The FBI Says Its Homegrown Terrorist Stings Are Nothing More Than A Proactive Fight Against 'Going Dark'

from the MADE-WITH-PRIDE-IN-THE-USA! dept

The New York Times is taking a look at the FBI's battle against terrorism (not the first time it's done this) -- namely, its near-total reliance on sting operations to round up would-be terrorists. As the Times' Eric Lichtblau points out, stings used to be a last-resort tactic. Now, it's standard operating procedure. Two out of every three terrorism prosecutions begin with undercover agents nudging citizens and immigrants toward acts of violence and "material support." In some cases, the FBI agents are doing all the work themselves.

The FBI, of course, maintains that these terrorists would have acted on their own without the agency's intercession -- even though it seems to be placing a rather heavy finger on the scale.

While F.B.I. officials say they are careful to avoid illegally entrapping suspects, their undercover operatives are far from bystanders. In recent investigations from Florida to California, agents have helped people suspected of being extremists acquire weapons, scope out bombing targets and find the best routes to Syria to join the Islamic State, records show.

According to the agency, this stuff that looks like entrapment is nothing more than expedience.

“We’re not going to wait for the person to mobilize on his own time line,” said Michael B. Steinbach, who leads the F.B.I.’s national security branch. He added that the F.B.I. could not afford to “just sit and wait knowing the individual is actively plotting.”

I guess this all depends on your definition of "actively plotting." In cases we've covered here (and mentioned in the NYT article), federal agents have done everything from script and film "declaration of intent" videos to purchase all of the supplies needed for a "terrorist attack" they planned from start to finish.

The rogues gallery compiled by the FBI over the past half-decade is hardly threatening. It includes senior citizens, mentally-disabled teens, would-be terrorists who weren't even threatening enough to get their mothers to give them back their passports, and an assortment of extremely-impressionable young men who were all talk and no action.

While the FBI maintains it's doing nothing wrong, former FBI agents and intelligence community members aren't so sure.

“They’re manufacturing terrorism cases,” said Michael German, a former undercover agent with the F.B.I. who researches national security law at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. In many of the recent prosecutions, he said, “these people are five steps away from being a danger to the United States.”

Karen J. Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University, said undercover operations had become the norm for the F.B.I. in the most recent Islamic State cases, with little debate or understanding of how the bureau actually conducts its investigations, especially its online stings.

“I think the F.B.I. is really going down the wrong path with a lot of these ISIS cases,” she said…

When pressed to defend aggressive sting operations, FBI officials fall back on one their favorite scapegoats: encryption.

“When the bad guys turn to encrypted areas, we’re dark, and the only way to gain a better understanding of what we’re up against may be through an undercover,” Mr. Steinbach said.

But exactly how much terrorism is this stopping? There's no way to gauge the effectiveness of these tactics other than to count up successful prosecutions, as the FBI likes to do. What the FBI says is the "least intrusive" method of fighting terrorism often appears to be nothing more than padding the stats. As long as the FBI can continue to chalk up terrorism prosecutions, it can avail itself of a nearly-bottomless well of funding. The agency has shifted its focus to intelligence rather than law enforcement since 2001, and nothing brings in the bucks like counterterrorism efforts.

Does it make us safer? That's also unquantifiable, although every day that goes by without a successful domestic terrorist attack could theoretically be added to the "win" column. But it's hard to believe these sting operations are actually taking credible threats out of circulation.

The FBI's tactics have a lot in common with the DEA/ATF's reliance on stash house robbery stings -- busts in which no actual drug dealers, weapons suppliers, weapons, or drugs are actually taken off the street. Everything inside the bogus stash houses exists only in the minds of the undercover agents. The only tangible aspect of the sting operations are the sentences handed down, the length of which is determined by the total amount of drugs federal agents say was "present" in the stash house that never existed and was never robbed.

Both "wars" being fought by law enforcement seem to be incredibly counterproductive. Four decades of drug warring has done almost nothing to stop the flow of illicit drugs into the country. What it has done, however, is turn the manufacturing countries into violent hellholes.

