FBI Defuses Another Of Its Own Terrorist Plots; John Boehner Pretends It's Evidence That We Need To Renew The PATRIOT Act

from the wag-that-dog dept

Last week, as you may have heard, the Justice Department breathlessly announced that it had uncovered and broken up a terrorist plot against the government, leading to the arrest of a 20 year-old man, Christopher Lee Cornell, in Ohio. According to the FBI, Cornell was planning to go to the US Capitol and kill government officials. As often happens with these kinds of announcements, the press was quick to jump in and fuel the narrative of some big terror plot that the FBI was able to miraculously disrupt at the last minute.

For years now, we’ve pointed out a pattern of how nearly every big headline about the US disrupting a domestic terrorist attack was almost always about the FBI creating its very own plot, and then pressuring and cajoling some vulnerable, poverty-stricken, desperate Muslim (almost always Muslim) young men into “joining” this plot. This happens despite those individuals rarely having expressed direct interest in any sort of terrorist activity, or having any connections or means to carry out such activity. But with continued pressure from “FBI informants” (who tend to either by paid by the FBI or are trying to reduce punishment for other crimes they’ve been charged with — or both), eventually these men agree to take part in a “plot” that was entirely designed by the FBI and had no chance of ever happening. We’ve written about similar occurrences over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

It looks like this one is more of the same. As The Intercept reports:

 The alleged would-be terrorist is 20-year-old Christopher Cornell, who is unemployed, lives at home, spends most of his time playing video games in his bedroom, still addresses his mother as ?Mommy? and regards his cat as his best friend; he was described as ?a typical student? and ?quiet but not overly reserved? by the principal of the local high school he graduated in 2012.

Not only did he just convert to Islam a few months ago (and there’s no indication that he ever actually attended the mosque that he claimed to have joined), but the details of the overall story certainly match the pattern of an FBI made up plot:

The affidavit filed by an FBI investigative agent alleges Cornell had ?posted comments and information supportive of [ISIS] through Twitter accounts.? The FBI learned about Cornell from an unnamed informant who, as the FBI put it, ?began cooperating with the FBI in order to obtain favorable treatment with respect to his criminal exposure on an unrelated case.? Acting under the FBI?s direction, the informant arranged two in-person meetings with Cornell where they allegedly discussed an attack on the Capitol, and the FBI says it arrested Cornell to prevent him from carrying out the attack.

For someone supposedly plotting a terrorist attack, Cornell didn’t seem particularly subtle. The affidavit notes that Cornell first came to their attention because of his tweets in support of ISIS. Then the informant reached out to him and began pushing the plot.

Yet, it’s not just the mainstream press that is exaggerating this story. Speaker of the House John Boehner wasted little time in claiming that Cornell was only discovered because of “the FISA program.”

?The first thing that strikes me is that we would?ve never known about this had it not been for the FISA program and our ability to collect information for people who pose an imminent threat.?

Except, uh, no. The dude was posting on a public Twitter feed and then had a government informant reach out to him. It doesn’t look like anyone needed any particular “FISA program.” Thankfully, at least some reporters quickly called bullshit on this, noting that the facts of the case don’t at all match up with a situation in which any sort of FISA-approved surveillance effort was needed.

Instead, it seems clear that this is just blatant and cynical fear-mongering by John Boehner in the lead-up to the fight to renew certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, which is the program under which the NSA and FBI get bulk phone records from phone companies (and, most likely, other bulk records). As Julian Sanchez points out in the link above, there seems to be no reason to have used data collected under Section 215 in this case:

According to the criminal complaint, it was an informant hoping to reduce his own criminal sentence who brought Cornell to the Bureau?s attention. Nor, indeed, was Cornell particularly subtle: Under the Twitter handle ISBlackFlags, he pseudonymously voiced support for the Islamic State and violent jihad. If that?s true, then while it would hardly be surprising if Cornell?s phone records were reviewed at some point in the investigation, it?s hard to see how a bulk telephone database could have been essential to identifying him. Once Cornell had been identified, of course, traditional targeted intelligence or law enforcement authorities would have been sufficient to allow investigators access to his metadata?or, for that matter, his online communications.

But, knowing that the fight over renewing Section 215 is going to be a big deal later this year, it appears that Boehner used this as a bogus excuse to start laying the groundwork for such an approval. Remember, that multiple groups — including the White House’s own review board and the government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board — couldn’t find any evidence that the 215 program was necessary in stopping a single domestic terrorist attack. The only case that it was really involved in was a guy in California sending some money back to Somalia.

When the fight to renew 215 really ramps up, this lack of a success story is likely to come up. And, thus, it appears that the supporters of the surveillance state are desperately in need of some “success stories” for the 215 program, and Boehner seems to have rushed out and grabbed the first available one and he’s going to milk it for all its worth.

