How paid FBI anti-terror informants lead "terrorist attacks" that the FBI foils

Michael from Mother Jones sez, "This yearlong investigation by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC-Berkeley explores the network of thousands of informants the FBI employs in its domestic counter-terrorism program, operating in gray area where the snitches don't merely observe and report, but actively push their targets (in many cases hapless losers who never would have acted otherwise) to pursue their darkest fantasies. In the process, MoJo created a searchable database of 508 terror prosecutions."
Here's how it works: Informants report to their handlers on people who have, say, made statements sympathizing with terrorists. Those names are then cross-referenced with existing intelligence data, such as immigration and criminal records. FBI agents may then assign an undercover operative to approach the target by posing as a radical. Sometimes the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there's an arrest—and a press conference announcing another foiled plot.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because such sting operations are a fixture in the headlines. Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.

Over the past year, Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley have examined prosecutions of 508 defendants in terrorism-related cases, as defined by the Department of Justice.

Terrorists for the FBI Exclusive | Mother Jones (Image: Jeffrey Smith)


  1. I saw a commercial this weekend that was geared towards getting kids to join the Navy.  At the end there was a big gold caption “A Global Force for Good”.  That’s the kind of rhetoric that scares the hell out of me.  That the FBI would do this just to generate “good numbers” scares me even more.    Anybody in Brazil or New Zealand need a Physicist?

  2. This has been a standard technique in both the FBI and the CIA for decades. The FBI did this in the 60s and 70s in a project called COINTELPRO, which involved (among other things) trying to make groups like the Black Panthers, Weather Underground, and the Youth International Party look bad by convincing them to act increasingly violent or radical.

    One notable instance involved an undercover FBI agent attempting to add a page to a coloring book being donated to a library by the Black Panthers indicating that it is good to shoot policemen.

    1. its terrible but that part about the FBI trying to add a “Its good to shoot policemen” coloring book page made me laugh… and now I cant stop drawing the kiddified outlines of a coloring book page to that affect in my head.  I really hope I don’t start daydreaming about coloring said made up pages now. 

  3. If you want to get unlimited funding for your law enforcement agency sometimes you have to juke the stats a little.

  4. States desiring increased power often play both sides of a conflict to gain that power.
    This usually works out poorly for large parts of that State’s people.

  5. It’s sad that A) the few commenters on this story are well aware of this, and B) that the mainstream media won’t touch this with a 10 foot pole.

  6. This is the sort of thing it’s damned difficult to convince people isn’t a conspiracy theory. “Yes, all of these ‘terror plots’ have been made up by the FBI.” Seriously, once the government’s actions become absurd enough, it operates in their favor.

    1. The problem is that the FBI can truthfully claim that they arrested people who were preparing to carry out a deadly attack against the United States, which is all most people care to hear. Nuances like “they never had any real weapons” and “the attack was actually the FBI’s idea in the first place” seem trivial by comparison.

      1. “Nuances like “they never had any real weapons” and “the attack was
        actually the FBI’s idea in the first place” seem trivial by comparison.”

        Unless your ATF and then your plot ends up putting serious weaponry out in the hands of people with no good intentions and you try to cover it up.

  7. Agents Provocateur is common across all forms of security apparatus world wide and has been for decades.

  8. On a side note, I followed the Mother Jones article to their site and they had a link to terrorist cases by state.  I chose Michigan (as it is where I live). Michigan has a large Arab/Muslim population AND has more than its fair share of “terrorists” of all types.

    Its odd, but the FBI is only reporting “Muslim” sounding terrorists or Muslim linked.

    There is no mention of the Hutaree “militia”… maybe thats because they are “White Christians” (more or less)

    1. White militant christian groups never get called Terrorists in the US, neither by the media nor any law enforcement agencies. They are just violent criminal gangs or Militias or anti-government groups. If they started calling these Dominonist christian groups terrorists, the FBI would have to start monitoring people like Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and that could get awkward, as Regent University makes huge donations to the GOP and places large numbers of their graduates in federal jobs.

  9. Has the law against entrapment been suspended in Oceania?  I was worried when I first saw this story, now I’m very scared.  If they do the same (perhaps they already are) on Airstrip One, there would be thousands of angry, discontented and confused young men who have little or no prospects, finding that the only way to impress (family or females) is extreme action.

    All paid for with our tax-pounds/dollars of course.

  10. Democracy Now! has been covering these activities for a long time.  I’m glad to see it’s getting more traction.

    Let’s face it, you can’t keep the populace scared, compliant and poor without rustling up some terror every now and then.

  11. I could have sworn USA have a constitutional amendment against this. Or have i watched one too many court room drama imports?

    1. The critical point is if the prosecution can “prove” that the would be terrorists would have committed the crimes without the Agent Provocateur.  Since the agents get the would be terrorist (mark) to join the “plot” only after they have made terroristic threats or statements, the state can postulate that the terrorists would have done it eventually anyway.

    2. I could have sworn USA have a constitutional amendment against this.

      Entrapment is bread and butter for local police departments. Hang out in the men’s room and flirt with guys until one flirts back, then arrest him.

