FBI 'Thwarts' Another Of Its Own Bomb Plots

from the that-sounds-like-fun dept

visual77 alerts us to the news of a guy arrested in Baltimore for a bomb plot. As you dig into the details, though, it looks quite similar to the case in Portland, where it appears that the entire “plot” was created with the help of the FBI. The guy was arrested for trying to blow up a military recruitment center — with a fake bomb that was provided by the FBI. Obviously, it’s not good to have people who are willing to blow stuff up, but with so many of these stories, you have to wonder if the FBI wouldn’t be better off focusing on those who not only want to harm Americans, but who actually have the ability to do so. As it stands, it looks like the FBI is fabricating “plots” to thwart, rather than dealing with real threats.

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Comments on “FBI 'Thwarts' Another Of Its Own Bomb Plots”

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CoCo Was Screwed says:

Re: Re:

Yeah and maybe each and every one of us should have our phone, internet,email, TV, radio, Library, and Toner usage monitored just so they can weed out the folks that might do us harm. Because a pound of prevention…

By the way, I am willing to do a lot of things, Like fly into outer space or direct a movie as good as Michael Bay does or build a device that lets me play with large natural boobs whenever I want, but you know what, I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. But is someone came along and helped me, well then who knows!

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I sort of liken this to what NYC did to stop their crime issue. They focused on the small petty crimes, the first time offenders. This effectively cut off the recruitment organized crime did for bigger and more dangerous stuff.

When there isn’t a burgeoning class of criminals learning the ‘system’ its much harder to build the gangs/mafia/etc.

So trolling for people who simply ‘want’ to do bad things might have some relevant use.

The salient difference is NYC worked with actual offenders, not people simply upset and angry enough to possibly do something in the future ala Minority Report.

interval (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Maybe they are looking to weed out this type of person.”

Maybe. Lemme ask you; how many of these stings does the FBI need to make before you start getting nervous about it? A few more? 100? 100 weekly? Should the media start printing “plots discovered” scores like the “body counts” from the Viet Nam war? (If your too young just google ’em) Should we include anyone who is caught with bomb making materials. Now, suppose the FBI started planting evidence about terrorist plots? Illegal you say? Well… lets just keep going down this road, shall we?

Pixelation says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Lemme ask you; how many of these stings does the FBI need to make before you start getting nervous about it? “

The thing is, these people are willing/ active participants. Planting evidence? Are you saying these 2 cases were planted evidence? Citation please…

Lemme ask you; how many of these people need to find the person who helps them blow up innocent people before you get nervous?

Ken Downs (profile) says:

Re: Weeding out

As I recall, Winston Smith was successfully “weeded out” of society by recruiting him into an underground movement. The only member of this underground movement that he ever met was O’Brien, who was a government agent. The “movement’s” manifesto, supposedly written by a dissident named Goldstein, was actually written by O’Brien as well.

Kind of scary how much of 1984 is coming true.

Once it becomes ok to start “weeding” society, where does it end?

If fictional accounts like 1984 are not satisfactory, read up on the Soviet Union. They did not have the resources to build a ‘telescreen’ system as described by Orwell, so they sowed suspicion in the population and encouraged people to inform on each other. Kind of like Walmart helpfully reminding people “if you see something, say something.” See something like what? A plane heading for a building at low altitude? In Walmart? A better slogan might be, “If you see something run screaming and get out of the way because the bomb is about to go off.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Well I feel that if the guy didn’t found the FBI he probably would have found somebody who did know something.

Thank God the most angry people are also the dumbest.

The thing I don’t like about this is not that they caught the guy, but they use those things to make up a level of threat that isn’t there, while apparently ignoring to do the basic stuff like trying to not let those people get radicalized in the first place.

What is the government actually doing to not create an infinite stream of extremists outside and inside the USA?

Those things I don’t see the FBI trumpeting, where are the operations to win the hearts and minds?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Thank God the most angry people are also the dumbest.

Dear Sr SaintWolf,

I disagree, being angry makes you stupid, it clouds judgment and common sense and leads to mistakes, it overrides the sense of self preservation. Great anger is like tunnel vision you loose awareness of your surroundings and can only focused in one thing the object of your anger.


Try playing age of empires angry and see if you can beat anyone or any other game really, racing angry will lead you to try to bump the other car to make you feel better but won’t make you win a race.

On youtube there are countless hilarious(from the outside) videos of “Bad day in the office”

Bad day in the office compilation


Have a nice day.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hearts and minds? Can never be done. Some people are just fundamentally wired to take the contrary position to anything those they see as authority figures take.