?I?m going to say this one more time because you?re going to hear about it for months and months to come as we attempt to reauthorize the FISA program: Our government does not spy on Americans ? unless they are Americans who are doing things that frankly tip off our law enforcement officials to an imminent threat. It was our law enforcement officials and those programs that helped us stop this person before he committed a heinous crime in our nation?s capital.?

Except, no, it wasn’t. This sounds like yet another of the government self-built plots that had no chance of ever taking off, and the only reason Cornell, a homebound videogame player who calls his mother “Mommy,” got involved was because he was a gullible, disenchanted kid who spouted off some stupid statements on Twitter, making him easy prey.

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Comments on “FBI Defuses Another Of Its Own Terrorist Plots; John Boehner Pretends It's Evidence That We Need To Renew The PATRIOT Act”

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Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Re:

you have it all wrong, if your not 100% for your government you are a terrorist, it is quite simple.

Since you are expressing doubts about how they run your country , your obviously their enemy and they are targeting you and people like you for precisely that reason.

If you were supporting their actions no matter what you would be completely satisfied with what they did and would feel no fear at all from them

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who are you going to believe?

“Our government does not spy on Americans”

As we know, propagandists can be very sophisticated in their use of language. So I have wondered in what way they are telling the absolute truth here. I think I have it.

I think that any of us might say:

“Our government does not spy while on Americans”

So, they don’t spy while standing on, lying on, jumping on, lounging on, sleeping on (etc) Americans. So it’s true, they don’t spy on Americans.

If that isn’t it, then it could be something to do with ‘Americans’. The obvious implication would be that THEY are Americans, everyone else isn’t. Other people are (in the immortal speech of the NSA) ‘targets’.

Voila! Absolute truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

The FBI admit that their informant was tasked to help ‘suspect’ Cornell “develop his plans” to supposedly carry out a random act of terror.

According the Cornell’s father, John Cornell Sr., his son Chris only had $1200 saved in his bank account from his part-time job, and did not have the money or additional funds required to afford $800 for the fire arms he is said to have gone to purchase yesterday.


Nor did it seem the membership of the mosque knew of Chris.

Anonymous Coward says:

The news coverage showed perfectly that this was an imagined plot

FBI Defuses Another Of Its Own Terrorist Plots

The news coverage of this event showed clearly this was one of the FBI’s own plots. The video showed the FBI undercover guy teaching the “terrorist” how to work the remote detonator to the “bomb”. So clearly they found a disgruntled guy who did not have the where-with-all to pull this off, give him all the needed knowledge and fake bombs and then arrest him. Is the guy screwed in the head? Sure, but a terrorist? No.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

what's with the 'mommy' bee ess ? ? ?

not like this is the most important factoid to come out of this situation, but WTF has calling your mommy ‘mommy’ have to do with fuckall ? ? ?
yes, *of course* ‘people’ are trying to spin it like this is some sort of childish moniker that a growed up adult man you eats fire and shits lightning simply does. not. do.
but, really ? ? ?
people have ALL KINDS of variations on mother, mom, etc that have NOTHING to do with how old they are…
it MAY very well be he was a goofy momma’s boy (as his father says, i’ll take his word for it), but it AIN’T because he calls his mom ‘mommy’, that is simply retarded to latch on to that as some sort of ‘evidence’ he was a lame basement-dweller barely out of his nappies…
AGAIN, very well could be such a stereotype, but the ‘calls her mommy’ ‘evidence’ is silly…

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The FBI wants us to be scared

the boston bombing worked wonders for distracting the public over the dozens of scandals rocking the white house at that time.

The info did come out that they had the information about those 2 and chose to ignore it. Among other discrepancies.

Worked in their favour to let it happen. Though I might just be paranoid then to think that rogue agencies in the American government let a marathon get bombed so they could distract the public from their personal crimes

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The FBI wants us to be scared

Remember too may cooks spoil the broth, and too many spy agencies cannot co-ordinate their information to stop a plot. With a self made plot, there is much less chance of a communication failure allowing the plot to succeed, as all required communication are within one agency.

Zonker says:

If you really wanted to disrupt or destroy a terrorist group, you go after the mastermind of the operation. The person or persons who come up with all the plots and sets them into motion. If you can capture and interrogate the mastermind, you can then find those who they employ to recruit new members to carry out their plots.

So if the FBI were serious about fighting terrorism, they would have to find the FBI masterminds behind the terror plots. Then round up all of their informants to put an end to the recruitment and prevent any possibility that their plots could be carried out. Preventing recruitment also keeps the terrorist group from spreading to become a larger menace.

