A worthy piece of reporting over at Rolling Stone, on "how the government turned five stoner misfits into the world's most hapless terrorist cell," in the spirit of COINTELPRO. Snip: "Nothing was destined to blow up that night, as it turns out, because the entire plot was actually an elaborate federal sting operation. The case against the Cleveland Five, in fact, exposes not just a deeply misguided element of the Occupy movement, but also a shadowy side of the federal government." A former FBI counterterrorism agent now with the ACLU describes the government's actions as "manufacturing threatening events."

48 Responses to “The Plot Against Occupy”

  1. ambiguator says:

    Techdirt has been talking about these “plots” for over a year now.
    http://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=entrapment

  2. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Did the FBI really manage to produce an outfit even more hapless than their assorted too-much-of-a-loser-to-really-be-a-radical muslim menaces? I thought that they were really on a roll with those guys…

  3. ChicagoD says:

    This would be a much stronger argument if they had not actually gone to the bridge and set the devices they believed to be explosives. The group in Miami that was supposed to blow up Sears Tower is a better example of manufacturing a threat. These guys did all they could to blow up a bridge.

    • Brainspore says:

      These guys did all they could to blow up a bridge.

      But would they have if the FBI hadn’t manipulated them into doing so? Doubtful.

      • ChicagoD says:

        Doubtful to you. Could the FBI manipulate you into blowing up a bridge? They couldn’t manipulate me into it. Mostly because I don’t want to blow up bridges and kill people. As you probably know, you’ve pretty much hit on the definition of entrapment, and it seems to me much harder to entrapment someone in a scheme playing out over multiple days and weeks. Plenty of chances to say “this isn’t me” and not do it. But they did, right up to placing and arming the devices.

        There are good examples of what people are yelling about, but this is not one of them.

        • Brainspore says:

          These young men started out as a group of malleable, aimless misfits, not terrorists. It was our government that chose to form them into a group of would-be bombers rather than something more productive.

          • ChicagoD says:

            At best, that’s a post hoc argument. Also, plenty of malleable, aimless misfits have gone on to do truly horrific things. Including terrorism. It seems to me that there are probably millions of malleable, aimless misfits who would have walked away when someone talked about blowing a bridge up. 

          • Brainspore says:

            Lots of people can be manipulated into doing bad things. That’s not a valid reason for manipulating people into doing bad things.

          • acerplatanoides says:

            When the Marines do it, under the direction and using the weapons given them by the gov’t, they’re heroes. And 99% of people walk away from marine recruiters.

          • SedanChair says:

            It seems to me that there are probably millions of malleable, aimless misfits who would have walked away when someone talked about blowing a bridge up

            Good point! I guess we’ll never know for sure until the FBI tries to entrap everyone.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            At best, that’s a post hoc argument.

            You’re making an argument based on fantasy scenarios of who would or wouldn’t do things.

          • dragonfrog says:

            Plenty of malleable, aimless misfits have gone into mathematics, and bicycle repair, and fashion design, and landscaping.

            Plenty of white men named John have gone on to become embezzlers – should we spend hundreds of hours per person trying to convince everyone named John to take advantage of easy money, just so we can snap up the weak-willed ones?

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Could the FBI manipulate you into blowing up a bridge?

          Irrelevant. None of it would have happened if it weren’t for the FBI.

        • dragonfrog says:

          Good for you – you’re mentally stable and grounded enough that you are pretty sure you can’t be manipulated into blowing things up.

          But do you accept the position alleged here that the FBI’s informant manipulated these people into a plot they would not have formed on their own?

          Keep in mind, there is no limit to how ungrounded, gullible and alienated you can be, no criminal level of gullibility.  So, if you accept that prior to being manipulated by the FBI’s informant no conspiracy to blow up a bridge existed, then what threat did the FBI just protect us from?

          • ChicagoD says:

            Well, there is a point at which you are not responsible for your actions. I don’t think anyone is alleging that these guys were legally incompetent.

            The question to me is whether these guys would not have undertaken this action without the FBI. The article doesn’t make much of a case for that to me. If you (a) have a long history of advocating violence against the police, (b) talk about taking more direct action than Occupy, (c) download the Anarchist Cookbook, THEN (d) set a (fake) bomb to blow up a bridge, it’s hard for me to see the point at which the FBI’s involvement becomes a “but for” factor. This actually seems like a predictable outcome to me.