As individuals, they’re not worth listening to because you can so easily predict what they’re going to say in any given situation. As a group, they serve an extremely minimal purpose in that a contrary position, no matter how absurd, will always be out there for those who choose to think for themselves to examine.

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Would Be

Its as if the FBI equates “would be if” terrorists equally with actual threats. A “would be if” person is someone who would be something if they could only… Otherwise, they’re normal people who don’t act on anything. They complain, maybe, but never enough to do something.

Throw the keys to a Lamborghini to someone who can only afford a used Pinto and say have at it… they’re going to take you up on your offer. They now have that opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

The FBI profiles the wrong people. They assume that all wanna bes are equal threats. If they feel someone is talking the talk – investigate. But if they don’t have the determination, means, or connections to carry out something serious… monitor but don’t waste real resources on an arrest that takes their eyes off the real ball.

But maybe that’s why they’re the “Intelligence” and I’m not.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Re: Would Be

You could actually take this one step further… Would these wanna bes even have been wanna bes if the FBI hadn’t encouraged the behavior.

Millions of Americans think about committing suicide each day. Only a small percentage of those that think about it even attempt it.

But the question that should be asked, how many that think it but never act could be encouraged to act on their thoughts????? This is the actual group that the FBI is preying on with these stories….

I could care less if someone Hates Americans or even talks about hating Americans. This is their right, and I served and faught for that right for them just as much as for my Right to hate them too….

I don’t need my Tax Dollars spent to censor their right to Hate me. I want my Tax Dollars spend where the real threat lies, which is in those ALREADY planning to kill me. Those just thinking about it are no threat until they take the first step to act on that thought.

Jared (profile) says:


Obviously, it’s not good to have people who are willing to blow stuff up, but with so many of these stories, you have to wonder if the FBI wouldn’t be better off focusing on those who not only want to harm Americans, but who actually have the ability to do so.

First, “With so many of these..”, since when does two constitute “so many”. Second, it seems to me they are doing the job of catching idiots who want to blow stuff up. If you have intent and act on that intent then yes you need to be in jail. Read up on unloaded gun felonies, it’s one of the first things they teach in just about any criminology or law program.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Reeeally?

You mean like handing them the rope that they’ll hang themselves with? you betcha ๐Ÿ™‚

GOP: Deficits matter Deficits matter, we can’t spend money we don’t have!
TeaParty: Great, we’ll vote for you!
GOP: We won’t let anyone help the economy unless we get tax cuts for the ultra rich that are wholly added to the deficit. When we negotiated the deal, we grabbed even more money for the rich through an estate tax deduction that does absolutely squat for the economy.

uh…not exactly going to turn out well for them me thinks.

Obama has been vilified through primarily distortions and outright lies. The GOP to a man wants things that help the rich by spending what we don’t have and claims that will help the rest of the country. Except it hasn’t worked in 10 years of their policies.
The Dems, while certainly spending money we don’t have, are passing stuff that actually helps the majority of people in this country.
If we’re going bankrupt anyway, I’ll take the latter thank you very much.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Reeeally?

You obviously fail to understand even the fundamentals of the GOP, fiscal conservatism, capitalism, the tea party movement, why people choose to believe in the preceding, and macro economics at the very least. Until you do you’re incapable of having an intelligent discussion on politics.

Also, I did not and don’t currently plan on vilifying President Obama. I’m quite happy with the job he’s done of pissing off enough of the electorate to hand congress back to the GOP and making it possible for the GOP to do some house cleaning on some of the more corrupt members of the party. In fact, I’m fairly certain he even genuinely believes in a fair portion of the policies he espouses. I don’t see any particular reason he needs to be a villain to be wrong though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Reeeally?

Another AC in post #12 wrote: How many Republicans do you think would pull the trigger on Obama if you set them up with the vantage point and the sniper rifle? Quite a few, I imagine.

I certainly hope your “imagination” is not common among those who hate republicans. Of course, you may be projecting your own homicidal desires for Bush (Cheney, Palin, etc). Hate-filled and paranoid is no way to go through life. I honestly, sincerely hope that one day, you (and those who agree with you) get the psychiatric help you so desperately need.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Reeeally?

“First, “With so many of these..”, since when does two constitute “so many”. “

Well, since we’re talking about a federal agency exercising a plan to manufacture ‘terrorists’ and then arrest them for it; all just so they can look like they’re doing something while not actually increasing the safety of the people they’re there to protect… I’d say one is too many. How many would you like to see to justify a grammatical choice of “so many”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Reeeally?