Then maybe we will all be safer from the threat of terrorism.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“If you really wanted to disrupt or destroy a terrorist group…”

You stop bombing their cultural and social infrastructure into rubble and killing their men, and post-pubescent boys and raping their women and pre-pubescent children.

Rant Warning

Terrorists do not happen naturally, or due to religion or politics. Terrorists are manufactured through systematic violence and destruction, that results in a desire for revenge among the survivors, but is restricted by the lack of weaponry and funding necessary to exact such revenge on the super-power responsible for the violence and destruction.

The manufacturing of Terrorists is merely a short range business plan, with probable long range profit possibilities.

Terrorists are made from otherwise normal people who have been smashed into the stone age by Empiricists intent on profiteering and social engineering for fun and profit.

Originally, a terrorist was a man who had no means of revenge against the forces that have destroyed his home and family, save using his own body as a bomb and striking out against anything that remotely resembles, or had some association with those who killed his family, his home and his society.

Today, terrorists are well-funded and well trained armies of masked white mercenaries, created by corporate controlled governments, to instill fear in their own citizens, in order to wrest the maximum tax-based cash for phony anti-terrorist programs, that are really just funding pools for the corporate billionaires to feed from.

Corporate controlled Government is a for-profit business and politicians are the new managers and YOU are being managed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait...

In order to be a terrorist organization, you need to at least attempt to strike terror into the hearts of your victims.

In this situation, they’re making their victims frustrated, annoyed, incredulous, and a few other things, but terror is not a word currently associated with the actions of the FBI. Give them time, and let’s hope that they’ll stop being an incredulist organization as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Wait...

“In order to be a terrorist organization, you need to at least attempt to strike terror into the hearts of your victims.”

I’m sorry but if this is the definition than even Al Qaida isn’t a terrorist organization. All they do is fail, hard. At least the ISIS videos doesnt make you fall asleep but they too aren’t doing anything here really. The last big thing AQ did was 14 years ago and killed merely 3k people. Hell, in the USA every year 10 times that amount dies in car crashes and I highly doubt anyone calls Ford a terrorist organization.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The FBI learned about Cornell from an unnamed informant who, as the FBI put it, “began cooperating with the FBI in order to obtain favorable treatment with respect to his criminal exposure on an unrelated case.”

It says right in the affidavit that the FBI learned about Cornell from an informant being blackmailed by the FBI for a reduces prison sentence.

How does the PatRiot Act come into play? Perhaps John Boehner is just misinformed, disingenuous, lying, or making misleading statements. Whatever the case may be, Rep. Boehner’s credibility has been damaged.

Anonymous Coward says:

Once Cornell had been identified, of course, traditional targeted intelligence or law enforcement authorities would have been sufficient to allow investigators access to his metadata—or, for that matter, his online communications.”

No……i know some folks think we should have something in place for targetted surveillance and to some degree i can understand it…….but no…….so many easy abuses

Firstly we have to trust that something has’nt been falsified with something that we cant even see nor confirm to be correct without thorough verification that this information is even correct

The right to remain silent……..what happens when governments eventually target people who simply oppose their actions after an ever changing “definition” of, lets pretend for a minute, ONLY about terrorism……what if in doing the “fishing” surveillance knowing full well they probably wont find it, but they uncover something else that doesnt currently define you as a terrorist but perhaps they could narrate into a bad thing………….where is the digital equivalent to the right to remain silent or the right not to incriminate yourself in a land filled with some very shady laws

In the end i could never support an organisation whose sole goal is to put themselves above others, i dont want to mass store/survey my neighbours lives.. thats there own personal lives, i shouldnt have the right should i want it, i have no right to their information and vice versa………our governments are not gods…….they, as a collective group of individuals do not deserve more rights then me, you, our neighbours………on the other hand, voluntarilly deciding to become a representation of other individuals…….you should also have to expect that anything you do in the representative capacity should be 100% transparent so folks can actaully see and trust that you are infact doing the right things in the best of your ability, having forsight enough and being humble enough to know the limit of your ability instead of pushing something you are’nt willing to put effort into understanding

ANYway……..i cant see that happening, therefore i cant even accept targeted surveillance………..witneses, a human face, something you can see, something you can question, something that can give statements that non techies can understand…….not something that we cant see, cant verify ourselves to our best judgements, not on something that could have so much affect on the individual

okay, thats me trying to explain where im coming from with this……..they just dont have the trust from me, for them to be doing this, even targeted, and continuing to do it in the face of this lack of trust completely obliterates any little trust they may have still had in me.
To clarify, investigation is one thing, having the capability to bug anyone anywhere 24/7 in the luxury of your office, for right now, not mentioning the possible major abuses……….no, just no

Pronounce (profile) says:

Typical Government Ploy

Job one of every government agency is to get more funding. I bet when it’s budget time the Boehner is going to make a case they need more money to stop these terrorist plots. I pray that the Appropriations Committee is willing and able to call him on this obvious ploy.