        1. Not with that. I do have personal experience with government moles infiltrating political groups. But then, I’ve also been a political mole infiltrating campaign headquarters.

  12. I bet this stain spreads from the notion that there is no real mental illness that does not involve
    talking to a stop sign among those who make decisions like this.

  13. I’m not sure I agree with notion that these people somehow aren’t responsible for their own choices and actions.

    If someone is willing to act upon notions of a bombing, or other large plot and at the same time they chose to ignore their conscience and willfully intend to cause mass harm to innocent members of the public, shouldn’t they then be held accountable for those actions and intentions?

    I agree more oversight would be good and the removal of pay incentives can only be for the better, but the fact remains, rather then contacting the authorities themselves these people carried through and attempted to harm innocent citizens. Dissent shouldn’t be that difficult if one is aware they are part of a plan to execute a bomb attack on bystanders.  

    1. The gullible and weak minded can be convinced to commit violent acts against innocents perceived as enemies.

      Go arrest every fucking new recruit in the US fucking military.

      1. The gullible and weak minded can be convinced to commit violent acts against innocents perceived as enemies.

        That’s a superior orders or Nuremberg defense. Gullibility, or “just following orders,” isn’t an excuse for either attempting to harm or actually harming another human being.

        There are cases in the news where soldiers have been held accountable for their role as a lesser of the group. Just because one person is low in rank, a superior orders claim doesn’t vindicate their actions as part of that group.

    1. No, entrapment is when an undercover officer or informant actively pushes someone to do something it is clear they otherwise would not have done.  See, for example, the Randy Weaver case, where an ATF informant pushed Weaver to make sawed off shotguns for him, despite Weaver’s initial reluctance to do so.  Weaver got off on those charges.  Offering to sell or provide weapons or explosives to someone who wants them is not entrapment, because it is the suspect him or herself making the decision to get them.

  14. In some cases, the defendants had no knowledge of the plot at all – such as the case of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain in Albany, NY.

    And, if you are wondering what happens to men entrapped by the FBI, some of them wind up in horrific prisons, such as the ones nick-named “Little Gitmo”.

    Read about these prisons in this excellent article in the New Yorker:

    Can you imagine spending 15 years there?  Or, as in some of the cases, life?

  15. Perhaps a 72 hour evaluation at a psych ward would be in order for people who express a desire to kill their fellow Americans. If it is determined they do indeed desire to kill the people in their neighborhood just because they exist and because they are Americans, then that sounds like grounds for civil commitment. It would be grounds to commit anybody else.

  16. All right, so now I’m going to out myself as that lowest of nerd clades, the trekkie…

    This reminds me of that Star Trek: Voyager episode Relativity where Captain Braxton is arrested and tried for crimes he would commit in the future, at which he balks that he hasn’t committed any crime.

    Help stop precrime, contact the Ministry of Truth today.

  17. How anyone with an ounce of intelligence has fallen for this whole ‘war on terror’ thing is beyond me… oh wait, y’all watch TV!

    1. Netflix actually. What’s your point? Are you under the impression that many Boingers have “fallen for this whole ‘war on terror’ thing”?

      Personally, I blame video games because I’m not much of a gamer.

      Or that new fangled rock music, rots the mind it does.

      Singling out a widespread cultural medium always helps me rise above the bourgeoisie.

      1. I was under the impression that almost all of the world had, I would love to hear otherwise though.

        1. Hard to say. There could be a silent majority just trying to live their lives and who haven’t reached their breaking point yet with this WoT BS. Policy gets written by those that show up, not necessarily the majority. But even if almost all the world has been suckered, my impression of the BB crowd is that, whatever other faults we may have, a lack of skepticism regarding excuses for eroding civil liberties is not a common trait here. Perhaps I’ve misread the BB zeitgeist.

  18. Sting operations in which people are “actively pushed” to commit violent acts would fail in court as entrapment.  Informants or undercover officers in sting operations typically simply purport to provide the means to carry out a violent act to a person talking about such an act.  If the person accepts the means, then he has committed himself to the act; if he doesn’t, there is no problem and no arrest.  Sting operations are one of the major ways the FBI (and other law enforcement agencies) prevent acts of terrorism before they can occur.  Today, domestic Muslim extremists, who tend to be high on desire and low on practical means, are susceptible to sting operations.  In the 1990s, sting operations were most frequently used on anti-government militia groups and white supremacists.  The arrest of the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia for plotting to attack the FBI fingerprinting facility in Clarksburg, West Virginia, in 1996 was actually a sting operation, for example.  I don’t recall Mother Jones writing an “expose” of the practice when it was right-wing extremists who were being targeted.  Hmmmm….

    1. They don’t need to hold up in court.

      By the time the cases come around, the work is done, and even if they DO fail, those most likely to believe the official line will just blame the way too lenient legal system, which also helps the police state.

      1. “Helps the police state?”  I’d make fun of you for such a notion, but I see that you are a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, so it would be wasted.  You had previously lost grasp of reality.

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