As for the War on Terror, the only terrorists being locked up appear to be those pushed and cajoled into acting out undercover agents' fantasies. The terrorist threat in other parts of the world remains almost unchanged, despite a decade-plus of FBI counterterrorist operations and CIA drone strikes. Here, too, there appears to be a certain amount of "looking busy" -- treadmill-like activity that does little to attack the threat but still guarantees a healthy budget year after year.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:10am

    When you can't find the terrorists...

    it's time to manufacture a few to keep those pesky Americans afraid!

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:15am

    Mixed feelings

    While the entrapments feel sketchy, I'm not sure what we expect the FBI to do instead.

    Everyone is asking why we couldn't have prevented the Orlando. But in general, the question to ask is - when the FBI finds people they suspect to be dangerous, what should they do? They can't arrest them till they commit a crime. They probably shouldn't tail them 24/7, keep them under electronic surveillance, or restrict their gun/travel rights for 5 years in the off chance that their hunch was right.

    So they've chosen to press the issue by trying to push the suspects to do things that prove they have intention to cause harm (e.g. push a button that the suspect thinks is attached to explosives). If the suspect doesn't fall for that (At one point, there were secret informants assigned to this Orlando guys case. It appears he was one that didn't fall for the entrapment tricks.), then what?

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:26am

      Re: Mixed feelings

      What they should not do is to talk people into engaging in illegal acts.

      If the feds seriously believe that a specific person is going to do something dangerous, then they should do what cops do: put them under surveillance and arrest them the moment that they actually break a law.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re: Mixed feelings

        Oh, what a tangled web we weave
        When first we practice to deceive!


        If the solution to stopping evil elements is to become evil yourself, are you really achieving anything?

        These all draw parallels to a meme from Batman that says, You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. They were discussing a bit about Rome but even though it is from a bit of entertainment we all can identify with it because entertainment is often a product of humanity reflecting on life.

        There is a specific clarity and quality obtained by a Nation that refuses to participate in deception, spying, espionage, or secrecy.

        America is certainly going down a very dark road, one that makes us the villain and people are still busy fighting over how to split the scraps from the table. We have yet to take notice that we are becoming what we fought to be free from!

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        • identicon
          Eponymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:25am

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          "If the solution to stopping evil elements is to become evil yourself"

          So, watching a suspect from a distance is evil, but entrapping patsies is cool?

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

            Other way around. It is wrong to entrap, that is what becoming evil to stop evil means.
            Just observing is not wrong, provided there is a warrant or its in a public place.

            Did I goof up somewhere in there to make it seem the other way?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          no worries much of the rest of the world has noticed. To the extent that governments are warning their citizens not to travel to America.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re: Mixed feelings

        "If the feds seriously believe that a specific person is going to do something dangerous, then they should do what cops do: put them under surveillance and arrest them the moment that they actually break a law."


        You mean the way the Russian authorities were closely watching the Tsarnaev brothers? We all saw how well that worked out after they handed the case over to the FBI with dire warnings about their terrorist intent, which the FBI basically just ignored.

        It was because the FBI could have --and should have-- prevented the Boston Marathon Bombing, but instead completely botched it, the agency was forced to "save us" time and again from numerous fake terrorist operations to divert public attention away from the real terrorist operations like the Boston Marathon Bombing that the FBI was responsible for through its gross incompetence and sheer neglect.

        The FBI's creation of these prefabricated terrorist plots to game their win/loss ratio at preventing terrorism has been an effective propaganda tool for corralling public support, so it's not likely to end anytime soon.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:41am

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          The FBI's creation of these prefabricated terrorist plots to game their win/loss ratio at preventing terrorism has been an effective propaganda tool for corralling public support, so it's not likely to end anytime soon.

          That is pretty much the end game right there!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:51am

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          Kind of weird though that there was such a heavy police presence at the marathon, to the extent that they held a bomb drill at a library nearby, snipers on the roofs and bomb sniffing dogs going through the crowd.