But maybe they won’t. What with the FBI collecting dirt on congress and gaming the system.

BlueLightMemory says:

FBI = Terrorism

The FBI as an organization are nothing but a terrorist organization. They have ruined countless lives with their fake “terrorism” busts and they refuse to arrest Eric Holder for his crimes.

The FBI and many, if not most of the 3 letter agencies in America live and act as if they are above the law and are not accountable to the American people.

It’s obvious that the FBI have gingerly and completely adopted the ways of their communist handlers in the DHS.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Our government does not spy on American”

Splitting and diverting our information into your storage…….YES dip wad, I….ME….US..consider that spying……..who gave you the right…….who had the authority……nobody, not for something like this, you had to keep it secret, while doing it behind peoples back……i mean, that is some kind of consent you managed to get from your representee’s /s

Anonymous Coward says:

Has anyone considered the overhead of intelligence services copying our private information, bandwith wise, im just curious, is this affecting, ontop of everything, isp quality performances, diminished services, passing of any additional costs? This mind you is a curious matter for me, and not my major concern on the subject

Jack says:

Re: Re:

The main internet backbone type of interception uses something called beam splitting which literally splits the beam of light traveling on a fiber optic cable – so it doesn’t diminish any of the bandwidth. It’s also undetectable at the end point since a repeater immediately after the splitter boosts the signal back to the input strength.

Now, actually parsing the data (via distributed computing) and sharing it does use a lot of bandwidth. However, that isn’t going to effect your connection at all. If anything, it’d actually make your ISP faster if they were sharing infrastructure because the intelligence agencies would force the ISPs to upgrade to meet their demands.

The reason your ISP has such shitty service is completely unrelated – it’s because they are shitty companies that have a monopoly or duopoly with no incentive to improve services. Why spend money on upgrading your network when it isn’t going to bring you more customers and you aren’t going to lose existing customers? No competition…

Anonymous Coward says:

I get the feeling the boner is trying to muster up support for “special” protection of his ilk, strumming the worlds smallest violin for the poor “inocent” ilk who might get a terrorist induced common cold….the poor sods…….imaginary causes are so inconsiderate

Now, on a serious note, How about this boner, ill care for the safety of the likes of yourselve as much as the effort you put into rights of the common man, which is absolutely zilch. Fair?

Padpaw (profile) says:

why don’t we just arrest those FBI agents that are actively planning terrorist acts against americans? Does it really matter that they have no intention of going through with it in the end.

I would assume according to all the fear mongering laws they had put in place that even choosing to support “fake” terrorist plots should be a felony at this point no matter who you are.

But of course I forget that these people are treated as above the laws they inflict on everyone else

DOlz (profile) says:

What we need now

What we need is for someone the FBI is trying to recruit to document the whole thing. How they encouraged them, offered to provide the material, gave them a target, … the whole shebang. Then before the FBI can issue a press release they go to the press and report how they a lowly private citizen uncovered a plot to create a terriorist organization on American soil.

Jack says:

Re: What we need now

That couldn’t ever possibly happen – for something like that to happen the target would have to be intelligent and organized – and the FBI would NEVER target someone like that.

The FBI doesn’t even just go for the low hanging fruit – they just pick it up after it falls onto their laps. Without a steady stream of “terrorism” cases being solved and paraded about, the FBI would never be able to justify the amount of money that gets showered on them in the name of fighting domestic terrorism. Plus, if they stopped catching “terrorists” the masses might start to see through their bullshit and want some of their civil liberties back.

GEMont (profile) says:

Manufacturing Terror

A closer examination of the records – telephone and internet – in this case will likely reveal that Christopher Lee Cornell was led by the nose into his new religion by either the same crook looking to shorten his sentence – apparently a common employee type of the Feds these days – or by someone pretending to be a female and promising lurid sexual favors in return for Christopher’s lip-service to a new god.

These manufactured terror scenarios usually seem to follow the same pattern – one that works very well, most of the time, to lure the weak minded into becoming poster boys for the federal government’s Terrorist-under-every-bed Propaganda Programs, designed to instill the fear of The Islamic Bogeymen into the hearts and minds of Americans and to squeeze out every possible dime of tax money for the use of phony anti-terror programs – known internally as yacht funds.

In my opinion, the tremendous cost and manpower output needed to manufacture these phony terrorist plots is plain proof that real terrorists are difficult to find, if they exist at all.

Dave Cortright says:

An apt quote

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

—Hermann Göring
Nazi Reichsmarschall and founder of the Gestapo

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