Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
doj, fbi, own plot, robert hester, terroism



Another 'Terrorist' Swept Up By The FBI, Which Had To Purchase $20 Of 'Terrorist' Supplies To Keep The 'Plan' In Motion

from the and-threatened-his-family,-which-is-a-nice-use-of-gov't-resources dept

Perhaps no entity generates more fake news than the FBI's counterterrorism unit. Several times a year, a press release is issued announcing the bust of a so-called terrorist. Almost invariably, the "terrorist" has been handcrafted through the relentless intercession of undercover FBI agents.

Here's how the DOJ website describes its latest self-crafted anti-terrorism coup:

Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr., 25, of Columbia, Missouri, was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Hester was charged in federal court based on his role in making preparations to launch a terrorist attack with persons he believed were associated with ISIS, who were actually undercover law enforcement personnel.

And here are the far more mundane and sad details behind the official statement, as provided by Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept.

Robert Lorenzo Hester of Columbia, Missouri, didn’t have the $20 he needed to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, and roofing nails his new FBI friends wanted him to get, so they gave him the money. The agents noted in a criminal complaint that Hester, who at one point brought his two small children to a meeting because he didn’t have child care, continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim.

This is the supposed terrorist who would have killed hundreds of people on President's Day if the FBI hadn't stepped in to intervene. But the FBI's "intervention" looks suspiciously like "encouragement…" or "entrapment."

[T]he only contact Hester had with ISIS was with the two undercover agents who suggested to him that they had connections with the group. The agents, who were in contact with him for five months, provided him with money and rides home from work as he dealt with the personal fallout of an unrelated arrest stemming from an altercation at a local grocery store.

Undercover agents began working with/on Hester shortly after this arrest. Seizing on his anti-government social media posts [good lord], the agents told Hester they could put him in touch with someone with direct terrorist connections. This "direct connection" was just another FBI agent. It was the FBI that suggested acquiring weapons. And it was the FBI who chose to take Hester seriously, despite his nonexistent terrorist group ("the Lion Guard") sporting a name that had been pulled from a cartoon his children watched.

It was also an FBI agent who suggested that even thinking about planning a terrorist attack was an irrevocable act -- and that entertaining second thoughts about committing acts of violence would be rewarded with acts of violence.

The agent cautioned Hester that once he decided to proceed there was “no turning back.” He also told Hester that under no circumstances was he to do conduct any sort of operation on his own. The agent, referred to in the complaint as UC-2, then “threatened to come back and find HESTER if he learned that HESTER reneged on the promise. For emphasis, and for the purpose of mitigating the security threat posed by HESTER, UC-2 displayed a knife and reminded HESTER that UC-2 knew where HESTER and his family lived, among other forceful words.”

After threatening his family, FBI agents continued to push Hester forward with "his" plan to commit an act of terrorism. His plans required $20 worth of supplies… which Hester couldn't afford. But Hester did promise to be more materially-supportive in the near future:

Hester promised that he would help buy ammunition for the weapons once he had received the money from his tax refund.

A lot of the FBI's standard counterterrorism M.O. is on display here. The agency prefers to work with people in desperate or dire circumstances -- people who don't have the financial independence or mental toughness needed to create and carry out plans on their own. And when they get cold feet, agents apparently suggest their dire circumstances will be made even worse. The end result is the government congratulating itself for rounding up "terrorists" that likely never would have gone beyond anti-government Facebook posts if they'd been left alone. And for the few who appear capable of committing violent acts, the government pushes these people towards extremism rather than attempt to pull them back from this precipice.


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  • identicon
    dr evil, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:05pm

    your mother must be so proud, mr. fbi guy

    but then again, she probably thinks you are like NCIS solving real crimes without doing cheesy entrapment ploys... gosh, the embarassment....

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

  • icon
    Advocate (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:09pm

    disgust.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:17pm

    houston, we have a problem.

    it is called credibility. since we know td being used by google as advertisement venue disguised as journalism, what are the guarantees this is any different?

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

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:25pm

    hmmm

    Apparently they gave him a chance to back out. He clearly wanted to do harm. I don't abide these types of stings, but the man clearly has issues, clearly is ready to use violence, and if not today, maybe tomorrow.