          Not to mention the Craft mercs all wearing the exact same type of backpacks the brothers used to conceal their pressure bombs.

          Even more interesting is how they had the backpacks on before the bombs went off, but all the footage of after the bombs exploded none of the mercs had their backpacks anymore.

          Quite odd wouldn't you say.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 11:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          But how could they have prevented the Boston bombing? The Russian's gave the warning in 2011 (two years before the bombing). Did we expect the FBI to follow law-abiding brothers around non-stop for years until they drop a backpack somewhere?

          My point is that the FBI (for good reason) can't do anything until a crime is committed. Did we want the FBI watching the brothers for 5 years, or 10 years? Supposing they had the resources, do we want them watching the other thousands (millions?) of people on watch lists who may or may not ever commit a crime?

          If the FBI had got an informant in there to get the brothers to 'explode' a fake bomb back in 2011 instead of 2013, would that have been preferable? And if so, how would we tell if that was a good job by the FBI, rather than a bad case of entrapment?

          I don't have any good answers to these questions - other than perhaps we should get the nation and FBI to quit trying to take blame (and subsequently try to obtain minority report powers) every time they fail to catch a violent criminal.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 3:38pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

            "I don't have any good answers to these questions"

            I don't have a good answer, but I have a realistic answer. People and the agencies themselves need to stop expecting that it's possible to catch every bad guy before he does something bad.

            It's just not going to happen. Further, the harder everyone tries to make it happen, the more our society degenerates into the very thing that we have been afraid of for generations.

            The realistic answer is: we do the best we can do without sacrificing our principles, liberties, or freedoms. When bad guys kill people, we have to recognize that it's not necessarily because the cops failed to do their jobs right.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 12:35am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

            "But how could they have prevented the Boston bombing? The Russian's gave the warning in 2011 (two years before the bombing). Did we expect the FBI to follow law-abiding brothers around non-stop for years until they drop a backpack somewhere?"

            If I'm not mistaken, at least one of the brothers had been in trouble multiple times with the law, suspected of murder (but not had a case built against him yet) and was known to be a fanatical religious convert. Following him may have been a better use of time than talking otherwise law abiding citizens into invented plots.

            "Supposing they had the resources, do we want them watching the other thousands (millions?) of people on watch lists who may or may not ever commit a crime?"

            That might be a good idea. In that case, the expense might get the watch lists reduced to only list people who actually pose a threat, rather than the useless random collection of names you have now.

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        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 4:29pm

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          You mean the way the Russian authorities were closely watching the Tsarnaev brothers? We all saw how well that worked out after they handed the case over to the FBI with dire warnings about their terrorist intent, which the FBI basically just ignored.

          Maybe, and this might sound crazy but hear me out, maybe if they weren't so focused on creating haystacks they'd be better able to spot the needles in time. Maybe if they weren't so focused on creating 'terrorists' to bust they'd be able to spot the real thing before it became a moot point.

          Crazy I know, but just a thought.

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          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 17 Jun 2016 @ 7:40am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

            Follow the $$$. Private companies are making out like bandits over government paranoia. The last thing we need is a pre-crime division, which is what some people appear to be suggesting.

            RE: Orlando, the shooter was mostly law-abiding and had a license to carry guns until he killed.

            So... do we keep a closer eye on closeted gay Muslims with a history of domestic violence complaints in case they go mad and murder people? He'd been checked out for talking smack, then for a distant connection to an actual suicide bomber. After he got married and went quiet he fell off the radar. No amount of pre-crime cleverness is going to prevent another Orlando.

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            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 7:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

              "The last thing we need is a pre-crime division, which is what some people appear to be suggesting. "

              Only if you take it to ridiculous extremes. Pre-crime as in the Minority Report term is a problem because it involves arresting and convicting people before they have committed any crime.

              But I don't think that's what most people are asking for. Most actual terrorist suspects were known to authorities to have behaved in a suspicious manner or have a history of other behaviour that indicates intent. This includes the Orlando shooter. What people are saying is build a case and take action if and when necessary once evidence has been compiled to show a crime is to be carried out. Conspiracy to commit a felony is itself a crime.