“since when does two constitute “so many”.”

As someone pointed out, Techdirt alone points out four such cases, and as someone else points out, there are many more than four that haven’t made their way onto techdrit.

and exactly how many real terrorists have the FBI (or the feds in general) caught (and, don’t tell me they wouldn’t announce it. If they’re so eager to even announce and celebrate over the fabricated terrorists that they caught, they would be more than willing to announce any real terrorists they have caught. and, as Techdirt points out, even the TSA, in the past, has announced when it did find something somewhat significant).

The only reason the feds are doing this is because they’re too stupid to ever catch a real terrorist (they leave that job up to citizens/passengers) and so this is the best they can do to look productive. After all, they must do something to justify all the wasted tax dollars, right?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Going a little to far

Why does the FBI have to wait until the suspect pushes the button? Wouldn’t a civilian buying explosives be enough to arrest these people? Add that on top of the suspect’s known planning, and that makes a fairly good case and it makes the FBI look like they know what they’re doing.

Scare mongering hypothetical:
What would have happened if this guy found out the bomb was a dud and got a new one that worked? Imagine the look on the FBI agents faces when the bomb actually blew up.

I know that in reality the FBI were probably watching the guy and would cut him off if he tried to get a real bomb, but again, why do they have to wait until he actually pushes the button?

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Going a little to far

Actually no, there are quite a few explosives you’re allowed to possess even in weaponized forms. Granted, the FBI probably didn’t tell these guys they were buying anything they were legally allowed to have but again I’m not sure that attempting to buy illegal explosives is illegal. Attempted mass-murder, that I’m sure is illegal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Going a little to far

Absolutely! And anyone buying a PC should also be arrested for planning to pirate software.

Last time I looked, it was perfectly legal to buy fertilizer and diesel fuel. Granted, in large enough quantities someone may come visit just to make sure, but they can’t arrest you for it.

Urza9814 says:

Re: Going a little to far

“Wouldn’t a civilian buying explosives be enough to arrest these people?”

No. Second amendment. By your logic hunting would be illegal. As would the demolition industry. And Hollywood. And a lot of stuff people do just for the hell of it. But yes, when you add on the planning and such, then that would probably be enough if you could prove he had very concrete plans – as in, he has all the materials, all the equipment, and has his plot planned down to what time on what date he’s going to do it…and how he’s getting there, how he’s getting away, etc.

Requiring any less than that, though, is a _very_ scary thought to me. Most Americans probably have everything they would need to make at least a small bomb sitting in their house. They may not know it, but it’s probably there. And I’m sure plenty of people have, in jest or out of frustration, said something like “I’m going to kill…” or “I’m going to blow up…” or whatever. I don’t think that either of those things (or the two together) should be enough to arrest somebody.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think we would rather that the fbi give a guy like this a bomb that won’t work, rather than waiting to let him find someone who will give him one that works well. This isn’t fabrication, this is giving a potential terrorists everything he needs to expose himself (and possibly others) for what they are.

You make it sound like the FBI held his hand, carried the bomb for him, turned it on for him, drove him too and from the location, and then just tagged his name on the deal randomly. What a crock. He is a terrorists that, in his heart, felt he was about to hurt and kill innocent citizens. Congrats to the FBI for sussing him out and doing what was needed before people died, rather than after.

Darryl says:

silly FBI, they should have refered him to Al Qaeda ! so if their bombs are fake ?

So I guess it would have been ok for another group to have found these people?
Groomed them for their task, and assisted them to carry it out, and not the FBI ?

Sure, it would have been far better for them to find some Al Qaeda people to ‘help’ them get the job done.

Its clear the FBI took appropriate measures to ensure they had opportunity to back out, they stated clearly they give these people multiple chances to stop their intended actions, and on each occasion they chose to continue.

So if it had not been the FBI, then it would have been some other group..

and probably a group, that would not stop it and who would ensure it DID happen, and people were killed..

Its up to you, but I think if someone is willing to carry out that act, to the end, then it is far better to stop them than to ignore them and let some other group assist them..

I dont know Mike, reading your statements it almost seems you would prefer them to have succeeded, killing people and so on, as opposed to letting law enforcement try to protect its people..

Why would you want your friends, your family, or yourself put at mortal risk? is it because you think freedom is somehow better, he should have been free to kill people, and the FBI is wrong for trying to find and stop these people.

Who’s side are you on mike ??

