old idealistic man suffering (as they all do) from emotional disturbance (close knit family, parents announce divorce), Mohamed Osman Mohamud was mentally kidnapped by the fbi Middle Eastern assets. With manipulative techniques used by bounty hunters in the Mideast to recruit and convert suicide bombers for money, with profound grief and its hopelessness being the necessary element to successful conversion, young people are easily led into complete delusion. Reading the arrest warrant here and the circumstances surrounding the psyop, you will find evil. The arrest warrant is a study in weasel words, innuendo, and deliberate lies.

Besides this promising young man himself, the most important thing here is that this fbi operation was targeted at a specific political end. Portland was the only major city in America to refuse to join the jttf (joint terrorism task force) which allows the feds to take control of all local emergency resources with no local control or even oversight. Portland said "No way!" As soon as the operation was complete, a local zionist 5th columnist on the city council started vigorously pushing for the jttf, a coordinated effort.
+12 # John Gill 2012-04-29 14:00
This country, and the world I suppose, has many, many people who are unbalanced and afraid, who will make false claims, false confessions, and say outrageous things to bolster their egos, to keep themselves safe from close emotional relationships, etc., and when they say these things to casual aquaintances, friends, co-workers, they don't realize who may hear about it. They seem to think they are invisible, that no one hears them anyway. (I suspect that this is part of the cause to begin with!) and when the wrong person listens, they are put on a list and that's it. It is a deplorable situation, but given the very real, if small, percentage of them capable of real harm, where is the solution? Possibly if the government spent a small fraction of what it spends entrapping, on giving much needed psychological assistance, we would be better off. Oh well.
+21 # seeuingoa 2012-04-29 14:31
Keep people fearful. A little plot
at a time, and you can control them!
+9 # cordleycoit 2012-04-29 14:40
Sorry Mr. Shipler but you got it wrong. The F.B.I. used to work the Greenwich Village with all sorts of plots in the early sixties. That culminated with the JFK Assassination when they started working over news men. Nothing like a special agent with a black jack to ruin a weekend. Then they got rough.
+17 # RMDC 2012-04-29 14:54
We've known this for a long time. The FBI was behind the first World Trade Center Bombing in the 90s and the plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. The FBI has similarly framed up union leaders, Black Panthers, anti-war activists. The FBI is a GESTAPO in every sense of the word.

Now that we know that the FBI routinely frames up innocent people, why not make the leap to the false flag and frame up of 9-11. The only difference is the scale. All of these stories of terrorist patsies point only to the biggest patsy of them all -- Osama bin Laden.

The people who run the US are criminals on the same scale as the Nazis who took control of Germany in the late 20s. In fact, many of the neo-cons trace the roots of their ideology to nazism. The Nazis fakes the Reighstag fire, blamed it on communists so they could begin a crackdown on communists.

We know what they are. The problem is how to rid the world of them once and for all. They hold all the levers of power and media.
+7 # Glen 2012-04-29 17:32
Right, RMDC, how to rid the world of those who have the most control.

I was listening to Alabama 3 today, and realized how rebellious many of us are, and as the hammer comes down we more than likely will have the Mao Tse Tung phrase in our heads: Change will come through the barrel of a gun. Many will lose too much if they fight and that is more than understandable. They will stand their ground, regardless, though. The rest of us will be challenged with attempting a better world without the criminals.

Hearing the admiration the media has for "the killing of Osama bin Laden" grates on the ears and shame rises into a bilious puke in the mouth. The criminals murdered him the same as they as murdering everything in the U.S. that is decent.
+7 # infohiway 2012-04-29 18:43
Subject: Insanity! CISPA Has Passed in the House! (pressfortruth. tv)

Then anybody can frame you up?
Not only would the final passage of this "bill allow the government to monitor your online activity," but change, edit or delete your emails and online activity as well. -sc

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the CISPA bill which will now go to the senate for a final vote. The bill would allow the government to monitor your online activity if it constitutes a “security threat”. This has nothing to do with protecting copy righted material and everything to do with blocking the free flow of information online.

+15 # pres 2012-04-29 15:12
FBI & CIA desperately need new "Terrorists".
Excellent pay and immediate contracts.
Long term commitment not necessary... in fact, very unlikely!
We need an improved sequel to 9/11 asap.
+1 # John Gill 2012-04-29 15:36
I dunno....25 years to life is pretty damn long term!
+7 # futhark 2012-04-29 16:29
Perfect job security! That is, as long as the public remains credulous...cry wolf one time too many and the jig may well be up.