              That's not "pre-crime", that's simply surveillance and intelligence gathering, taking action when necessary. if evidence is available to show that a crime is being planned, that should be enough to convict without having to wait for people to die.

              "After he got married and went quiet he fell off the radar."

              Not entirely true. For example, he was reported to authorities after attempting to buy body armour and a large amount of ammunition.

              http://abcnews.go.com/US/orlando-shooter-turned-gun-store-suspicious/story?id=39901107

              His actions were known, even if intent was not at that point. The tragedy could have been prevented by not waiting around until he shot people. Evidence that he was planning something was available.

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              • identicon
                Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Jun 2016 @ 2:30am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

                I didn't know about the body armour, etc.

                Most actual terrorist suspects were known to authorities to have behaved in a suspicious manner or have a history of other behaviour that indicates intent. This includes the Orlando shooter. What people are saying is build a case and take action if and when necessary once evidence has been compiled to show a crime is to be carried out. Conspiracy to commit a felony is itself a crime.

                So... are we suggesting some kind of programme that flags up sudden large purchases of military-type gear? Works for me. Mind you, it'd put Preppers on the watch list.

                We've also got to bear in mind American gun culture: I can imagine a lot of resistance to the idea that buying a lot of guns and ammo makes you a terrorist suspect.

                I agree with you, but fear that others wouldn't.

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      • icon
        Rapnel (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 5:17pm

        Re: Re: Mixed feelings

        I'm not exactly a walking moral compass but it strikes me as awkward and ineffective that our focus on "preventing crime" is one focused exactly on punishment.

        We have an overabundance of effective and non-intrusive means of "surveillance".

        Why doesn't a sting have a first phase that attempts to break things up? What's the aversion to:

        1. "Hey, tough guy, my friends think you're doing something stupid. You should probably not be this particular brand of stupid, ever.".

        2. "Psst. Hey, I'm from law enforcement and I don't want to see bad things happen to good people, you or anyone else. I happen to know you're being watched. Some folks think you're a pretty evil guy and might blow shit up. So if you are then you're fucked but if you're not then now is a good time to stop pretending and find something else to do that will make you happy".

        What the fuck's wrong with a warning? A little education can go a long way.

        Pro-tip: Preventing crime is not a reaction. Nor is it gaining access to things you can not see. It's using what you have at your disposal to peacefully identify and diffuse a potentially life threatening situation.

        Since when does "keeping us safe" equate to "Whatever I can bust, I bust! And if I can't bust it then I'm going to work it until I can. Boo-yah."?

        Law enforcement has too much and everything they gain, collectively, we loose, collectively. Count on it.

        Boo.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:30am

      Re: Mixed feelings

      You literally can't find single terrorists without creating a full totalitarian state that doesn't mind throwing huge numbers of innocent people in jail.

      Let's imagine we have a magical terrorist detector that has two properties: 1) if a person is a terrorist, it will detect them 100% of the time; and 2) if a person is not a terrorist, it has a 1:1,000 chance of falsely identifying them as a terrorist. This is obviously *way* better than anything real, but even so, we'd still be screwed at finding terrorists.

      Let's assume a huge number of people are terrorists: say 3,000 of 300,000,000 people in the US. Our detector would find all 3,000 real terrorists (great!) but *300,000* "false-positive" non-terrorists (not-great!). Even with our amazing detector and a huge number of terrorists in the US, only 1% of the people picked up are actual terrorists.

      Since real terrorist detectors are much worse (high false negative and positive rates) and terrorists are likely much rarer, there is no way we can stop lone-wolf terrorists. All this hand-wringing about what the government should have done--and the loss of civil liberties that follows--is, from a mathematical perspective, insane.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:57am

        Re: Re: Mixed feelings

        This is a direct correlation to the mental shift that has occurred in America.

        Everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

        Due to how cowardly and unreasonable Americans have become we want Government to pull out all of the stops to protect us. Americans refuse to accept that the government cannot stop terrorism or murder.