Its also funny, that TWO is “SO MANY”, many is generally considered 3 or more, a couple, or a few would be a more accurate discription, but ‘more than one’ is not “SO MANY”.

It again, is more like ‘so few’ of these types of cases.

And what does how many have to do with it, is there a quota ? if you find alot then how much is too much ?

Or is it that there are ‘too many’ people who are willing to acquire a bomb and blow people to death ?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: silly FBI, they should have refered him to Al Qaeda ! so if their bombs are fake ?

You are a damned idiot, Darryl. The issue isn’t one way or the other, it’s not the difference between “the FBI helped this guy” or “The plan worked”.

The FBI could have kept their eyes on him and got the people who would have helped him as well as just him. They already were keeping their eyes on this guy, and catching a conspiracy nets more people willing to kill others.

They now have one guy who was too stupid to do anything on his own instead of the five others that had the ability and were willing to help.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: silly FBI, they should have refered him to Al Qaeda ! so if their bombs are fake ?

“So if it had not been the FBI, then it would have been some other group..”

That’s quite the statement. What crystal ball is proving that, had the FBI not provided the opportunity, a criminal element would have? Had it not been for the FBI, it may have actually been IMPOSSIBLE for the guy to commit the crime he is being accused of – that’s a big problem. Catching a wants to commit a crime but can’t does not seem like the best way to use our resources.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: silly FBI, they should have refered him to Al Qaeda ! so if their bombs are fake ?

The FBI keeps picking the low hanging fruit, and that’s not what I expect of an intelligence agency. They should be using these dumb asses to get to the bigger players. I know that’s a difficult task, but that’s why they are the FBI. Goading some idiot into buying a fake bomb doesn’t do a damn thing to stop terrorism. I stops one idiot stupid enough to buy a fake bomb from the FBI.

that_id (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: silly FBI, they should have refered him to Al Qaeda ! so if their bombs are fake ?

This is simpy the FBI trying to catch a little good press. Unfortunately, it forces the real enemy to spawn a craftier class new recruits every time they use these dumbed-down moves. It really is low-hanging fruit, sadly it is just laziness on our part due in no small part of our generation’s need for instant results to everything.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: silly FBI, they should have refered him to Al Qaeda ! so if their bombs are fake ?

I’m going to quote my previous comment yet again, because people really seem to not get why this is a problem.

There is a very simple test that anyone can use to see if they are suffering from a lack of rational perspective: Come up with an identical scenario where Islam and terrorism isn’t involved, and see if the response still makes sense.

Suppose you took a poor, young, lonely, white American, who because of their socioeconomic circumstances and upbringing is at risk of leading a life of gang-related crime. Perhaps they’ve already expressed antagonism towards law enforcement, or are already using drugs (and thus are already technically doing illegal things).

You’re in authority. Which of the following two general approaches sounds better to you?

Approach #1: You befriend them and give them a job, perhaps a trade. You encourage them into the respectable and legal workforce, and perhaps try to help them complete their education. If they’re addicted to something, you help them get off it, so they don’t mix with criminals any more. You give them a circle of peers of people who got out of bad situations so they have someone to talk with and lean on should that be necessary.

Approach #2: You befriend them, and secretly groom them into joining a fake criminal gang. You start by giving them small tasks which aren’t necessarily criminal acts in and of themselves, provide them with an income which they understand is from illegal sources, and promise them more if they participate more fully. Then you stage a big crime, perhaps a bank robbery or a drug deal, and encourage this person to be involved. At this point, you spring the trap, arrest them and congratulate yourself that you’ve taken a dangerous person off the street.

Does anyone, anywhere, think that approach #2 is ever the right idea? If it were ever found to have happened, there would be hell to pay!

If you want to stop people ending up in organised crime groups, regardless of whether those groups are trying to sell meth or trying to blow up buildings, you should be doing everything you can to steer them away from those gangs. This should be a no-brainer but, as Lawrence Lessig would say, there are apparently no brains involved here.

Hell, it’d even make some kind of logic had they used the kid as bait to try to catch someone higher up the chain. I’d still feel sorry for the kid, but at least it would have been more-or-less productive work for a law enforcement agency.

The sort of people the FBI locates are probably the sort of impressionable, easily-swayed individuals who could be radicalised into committing some horrible act. But something is deeply wrong when it’s the FBI doing the radicalising.

Anonymous Coward says:

They had to make up for the last fabricated plot that they caught, which made them look bad, so their solution was to fabricate another plot and not get caught this time. Unfortunately, that failed too, so expect to see another fabricated plot in another attempt to make them look productive. Can’t these people do anything right?