    ALso shows that asking peopel about their neighbors is a huge waste of time. "Ohhh he was always such a nice boy until we found his dad's head in the freezer"

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

    • identicon
      Eli, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:30pm

      Re: hmmm

      Thinking/talking about doing harm and having the will and ability to do it are totally different things. Its easy to rant online about wanting to kill people a lot harder to actually be willing and able to do it.

      FBI is more interested in making a big looking arrest than in getting people the help they need.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re: hmmm

        • Its easy to rant online about wanting to kill people a lot harder to actually be willing and able to do it.*

        Likewise, it's easy to aspire to chaos and destruction and violent overthrow of the system when you are literally on the bottom of it- the moment you actually have, say, $20 you could spend on the task, "I could do violence" is now actively competing with "Or I could have a slightly better life".

        I don't think it's a difficult to say that the former is much more attractive when it isn't competing with anything.

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

      • icon
        Machin Shin (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:36pm

        Re: Re: hmmm

        "Thinking/talking about doing harm and having the will and ability to do it are totally different things."

        For someone who "continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim." I'm guessing that having the will do do much of anything more than hunt down a bag of potato chips was probably asking a lot of him.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:44pm

      Re: hmmm

      Apparently they gave him a chance to back out.

      Sure, they gave him a chance...after they threatened to harm his family. If you were in his position, what would you have done?

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

      • identicon
        Daydream, 23 Feb 2017 @ 11:07pm

        Re: Re: hmmm

        You know...I've been waiting for a while for a story here on TechDirt where someone that the FBI are trying to entrap, calls the police on them.

        Does anyone know any such stories? Or is it the case that nobody actually trusts the police in America to arrest terrorists?

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

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 12:29am

          Informing on the plants

          We may not actually hear about it, especially if the terrorists pull rank on the local precinct officers.

          What I'd expect to happen is that the FBI would send more undercover agents as the police officers and they'd continue to try to trick the target into threatening national security.

          Some of the previous stories got pretty gaslighty, where the victim was worked on until he cut off his real friends in favor of his fake ones.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 12:44am

          Re: Re: Re: hmmm

          I'll preface this by stating that I can't seem to find the article that covered it, so the details might be off, but the closest I can think of was a case a few years back where either the FBI or another group sent someone to play 'terrorist recruiter' in a mosque in the US, the people there got suspicious and tried to report the agent, only to have pressure brought to bear on them in an attempt to turn them into unwilling informants.

          Like I said though, I can't find the article so the details might be somewhat off, though trying to force people to become informants and punishing those that refuse is S.O.P. for the FBI, so it's likely to be fairly close.

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

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 24 Feb 2017 @ 6:09am

          Re: Re: Re: hmmm

          Do a search on the terms "FBI" and "mosque" here in TD. Have fun!

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

    • identicon
      David, 24 Feb 2017 @ 7:07am

      Re: hmmm

      ALso shows that asking peopel about their neighbors is a huge waste of time. "Ohhh he was always such a nice boy until we found his dad's head in the freezer"

      More like "Ohhh he was always such a nice boy until we explained to him that his dad was evil incarnate and convinced him to cut off his head with the knife we gave him and put it in the freezer".

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

  • identicon
    Dave, 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:55pm

    Imagine if...

    Imagine if the same resources were deployed to unradicalize, this, or similar, persons.

    But then, America is in the business of slave prisons, so the more people arrested the better it is for business.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 1:44pm

      Re: Imagine if...

      Law enforcement officers - even in the federal branches - know that putting an end to crime means putting an end to their jobs. They also know that a lack of "results" will make their superiors unhappy.

      If they have to invent crimes to get "results", they will. If they have to convince otherwise innocent people to come within a hair's width of committing violence just to arrest those people and claim they were "radicalized terrorists", they will. Nothing is more important to LEOs than "getting results", even if those results come at the expense of people who would have committed no crimes if not for the cajoling of undercover agents of the state.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 4:52pm

      Re: Imagine if...

      Imagine if he was just ignored and left alone. He hardly seemed capable of doing a "get off my lawn" rant. Why waste any money on someone who is not a threat?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re: Imagine if...

        To get "results". To justify the existence of a certain job or office. To say "I got a terrorist off the street" and make it look like they are getting something done, even if they have to push a couch potato into becoming a suicide bomber.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 1:22pm

    When the fuck did a 9 volt battery, Duct tape, and roofing nails constitute terrorist materials?