        Just look at the 2nd amendment debate. Every able bodied citizen in America should own a firearm, be trained in its use, and ready to form a militia in the defense of the nation at a moments notice against all enemies foreign and domestic.

        You cannot save anything by taking away their guns, but you sure have an easier time oppressing them.

        We need to sit up and recognize that government cannot and will never be a preventative force, they are a force for retribution! At best they can become a deterrence, but mistakes will be made, 9/11 will happen and so will Florida.

        We need to just sit back and ask, is there anything we can do better without removing liberty? If not then we did what we could, hope we get them next time before it happens.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 12:42am

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          "You cannot save anything by taking away their guns, but you sure have an easier time oppressing them."

          Yeah, look at the oppression in countries without a gun obsession!

          Wait, most first world countries have the same basic rights as you, they just don't have the huge numbers of gun related massacres to accompany them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 9:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

            One, it is physically impossible to remove all guns in the US. The Second Amendment, lobbyists, already established illegal supply lines, citizens refusing to give up their weapons, cops refusing to give up their "safety", I could go on. It ain't going to happen, trying to make it happen just takes time, money, and energy away from potentially finding another solution.

            Two, there are other countries out there with lots of guns and no mass shooting issue. That suggests that the issue is not with the guns, but with the people. Magically removing all guns might stem the tide, but it's not going to stop.

            So quit bitching about guns, find the source of the problem, and solve it. It ain't as easy as shouting "BAN GUNS" and doing absolutely nothing productive, but it at least would be going in the right direction.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 12:41am

        Re: Re: Mixed feelings

        "You literally can't find single terrorists without creating a full totalitarian state that doesn't mind throwing huge numbers of innocent people in jail."

        Or... you could use the existing infrastructure which already flags most of the terrorists before they do anything, but is so full of useless extra information that the real dangers often get lost in the mix. From the infamous "Bin laden determined to attack the US" memo and the corresponding known person who was learning to fly but refused to learn the landing to the recent Orlando killer, the information was in their hands. They had been found, the information just hadn't been acted upon yet.

        "All this hand-wringing about what the government should have done--and the loss of civil liberties that follows--is, from a mathematical perspective, insane."

        Except it's not about maths. The government, most of the time, already had the information necessary to prevent a lot of these attacks. They just need to make the information useful.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:45am

      Re: Mixed feelings

      The war on "terror" has nothing to do with actually capturing terrorists. PPL need to realize this from jump. It is an excuse. Just like communism back in the day.
      http://toprightnews.com/disney-issued-warning-about-orlando-terrorist-to-fbi-in-april-bureau-did-not hing/

      So here we had someone that was already on a "watch list" with PPL warning about him:
      "The FBI insanely dismissed the claims as coming from “Islamophobic” co-workers who “oppressed” him in the workplace, and dropped the case."

      A major entity Disney, also called the FBI and nothing was done.
      "The FBI was tipped off about Mateen by Walt Disney World in Orlando back in April. Local reporter Carla Ray from WFTV Orlando issued updates via her Twitter account:"

      So dont kid yourself into thinking the letter agencies give one shit about your safety or security. They don't.
      -
      After all... there are many borderline retards out there to push into looking like a terrorist... with the FBI's complicity.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:55am

        Re: Re: Mixed feelings

        So; see something say something is just a means of keeping the people paranoid, and not a means of finding terrorists then?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 12:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: Mixed feelings

          Yep, and adds to the chilling effect of shutting dissenters up and add to the affect of people unwilling to organize in case they become the next "terrorist" organization just from their innocent words or activities alone.

          When you cannot step outside of your door without thinking to neighbor is a dirty terrorist shit gets really fucking dark real fucking quick.

          In fact, the "See Something, Say Something" campaign will only make things worse... never in the history of human kind has creating a public "rat out your fellow citizen" campaign ever achieved more good than evil.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:44am

      Re: Mixed feelings

      we only have the FBI's word on this though. Their word means nothing. They lie constantly, break laws and steal from people.