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Silly AC. Someone with the desire to kill you is always a real threat. The threat from those that have been arrested recently may or may not have been imminent without FBI help but it was definitely real. Since you have no access to the minds of terrorist recruiters, the minds of those they would recruit, or even the FBI intelligence that lead them to target these individuals, your belief is based on very little except your own world view.

Greg says:

there might be another motive here

I hate security theater, but there’s something to be said for spreading fear and paranoia amongst potential extremists. The more they hear about FBI stings, the more they’re likely to fear being caught, which may deter some of these wannabes from even talking about any violent fantasies they may have. Classic chilling effect, possibly? Strategy vs. tactics.

Anonymous Coward says:

This just amazes me. The FBI leads these guys through a complete bomb plot even to the point of providing a fake bomb. So what if someone wants to blow up something. 99.9% of us couldn’t do it without the FBI’s help. Law enforcement in this country only succeeds with the sting operation to nab ‘Bad Guys?’ They are totally useless in prevention and it only criminals they can arrest are ones they collude with.
The latest one is to report break-ins online. No officer comes to the place of the crime and looks at the evidence. You can post it online and say anything. Get a police report to print out and voila, Insurance Fraud. Great crime protection. Do you feel safe? Only with my gun.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, AC, most of us could blow something up without the FBI’s help. Most of us could also go down to our local Wal-Mart, buy several guns and a backpack full of ammo, and shoot up a bus station, mall, coffee shop, etc… The FBI finding those that actually have the desire and will to before-hand is about the only thing they can do.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Preventing attacks

Preventing attacks is done probabilistically – you take various security measures and each one has some chance of making attack plans go awry, and with luck, a planned attack is foiled. This is a fine example – a wanna-be is removed from the action, and other potential attackers must deal with the possibility that everyone around them is an agent of authority rather than a helpful companion.

There is no evidence in the referenced article that the FBI is trying to make more out of this case than it is. In fact, they always emphasize in these cases that no one was ever in any danger. What they do say, as quoted in http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101005/ap_on_re_us/us_times_square_car_bomb, for example, is “We have to be concerned about homegrown terrorists given recent events. We’re working as hard as we can to make sure we don’t have another event like that.” And in this case, that’s what they’ve done.

Anonymous Coward says:

The goal explains the method.

If they just wanted to inhibit people from plotting bombings, they could simply make a pass on the guy, explaining that they are being watched, and see how they respond before moving on to the next on your list of thousands, since they generally have no way to check whether they are being watched or not.

That would be a practical and cost effective way to shut down wannabes, or force more serious plotters underground. If they vanish after the pass, then you could escalate your investigation.

Since they pushing this as far as possible, the goal is to prosecute ANYONE, just so they appear to be having an impact. This is about appearance over effectiveness (again,) and that is bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am a former Marine and a republican and if you set me up with a high power rifle in sight of Obama I would put one right through YOUR heart.

Being a devils advocate, I would imagine that this person hit the FBI’s radar screen, why was that? Did they just see some kid on the street and say, hey, lets see if we can set him up? The FBI probably had information that this kid was looking to do something bad, so they put their plan in place to see if he would bite. What happens if the FBI does nothing and then the kid walks into a mall or school and shoots it up and kills a bunch of people?

Would you condemn the FBI for doing nothing? Maybe the govt. finally learned its lesson after the Fort Hood shooting after not learning it after 9/11 and countless other attempts.

That being said, it would have been pretty funny if the guy had replaced the fake with a real bomb. I too would have enjoyed seeing the look on the agents faces, of course, I wouldn’t want anyone hurt, but it would be funny.

john says:

Re: Re:

Finding alienated clueless people with fantasies of being ( briefly) a big headline bang is pretty easy. Finding people who are clever enough to have a vague chance of being made real is much harder- The FBI is taking very low hanging fruit.

PS in Australia a solder of the crown that expressed a serious desire to assassinate the head of state would face criminal charges and definitely would be disowned by his mates as a traitor.

hotrod says:

Big Brother at it again

“This is all about keeping the American public scared. A scared population is an easily control population.”

Exactly. The people defending this abuse of authority and resources are probably the same goons that supported the Patriot Act, because it would “save lives.”

When the FBI is done pissing around, and destroying troubled lives that just need a push in the positive direction, just so they can increase the arbitrary “threat level” and justify their inflated “homeland security” budget, maybe they’ll take to doing something productive, like combat the organized gangs and thugs themselves.

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