The FBI caught another homegrown terrorist this week, except like many recent plots the agency has “uncovered,” the attack was a plant, a plan concocted by the FBI itself. It’s the latest in a growing number of terrorism plots that the FBI stirs up by infiltrating communities and helping to devise attack plans. The practice raises serious questions about the government’s implementation of it’s ongoing war on terror.
The recent case involves 21-year-old from Baltimore named Antonio Martinez, who’d reportedly converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammad Hussain and planned to blow up a bomb outside a military recruitment center in Baltimore. None of the plot, however, existed before the FBI instigated it and Martinez had no contact with any real terrorist organization.
The FBI deployed an informant to pose as an accomplice by adding Martinez as a friend on Facebook and communicate with him through Facebook messages. Martinez reportedly updated his status with comments about his devotion to Jihad. Once the young man had been identified as a target, the FBI informant helped imagine and orchestrate the plot, and supplied Martinez with a fake bomb and a vehicle to transport it. After he attempted to detonate the explosive remotely, the FBI arrested Martinez. If convicted of charges, he could face life in prison.
The case is the second since Thanksgiving and one of many more over the past decade, in which the federal government has deployed informants to “catch” terrorists inside the country. It’s all part of the FBI’s wider practice of targeting American Muslims—largely, according to some reports, Muslim converts as well as American born black Muslims. But far from stopping ongoing plots and interrupting “radicalization,” the FBI is fabricating plans, providing the tools to carry out attacks and inciting suspects to do so.
As U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein told the AFP, “There was no actual danger,” because the people posing as accomplices were FBI employees.
Nonetheless, the FBI claims that Martinez posed a real threat because, according to Richard McFeely, an FBI special agent, the young man was “absolutely committed to carrying out an attack which would have cost lives.”
“The case,” reports the AFP:
bore a striking resemblance to that of a Somali-American arrested in Portland, Oregon, last month after trying to set off what he thought was an explosives-laden van parked near a Christmas tree ceremony.
The device was actually a dummy bomb supplied by undercover FBI agents who had contacted him months before and pretended to be accomplices, and the would-be attacker, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was charged with “attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.”
The informant program targeting American Muslims is part of a larger and developing FBI policy. As I wrote in October:
An extensive investigation, Anjali Kamat reports that the FBI has repeatedly used secret informants to gather questionable information and even entrap groups of people into supporting acts of terrorism. These informants are often Muslim men found guilty of non-terrorism related crimes and who face deportation or jail time.
In numerous cases, documented at length by the DN investigation, there are serious questions as to whether the tactic is creating crimes out of thin air. In one case, an FBI informant befriended a Muslim business owner. When that business started failing, the informant, who was himself facing deportation, offered the other man a loan that was allegedly laundered for weapons buying. The exchange led to terrorism convictions.
Karen Greenberg of the NYU Center for Law and Security explains, “the conviction rate for cases that involve informants is almost 100 percent.” But according to James Wedick, a former FBI agent, “90 percent of the cases that you see that have occurred in the last 10 years are garbage.”
Wedick also says that economic strains are often the way that informants entrap others. In Newburgh, NY, an FBI informant allegedly entrapped four black Muslim men from a poor neighborhood, pushing them to participate in an attempted attack on a synagogue in the area
High profile domestic terrorism plots appear to have increased in recent months, but they’ve been largely concocted. As the 10th anniversary of September 11th approaches, the government appears to be one of the key players in the maintenance of a believable terrorist threat.
Amna Akbar, fellow at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice of New York University School of Law, says, “What’s really interesting is that there’s been a significant increase in high profile so-called homegrown terrorism cases recently where the the actual threat is constructed by the government. There does not seem to be very much actual threat to justify the ongoing ‘war on terror’ and there are serious questions about why the government is going to such lengths in these cases.”