    Did i miss the part where the guy's name is Macgyver?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      >When the fuck did a 9 volt battery, Duct tape, and roofing nails constitute terrorist materials?

      Have you forgotten about the signature weapon of the Bowling Green Massacre already?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 2:43pm

        Re: Re: Bowling Green Massacre

        Didn't that just happen Last Night in Sweden?

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

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 6:30pm

          The Columbia Debacle

          Why aren't there any jokes about The Columbia Massacre, yet?

          Personally I'm outraged that these continue to go on which does more damage by fueling fear than good.

          Wait...do these actually do good?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 1:29pm

    We really really need to demand they stop doing these stunts. They make us less safe by adding more fuel to the fire of they are profiling people. If we have to provide the $20 to make the case, there never was a case. If we have to threaten someone with a knife to stay with us OR ELSE...
    I revisit my previous comment about needing someone to investigate this terrorist organization call "F.B.I." they have launched more plots against the US than any other terrorist organization.

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170203/10532836625/real-controversy-over-non-existe nt-bowling-green-massacre-is-that-it-was-fbis-own-plot.shtml#c64

    We should get some department to look into these terrorists known as the 'FBI'. They create terrorist 'plots' to influence & frighten the public. They target individuals whom they can sway, by feeding them false information to get them to take the blame for the actions of the 'FBI'.

    They are working to undermine the freedoms of our homeland, using our own money & systems against us. This type of terrorism should be stopped. It is shameful that out leaders blindly supported these supposed allies who have created numerous plots we are aware of and quite possibly dozens more they hide from view, to maintain our financial and legal support while tearing the country apart.

    Our leadership is willing to turn a blind eye to these events, hoping to score political capital at the expense of the safety & well being of citizens. What kind of monsters would risk the safety of the country they pledged to protect, to get good soundbites while ignoring real threats to further a political agenda.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      The same ones that need to scare the population into allowing unconstitutional laws and rights reductions.

      Inalienable doesn't mean what it did in the 1700's apparently.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 1:55pm

    It seems to me FBI is putting forth a playbook for a real ISIS handler to use. If there are any real Jihadis here it wouldn't be difficult to or expensive to follow the same thing with a deadlier conclusion.

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

  • identicon
    Sunhawk, 23 Feb 2017 @ 3:16pm

    IANAL, but I suspect that if I were defending this guy, I'd definitely bring up the "threaten my client with a knife" in the context of "my client almost certainly felt coerced into continuing at this point".

    Among other problems.

    How many man-hours were spent on this one? To be honest, the only *actual* benefit of cases like this that I can see is that it might make people distrust those claiming to be able to hook them up with terrorist groups or encouraging them to commit crimes.

    But, on the other hand, so far it looks like the only people caught up in this kind of trap are pretty... err... well, not the most *skeptical* of people, shall we say?

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

  • identicon
    Chuck, 23 Feb 2017 @ 4:16pm

    Where are the "second amendment advocates" now?

    I was just thinking the other day after Trump's Muslim ban first went through "where are all those tea party nuts with their AR-15's when they could actually do something good?" All they would've had to do was organize a dozen of them, walk peacefully into the airports, walk right up to the TSA and say "you are detaining people who have every right to enter our country without legal right or warrant. We are here to escort them out of the airport peacefully. If you try to stop us, we will stop you." Sure, you'd have a mexican standoff for a few seconds, but this is the TSA we're talking about. NONE of those agents are going to take part in a gunfight.

    And here again. Why don't these "second amendment advocates" form a group, walk into whatever FBI field office this poor sod is being held in, and demand his release or else?

    Where are these "second amendment advocates" when their gun-toting could be used to ACTUALLY DEFEND SOMEONE?!

    Oh right, they're protesting Obamacare in front of the Lincoln Memorial again...

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

    • icon
      steell (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 4:44pm

      Re: Where are the "second amendment advocates" now?

      So, you're calling for armed resurrection while sitting comfortably in front of a computer screen?

      Are you an FBI Agent?

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

      • identicon
        Dr evil, 24 Feb 2017 @ 12:57am

        Re: Re: Where are the "second amendment advocates" now?

        Armed INsurrection. FTFY.

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

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 24 Feb 2017 @ 6:13am

          Re: Re: Re: Where are the "second amendment advocates" now?