            As I have said elsewhere here, there are plenty of times the FBI seems to have overstepped and participated in ridiculous security theater. I don’t see any evidence that this is one of them.

          • EH says:

            Do you have as much information about this one as you do about the instances of overstepping you admit occurred in the past? Has your mind ever changed on the topic of whether the FBI overstepped in any instance?

          • acerplatanoides says:

            If they would have used the cookbook to make bombs sufficient to take down a bridge, and assemble those without getting noticed?

            good luck with that.

          • wysinwyg says:

            (c) download the Anarchist Cookbook,

            OMG, there must be like 12 million 14-year-old terrorists plotting to blow up bridges all across the US.

    • hymenopterid says:

      But would they have been capable of doing it if the FBI didn’t actually give them the “devices”?

      • ChicagoD says:

        That’s not the question. They had a desire to do it, and given the opportunity they did all they could to do it.

        This just isn’t a case of the FBI seeking out some guys, talking them into something, and then arresting them too early to see if they were really going to do it. As far as these guys knew, that bridge was, in fact, going to come down, and in fact kill people.

        As I said before, look at the Miami plotters against the Sears Tower for a case in which the Feds drummed up their own case and sent people to jail for way too little. This isn’t that case.

        • Brainspore says:

          That’s not the question.

          Of course that’s the question. If they didn’t pose a threat, why did we spend untold amounts of time and resources to deal with them?

          • ChicagoD says:

            Well, if you don’t think these guys posed a threat, I’m not sure who you ever think will pose a threat. I also don’t understand how you propose to undertake some pretty basic law enforcement activities. People like these guys do exist, and some of them do try to blow things up and kill people.

          • Brainspore says:

            Well, if you don’t think these guys posed a threat, I’m not sure who you ever think will pose a threat. 

            People who have the resources and intent to hatch these kinds of plot without taxpayer assistance. Of course it’s a lot harder to find those kinds of people.

          • ChicagoD says:

            @Brainspore:disqus Those people aren’t harder to find. Just look for the blown up bridge. Or Federal building. Or subways. Or commuter trains.

          • acerplatanoides says:

            They always have, they always will. Why get all ‘sky-is-falling’ about what you hear some people tell other people they would do?

          • wysinwyg says:

            @ChicagoD:disqus

            Those people aren’t harder to find. Just look for the blown up bridge. Or Federal building. Or subways. Or commuter trains.

            Were there a lot of incidents like this happening that I missed?  Last I checked, the last successful terrorist attack on US soil was more than 10 years ago.   So if these types aren’t hard to find could you please point us to a few examples?

        • hymenopterid says:

          I think that is the question. Opportunity is an element in determining whether entrapment occurred.

          • ChicagoD says:

            There is no evidence that they only would have done this if they had C4 with LEDs in neat packages. Absent that evidence, explosives are not so hard to come by that it would be essentially impossible with the governmental involvement. This isn’t fissile material, it’s anything from C4 to sticks of dynamite. Having downloaded the Anarchist’s Cookbook (without FBI prompting) they were closer to being able to get explosives than most. Opportunity to get explosives does not seem to be a particularly good defense here.

            The opportunity was the access to the bridge, which they seized with both IEDs. Again, these guys took every opportunity they were presented with to try to blow up a bridge and kill people.

            I don’t know how these guys became poster children for governmental overreach. There are much, much better examples where people don’t have to twist and cringe while they make the argument. Is it because they were at Occupy Cleveland and people are afraid Occupy is going to be tarred with that brush? There were thousands of people at Occupy camps around the country. Some were violent, some were not. But I don’t think anybody thinks they were all domestic terrorists, like these guys were.

          • SedanChair says:

            God you’re a chore.

          • Brainspore says:

            There is no evidence that they only would have done this if they had C4 with LEDs in neat packages. Absent that evidence…

            Are you seriously suggesting that “we can’t prove they wouldn’t have committed a crime if left to their own devices” is justifiable rationale for this kind of security theater? Heck, let’s just throw out “innocent until proven guilty” all together.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            There is no evidence that they only would have done this if they had C4 with LEDs in neat packages.

            You seem to be arguing against the presumption of innocence.