      Why anyone would believe an organization this corrupt I have no idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 11:51am

      Re: Mixed feelings

      "So they've chosen to press the issue by trying to push the suspects to do things that prove they have intention to cause harm "

      Yeah, entrapment is the best plan!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pseudonym, 16 Jun 2016 @ 8:48pm

      Re: Mixed feelings

      I'm not sure what we expect the FBI to do instead.


      That's easy. Imagine for a moment that this is literally any other type of crime. Now ask yourself what the FBI should do. Your answer to that question is the what I expect the FBI to do.

      There is this thing known as community policing. It's based on a very simple idea: If there is some group within the community which is at risk of being involved in crime, the right thing to do is work with the community to divert those vulnerable people away from a possible life of crime and into being productive, included members of society.

      The best time to stop a crime is before it happens. The best way to stop a crime is to make sure that a would-be criminal never becomes a criminal in the first place. Steer them away from crime, don't lure them into it.

      If some law enforcement agency had been setting up fake gangs to lure African-American kids, there would be outrage. We all know that kids who are at risk of joining criminal gangs need to be pointed away from gangs, not lured into fake gangs just so the police can get a headline.

      Do we as a society want to be seen as being tough on crime, or do we actually want to reduce crime? That's the question you need to take seriously.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:34am

    Proof, please

    "'When the bad guys turn to encrypted areas...'"

    So these ragtag "combatants" were all big encryption users? Hmm? Or are you just worried that someone, somewhere might use encrypted communications someday, even though there's not much evidence of that.

    Sounds like the new one-size-fits-all excuse from the Bureau has become "because encryption."

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  • icon
    freedomfan (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:42am

    The FBI et al. as the top producer of terrorism in the US ?

    At some point, we have to ask: If most of the "terrorist plots" being prosecuted by the feds are plots that were conceived, promoted, and enabled by the feds themselves, then aren't the feds the number one terrorist organization in the country? I am not claiming to know the statistics (if they are even tabulated), but I think it's a relevant question. If, for instance, the FBI is saying it stopped 30 terrorist plots last year, then we need to ask: For how many of those plots is there convincing evidence that the plot would have have actually been carried out (or even existed at all) if the FBI hadn't taken an active hand in advancing it? 20 of the 30? 10 of the 30? 3 of the 30?

    BTW, I mention this not to be cute, but to get it out there that this may be an effective way to present the problem in terms that more people can understand. People are often willing to overlook outrageous policy if they think it's the only way to address a problem. But, they might be less inclined to do so if it becomes clear that the problem is largely one created by the policy and that same policy is very much blurring the lines between the purported good guys and bad guys.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 9:58am

      Re: The FBI et al. as the top producer of terrorism in the US ?

      My guess is closer to 0 of 30.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 11:59am

      Re: The FBI et al. as the top producer of terrorism in the US ?

      just like they cannot be charged with distributing child pornography, they also are exempt to any charges relating to creating terrorist plots.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:05am

    Are we having the wrong discussion here?

    If the FBI needs to entrap people to keep us all safe - let them do it. If the FBI needs to break iPhones to keep us all safe - let them do it. If they need to use National Security letters to bypass constitutional protections to keep us all safe - let them use them.

    However, after 15 years of giving the FBI everything they requested to keep us the safe, they are not keeping us safe. People are dying because the FBI are not doing their job.

    The only question that matters is if the FBI is doing it wrong, or if it is simply impossible to stop terrorists with the current approach (surveillance, pre-emptive arrests, killing their leaders overseas).

    In the first case, the security agencies need to be motivated to deliver what they promise, in the second case, they'll need to be cut back to free up resources to implement other strategies to keep us safe.

    For 15 years we have been asked to give up freedom in return for security. Security that has not been delivered.

    It is time to introduce accountability into the equation, and put Mr Comey and his peers on notice. Every time people die, they have failed, and they need see conquences!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 12:00pm

      Re: Are we having the wrong discussion here?

      It has never had anything to do with security that's just an excuse. The real goal has been turning a supposedly free and democratic nation into a police state.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 4:26pm

      Re: Are we having the wrong discussion here?