          AGAIN with this?

          http://on-t-internet.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/come-revolution-good-luck-with-that.html

          Read, laugh, cry...

          ...then consider peaceful campaigning as an option for effecting regime change. Protip: if you can't find people to get on board with you, you're either barking up the wrong tree or too damn fussy about who you campaign with. Open your mind. You don't have to agree with your fellow campaigners all the time to work effectively with them.

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

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 6:36am

            Violent protest.

            I do sometimes have fantasies about sabotage campaigns.

            When the police departments were being coy about cellphone spoofing technology, I thought it would be interesting to topple their fake towers, since they couldn't say publicly what they were and why they were needed.

            Still, one has to be super careful to avoid causing injury.

            Maybe this is why hacktivism is in vogue.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 6:25am

          Re: Re: Re: Where are the "second amendment advocates" now?

          Actually, I kind of like "armed resurrection". Imagine Jesus bursting out of his tomb all terminator-style with a Minigun on one arm and a Grenade launcher on the other. I might go to church if there were more stories like that!

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

      • identicon
        Chuck, 26 Feb 2017 @ 11:07am

        Re: Re: Where are the "second amendment advocates" now?

        I'm not calling for violence. I was making a point.

        Whenever it's paying a 2 cent tax on their cigarettes to help combat the effects of second hand smoke, or someone telling the coal companies that pollute their very own drinking water that they have to spend a few extra dollars to bury their toxic coal dust in a manner that doesn't pollute the ground water, these "second amendment advocates" are all over that, showing up to protest with assault rifles and live ammo (though usually they do have good enough sense to keep the weapons unloaded. Usually.)

        But when it comes to, oh I don't know, ACTUALLY DEFENDING THE CONSTITUTION, they're nowhere to be found.

        The joke, in case you're not getting it, is that these "second amendment advocates" are all too happy to "adovcate" their one little amendment when it's in their favor. They fail to understand, though, that a true defender of the constitution would show up even when they don't agree with how the constitution affects them. A TRUE patriot and a TRUE defender of liberty would show up at abortion clinics and protect the women there from harm, rather than threatening them with eternal hell, EVEN IF they are personally opposed to abortion, because THAT'S what the constitution is all about.

        I just wish I didn't have to explain this. -_-

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

  • icon
    Nick (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 4:28pm

    "The agents, who were in contact with him for five months, provided him with money and rides home from work as he dealt with the personal fallout of an unrelated arrest stemming from an altercation at a local grocery store."

    This may sound strange, but can we devote more FBI resources to basic neighborhood care, such as rides to/from work for ex-cons and financial support? Perhaps if we did that more, people in this country wouldn't feel that a one-way ticket to martyr town is their only choice.

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

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 23 Feb 2017 @ 6:51pm

    No one loves a thrifty terrorist.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 10:47pm

    Surprised they didn't make him into a political then blackmail him instead

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

  • identicon
    Wyatt Earp, 24 Feb 2017 @ 1:23am

    Making America safe one dumbass at a time.

    It's sad, unfair and pointless to ruin someone's life like this but hey we gotta hit those monthly targets.

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

  • identicon
    Andy, 24 Feb 2017 @ 5:41am

    No

    The moment they threatened him and his family with a knife and violence is the moment that this man should be found innocent. Every single American knows that if they are ever caught up in something illegal not to phone the police or fbi or anyone else as has been shown many times they end up as part of the accused. look at the poor guy who was demonised by the police when he reported something suspicious at the olympics and was then accused of being part of the plot for many years.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 7:42am

    Several months of resources poured into making this man more of a threat. Was it ever in our interest to make him less of a threat by working with him to become part of the community?

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 24 Feb 2017 @ 12:58pm

    The Ends Jusitify the Budget

    The end result is the government congratulating itself for rounding up "terrorists" that likely never would have gone beyond anti-government Facebook posts if they'd been left alone.

    The end result is unfortunately a bit more convoluted than a simple pat on the back for the government.

    In shoveling this steaming pile of horse cocky terror tale to it's stenographers in the media to transcribe verbatim and disseminate widely the US government is able to paint a fearful vista of terrorists under every rock that aids in justifying it's odious attacks on the Constitution and the ever increasing amount of finite tax dollars it squanders on these dubious entrapment schemes.

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


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