Supposed Terrorist Gets 20 Years In Prison For Uploading A Bomb-Making Video An FBI Agent Made For Him
from the continuing-the-FBI's-proud-post-2001-tradition dept
The FBI’s shift from law enforcement to counter-terrorism began shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, but really took off about a decade later, when it got into the business of radicalizing internet randos to turn them into “terrorists” worth hitting with material support charges.
While the FBI continued to pretend it was making the world safer, it racked up plenty of criticism for its tactics. A lot of what FBI undercover agents did in far too many terrorist support cases looked an awful lot like entrapment. FBI informants pushed ISIS-curious people towards acts of violence. And they went further than just offering verbal support. The FBI literally materially supported these supposed “terrorists,” buying them supplies and weapons, handing them cash to spend on necessities, and writing scripts/operating cameras for ISIS allegiance videos.
Here’s another one for the FBI’s dubious anti-terrorism rap sheet: another person who found himself communicating with fake terrorists (undercover agents) who nudged him down the path towards terrorist acts. And when that nudging wasn’t producing results quickly enough for the FBI, the undercover agent basically did all the terrorist homework for the suspect, giving him enough proverbial rope to allow the FBI to hang him.
Here’s the end result of the FBI’s questionable efforts:
United States Attorney Roger Handberg announces today that a Florida man was sentenced today to 20 years in federal prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release, for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, also known as ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
According to the DOJ’s press release, Romeo Langhorne “pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014.” Then nothing much happened for almost a half-decade. In late 2018/early 2019, Langhorne appeared to have rediscovered his appreciation for ISIS and began posting pro-ISIS content to social media platforms and hanging out in pro-ISIS chatrooms.
That’s when the FBI inserted one of its own into the mix.
In February 2019, Langhorne began communicating with an undercover employee (UCE) of the FBI who was posing as someone working on behalf of ISIS. Langhorne told the UCE about his plans to create and disseminate an instructional video on making TATP and sought the UCE’s assistance in creating the video.
Langhorne got way more than “assistance.” All Langhorne contributed to the video were ideas. It was the undercover employee who actually put together the video.
During the summer of 2019, Langhorne sent multiple messages to the UCE for assistance with creating a Nasheed, which is a form of Islamic vocal music. Langhorne stated he wanted the Nasheed to include a particular recording of an ISIS member yelling “Allahu Akbar” while breaking out of prison, as well as a clip of children saying, “kill them all.” Langhorne explained that he wanted the Nasheed “to encourage justified retaliation” against the United States for its role in killing Muslims.
The FBI produced a video in accordance with Langhorne’s instructions, but – unbeknownst to Langhorne – it featured an inert chemical formula for TATP that would not produce an explosion. In November 2019, the UCE provided versions of the TATP video to Langhorne, and Langhorne distributed the video by uploading it to a video-sharing website.
Who knows what would have happened if the FBI agent had simply refused to make the video? What if the agent had pushed back on Langhorne’s demands by insisting Langhorne do the work himself? Would the video ever have been made? Or what if — and hear me out — the UCE had pointed out to Langhorne that what he was asking for was not only illegal but would make him culpable for any violent acts stemming from the video’s distribution? Maybe simply pointing out the legal ramifications or suggesting extremists (not just Muslim extremists) would use the information to harm innocent people would have forced Langhorne to reconsider his love for ISIS — something that seemed largely limited to being obnoxious on the internet.
Sure, it’s foolhardy to play armchair quarterback. But one wonders if FBI informants and undercover operatives ever try to nudge people off the path to terrorism, rather than propel them forward towards their inevitable arrest.
And the fact that the FBI did all the production work on the video makes this statement from an FBI official unintentionally hilarious.
“The willingness of this dangerous individual to go to great lengths to harm innocent Americans was always very real,” said FBI Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge Sherri E. Onks, “but through hard work and determination, the FBI Jacksonville Joint Terrorism Task Force successfully disrupted his plan early on, and averted a threat to the safety of our community.”
It was the FBI UCE that went “to great lengths.” Langhorne hung out in chat rooms and sent text messages to the undercover agent every time a new video idea occurred to him. But it doesn’t look like he went to any lengths, much less “great” ones, to “harm innocent Americans.” He talked a lot but when it came to action, he couldn’t even be bothered to engage in the actual production of the video. And someone who takes five years off from engaging in pro-ISIS antics is hardly the sort of monomaniacal threat he’s being portrayed as by FBI personnel willing to congratulate themselves for putting Langhorne on a leash and walking him into an arrest.