      If the FBI needs to entrap people to keep us all safe - let them do it. If the FBI needs to break iPhones to keep us all safe - let them do it. If they need to use National Security letters to bypass constitutional protections to keep us all safe - let them use them.

      No.

      Cameras in every home, real-time tracking of position and scanning software going round the clock over everything people say, write or send would stop a ton of crimes, but that wouldn't make any of it right.

      Life carries risk, that's just how it goes, and a free life, one without someone always looking over your shoulder and watching your every action for potential harm carries a bit more, but that doesn't mean the proper response is to toss out any limits on those in charge and let them do whatever they need to in order to 'eliminate' or 'reduce' risk, even if that worked.

      Only the naive or cowardly think that a life without risk is possible. The more sensible way to look at it is instead to take reasonable steps to reduce risk, accept that sometimes bad things will happen, that injuries and even deaths will occur but that life goes on, and that some costs are just too high to pay.

      'It works therefore it's acceptable' is an 'Ends justify the means' argument, bad enough on an individual basis but far worse when applied to the actions of a body with as much power as a major government agency.

      So no, if actions like those are what it took to 'keep us all safe' they still wouldn't be acceptable, as I'd much prefer a little more danger if that's the price for freedom and privacy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:29am

    What's the methodology?

    What kind of methodology is the FBI using to "entice" or entrap would-be terrorists? Are they going after dark-skinned people who might have ties to the Middle East (which is an obvious choice)?
    Are they going looking for white males who have become alienated with the world, such as the shooters in Denver, Sandy Hook, etc?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 3:53pm

      Re: What's the methodology?

      Based upon their actions the number one 'qualifying feature' they seem to look for is not skin tone or ties to the 'wrong' part of the globe, it's intelligence, namely lack of. The dumber the 'suspect' the easier it is for them to guide them into saying and/or doing the wrong thing, at which point they've got their 'terrorist'.

      They're not looking for people smart enough to actually commit crimes, they're looking for people stupid enough to fall into their traps and become yet another tally on the 'Terrorists Caught' list. There is no chance, none that they thought an 18 year old with the mind of a child was ever even so much as a potential terrorist for example, but he sure did make for an easy 'win' and that's all that mattered to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:34am

    These are are not stings this is creating terrorism to justify the constant erosion of your civil liberties and rights.

    I suspect some of the more "successful" terrorist attacks are ones that the FBI lost control of and refuse to admit they set it up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 10:43am

    To fix the problem, we are going to create the problem and hope to inspire other people to take action.

    How can we keep our budget flowing if we don't keep making the problems worse?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 16 Jun 2016 @ 11:09am

    Re: stopping Orlando

    Of course, you could also make the argument that the FBI should be devoting investigative resources in to people identified as risks (like the Orlando guy) instead of Creating and Orchestrating these trumped-up charges against people that barely seem to be capable of operating as autonomous humans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 12:04pm

      Re: Re: stopping Orlando

      I heard the orlando shooter was actually a former informant for the FBI. Why they ignored him, even though he was on their list.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 12:25pm

        Re: Re: Re: stopping Orlando

        lets look at the real potential insidious side of this.

        They do not care about stopping ALL plots, this will not serve their purpose. You can Achieve two wonderful effects with manufacturing terrorism and simultaneously not catching them all.

        #1. You get to keep the subject matter in the public eye.
        #2. A fear driven people will make mistakes and easily give up their rights and liberties.
        #3. Really easy to play off mistakes, especially disastrous ones.
        #4. Now that you have all the 3 above, just let random terrorism happen to reinforce the terror and simultaneously get even your own genuinely caring members of law enforcement to play patsy to all of your schemes.

        Playing humans is not a new trick. Everything in the play book the American Government is running on terrorist was all borrowed from the days since before the Romans.

        Its effective, it works, people are confirmed to be cowards!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 16 Jun 2016 @ 1:54pm

    Really?