We had our "New Pearl Harbor". I hope that a "New 9/11" is not in the works.
+1 # Bodiotoo 2012-04-29 16:55
These "wanna bes" that are "found" should be catagorized as "leads", not led...watched, if they follow up on thier own, and find 'others, cash, equipment' ey would be leading the FBI to threats...They are potential finding real bad guys.
-9 # Bodiotoo 2012-04-29 16:57
Niether Pearl or 9-11 stopped the US. The US is too big to fail.
+12 # reiverpacific 2012-04-29 18:02
Those of you who think that the FBI (and the CIA) is "On your side" are either utterly naive or "on their side" as the kind of passive, inert and gullible citizens they'd like to have as the norm -and it seems that it's getting close.
Have you never heard of COINTELPRO, or the National Security State, in which it has returned in a much more insidious, high tech form.
Ask (as if they'd let you!!) the thousands of political prisoners who have languished lo' these many decades in high-tech, high-security prisons, like Leonard Peltier, Mumiya Abu Jamal and so many others, -and soon Bradley Manning, for defending themselves or their people -including y'all in the latter case against the "protect and serve" badge-wearers and the Big Brother enforcers.
Expect drones to be common sight soon, maybe even hovering outside YOU'RE bedroom window, as well as the blowback from that technology as other countries work to keep up.
Hell, even Iran is copy-catting the one they shot down and will be building nice, reliable replicas soon (they are a lot smarter than N. Korea).
Orwell would have recognized the current an evolving state of affairs; he just got the year wrong (1984).
Enjoy y'r conformist lives until "they come for you".
This is ultimately why Empires inevitably fail and implode: they drive their own citizens to the "Freedom or Death" condition, which is un-winnable.
+3 # infohiway 2012-04-29 18:03
It's neither new nor very original:
Were it not for F.I.B. etc's:
* infiltrators joining and financing,
* with their undercover agents provocateur trying to bust each other -
the U$A's Communist Party would have gone bankrupt before McFarty's witch hunts...
+7 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-29 18:04
One time it was an honor to be FBI then J Edgar came along, then McCarthy now all idiots from hell.
Paranoia runs deep, then they send people out to put fear into people, I remember the bs Communist years. Learning how to manipulate people after Hitler.
Paranoid freaks, no life, live in areas where they are amongst themsleves. Lucky if they can put whole sentneces together. Promotions on TV are not reality. FBI/CIA allowed us to be bombed, allowed presidents to be killed, threatened, blackmailed.
Really wonder who the real criminal element its. Again very sad, I knew some very good people who were FBI, I knew some hypers that went that way also.

I look at America and wonder where the real people are. All I see is phony Faith, Reality shows, Corrupt Politicians, Creepy Military, Anti American Corporations. Time we get off our butts and take back our Country...start by buying American, cutting gas off by walking, biking, sharing rides, look into investing outside of Wall Street, and look into better banks/credit unions. Get friends involved, review Corporate Crooks and stop buying from them. Buy local food, use local businesses stop going to Corporate Junk stores. You have the Power to change things but you got to want to.
+1 # infohiway 2012-04-29 21:48
John (J.) Edgar Hoover virtually created the FBI from scratch. Nixon's boys tried to blame the WATERGATE 'national security' break-in on the FBI and bumped off J. Edgar after he went ballistic; being ready, willing and able to dump pervy dirt on EVERYBODY!
+2 # futhark 2012-04-30 15:31
J. Edgar Hoover was the director of the FBI from 1924–1972. The main thing that he investigated and kept files on was other politically powerful people, knowing that he had the goods on them if they ever tried to get him dismissed.
-2 # corals33 2012-04-29 20:38
The never ending war on terror will prove a welcome alternative to a nuclear holocaust so let's face it and hope that hollywood produces good polished accounts of the tales. It certainly won't end in a hurry because too much is at stake for all those concerned.
+4 # neutrino 2012-04-30 08:49
Who gave these orders to lie? Just ask Cheney and Rove!
0 # Valleyboy 2012-05-01 08:27
All this discussion of entrapment etc is fine and dandy, but until we ask: What are the root causes of terrorism? we will get nowhere.

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