FBI Makes Us Less Safe With Fake Terror Plots

Glenn GreenwaldThe other day, my father asked me about these three “ding-dongs” who tried to take a flight to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. I referred him to Gary Brecher’s amazing article, Islamic State and American Narcissism. I gave him the highlights: (1) it’s mostly boredom and the desire to “join the fight”; and (2) the number of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State is tiny. And that was that. I hadn’t heard anything, because I haven’t been paying that much attention to the news this last week, because it all seems so depressing. But I should have known better than to accept the story at face value.

There is a rather big question: how was it that the authorities knew that these guys intended to go and fight the Islamic State? The answer is the same as usual: it was the government itself that put them up to it. The whole thing started when Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev of Brooklyn went on an Islamic State website and offered to kill President Obama. The threat reads like something written by a ten year old or dialog from a bad John Milius’ film. But rather than arrest the man for that, the FBI followed him online. When it was clear he wasn’t actually going to do anything, they set up another of their “stings.”

They sent in an undercover agent to get everything that Juraboev and his friends needed to get on a plane. These seem to be very immature young men, and very likely mentally unstable. One of them had his passport taken away from him by his mother. Unfortunately, we can’t call these guys the Jihadis Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight, because they were too incompetent to even get a gun. So basically, we have another case of an FBI terrorism plot foiled by the FBI! I feel so much safer knowing that millions of dollars are going into creating terror plots so the viewing audience can feel better about what a great job the government is doing protecting all of us.

Glenn Greenwald asked a great question, Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? Right. If there is all this home grown terrorism, why is the FBI wasting resources creating these fake plots? As it was, Juraboev’s initial threat to kill the president was a Class D Felony. That means he would get between 5 and 10 years in prison. As it is, he could get up to 15 years. Great use of resources!

Of course, it is a great use of resources as far as the FBI is concerned. That’s because the people who run the FBI are concerned about their budget. The former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes was quoted as saying:

If you’re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you’re not going to submit the proposal that “We won the war on terror and everything’s great,” ’cause the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s gonna be cut in half. You know, it’s my opposite of Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” — it’s “Keep Fear Alive.”

Now, this is a highly cynical view that I don’t think is true of bureaucrats in general. But it is certainly the case that top level bureaucrats have to worry about their budgets. They don’t want to have to fire people — just to put a nice gloss on it. But this is not — as libertarians might argue — a reason for destroying all bureaucracy. Rather, we could better incentivize the bureaucracies to do what we want them to do. (Note: a guaranteed minimum income would go a long way in dealing with these problems.)

But the way things are, we have to all be made more afraid than we ought to be. And the cost of making us more afraid than we ought to be is making us less safe than we ought to be.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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