    Is it really Islamic terrorism and a hate crime if some guy shoots up the gay bar he's been patronizing for 3 years? More like someone with self-image issues and a need to excuse their warped self-loathing.

    As for entrapment - I can't help but equate it with the "Mister Big" technique used in Canada (and banned in much of the rest of the western world). The cops set up a friendship where the suspect in a crime is gradually introduced to some alleged gang big shot, with loads of money spent on parties, trips, and other perks. The suspect then has to show his bona fides to be with the "in" crowd by describing the crime he committed. The flaws are obvious - even if they have the right person, boastfulness or fear may cause the person to produce a false confession. The police even tried this on the mother of a kidnapped girl (Tori Stafford) under the mistaken impression her drug habit had something to do with the kidnapping; they've had an undercover cop shot by a suspect who was felt threatened when told he had to confess, and so on.

    Sorry, I have trouble understanding how such a technique as the FBI used is not entrapment. As I understand, the threshold is "would they have committed such a crime anyway?" If the FBI supplies the suggestion, the weapons, and suggests the target, where's the initiative and self-determination of the "suspect"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2016 @ 4:31pm

    It is impossible to ban math.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 17 Jun 2016 @ 2:05am

    Here's the problem

    While F.B.I. officials say they are careful to avoid illegally entrapping suspects, their undercover operatives are far from bystanders. In recent investigations from Florida to California, agents have helped people suspected of being extremists acquire weapons, scope out bombing targets and find the best routes to Syria to join the Islamic State, records show.

    So? They prove that people will behave differently in a hypothetical social and belief system that their agents create.

    But that's nothing new. People resisting their social pressures to a degree that they can actively engage in individual resistance are a small minority. Always have been. By far the most people follow their pack leaders. Extremist recruitment works via setting up structures where such pack leadership is readily available and shielded from outside tampering. That's dangerous and warrants tracing and breaking down.

    But the material for such structures to work with is readily available everywhere. It's the same as the material the "good guys" are predominantly working with.

    It's like arresting trees for arson after demonstrating that they are flammable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 2:33pm

    The Dissolution of America's make-believe reality

    Makes sense to me.

    Why risk waiting for a real terrorist to hit the target you want them to, when you can use your own troops to do the deed properly and effectively, at the time and place you desire, wearing the appropriate garb of whatever "group" you want to blame the event upon.

    Do enough of these faked "terrorist" stings and nobody will ever be able to guess that the next "real" terrorist attack was also staged by the same government agency, with a little help from the other tri-letter agencies to insure the follow up NEWS was properly manufactured for propaganda dissemination.

    Fascism has its advantages - for the fascists.

    The future of America looks downright interesting, in the sense of the Chinese Curse - "may your children live in interesting times".

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sparticus42, 19 Jun 2016 @ 6:20pm

    This is like street cleaners bragging about how good they're getting because they've hired a guy to stand on the roof top whispering "jump".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 20 Jun 2016 @ 11:52am

    It's Game None of Us Little People Can Afford to Play

    My next door neighbor showed me a stack of FOIA documents on himself that was a result of informing the government about the plot to assassinate Reagan.

    My neighbor saw Hinckley with others in his bar, and then Hinckley and the same couple again on the March 25th '81 taping of the Merv Griffin show as the camera panned the audience.

    For his good citizenship he lost his business and had to leave town to put his life back together.

    The list of good citizen's lives ruined by gov. spook agencies has to be long and extensive.

    Forget Russia, NK, or China rights abuses. If you're a US citizen and have damaging information about your government you are in as much danger of having your life ruined as citizens of those countries.

    Never forget that the number one job of government is to protect itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 20 Jun 2016 @ 6:15pm

    My question there is the same for all those "stings".
    Hope much time, effort and resources are spent on manufacturing imaginary drug stashes, dreamed-up weapon caches and fantasy terrorists?
    How many real threats could be caught early by chasing after actual drugs, weapons and terrorists instead?
    The numbers would be lower, but the return on investment much higher.

    This is not making any more safe than running after unicorns. (Nasty critters.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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