          • ChicagoD says:

            It’s not an argument against presumption of innocence or even security theater. The argument was made that they would not have had the opportunity to try to blow up the bridge without the government. That just isn’t true here. They had, without FBI encouragement, sought out instructions for (among other things) procuring explosives.

            The Rolling Stone article is my main source of facts in this argument. That piece clearly takes a side (with the convicted) and still basically supports the convictions. I get that DHS is out of control, that most of the “security” we see is bullshit, and that the FBI is perfectly capable of wasting time chasing people who aren’t doing anything wrong. I just don’t see where those factors apply to THIS case. THIS case looks like a good catch by the FBI.

            And also, in response to another comment, every “attempt” case is essentially playing out a “fantasy scenario.” That’s just the way it goes. The person tried to commit the crime and was not able to. I guess we can advocate abolishing “attempt” but I don’t think we want to do that.

          • Brainspore says:

            @ChicagoD:disqus : 

            …every “attempt” case is essentially playing out a “fantasy scenario.”

            When a person obtains a gun, shoots at someone else and misses it isn’t a “fantasy scenario,” it’s an attempted murder. 
            This case is fundamentally different: the government didn’t find a group of people in the middle of attempting anything. They found a group of people who could be manipulated into attempting an act of terror if they were 

            1. Actively encouraged to do so, and 
            2. Provided with bombs that were well beyond their ability to create or obtain on their own.

            Aimless, penniless stoners randomly encountering a guy eager to hook them up with some C-4 and remote detonators? Fantasy scenario.

          • ChicagoD says:

            @eh I have changed my mind about most of these cases. As more facts come to light, I have been more and more sure that people were being prosecuted for things they never would have done without the Feds.

            In this case, I am using the Rolling Stone piece, which is VERY pro-convicted, for most of the facts I’m citing. I mean, I don’t know how I could use a more favorable set of facts without making them up. I don’t know what to tell you. This case looks like a good case even based on an article trying to prove that it’s not a good case.

          • wysinwyg says:

            There is no evidence that they only would have done this if they had C4 with LEDs in neat packages.

            Blatantly contradicts:

            It’s not an argument against presumption of innocence or even security theater.

          • Marc Mielke says:

            It’s fairly well-known that using the explosives instructions from “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” will nearly always result in an “Own Goal” or “Self-Darwinization” scenario. 

          • ChicagoD says:

            @SedanChair:disqus Oh. Now I see. Good thing you clarified that.

          • ChicagoD says:

            @Brainspore:disqus Attempt is essentially counterfactual. The crime was *not* committed. There was a series of circumstances that made people believe that the person being charged intended to commit the crime, and there was action that evinces this intent.

            To take your “not fantasy” example, will any person charged with attempted murder with a gun they got through Fast and Furious be able to claim they were entrapped? After all, the gun came from the government. Without the gun, they never would have tried to shoot someone.

            I think it’s all stretching things a bit too far trying to defend guys who went as far as they possibly could have to actually blow up a bridge and kill people. I don’t know what else, short of blowing the bridge up, you want these guys to do to show their intentions.

          • Brainspore says:

            @ChicagoD:disqus :

            I think it’s all stretching things a bit too far trying to defend guys who went as far as they possibly could have to actually blow up a bridge and kill people.

            I’m not defending the suspects so much as I’m condemning this kind of entrapment operation. The taxpayers are now on the hook for a lengthy investigation, a series of trials and who knows how many years of incarceration for a bunch of stupid stoner kids who weren’t really threatening anyone until the FBI turned them into would-be terrorists.

  4. mindysan33 says:

    These sorts of things are not clever police work, it’s entrapment.  They’ve been doing this to angry young Muslim men for years now. 

    I think what the government/FBI doesn’t realize about such things is that it just makes people not trust them. I think many Americans have never really recovered their trust in goverment from the old school COINTELPRO programs (and the general chicanery of the Nixon administration).

    • acerplatanoides says:

       What you might stop to ponder is how much damage a few FBI members with a grudge can do to the communities concept of them. If they can start a cold war with you, and justify arming up for it, they will. It only takes a few to prejudice you against Law Enforcement.

  5. Finnagain says:

    Breaking: FBI successfully disrupts own terror plot. Again.

  6.  I feel like if the government needed suckers to make into terrorists to meet some threat to national security quota then they’d have better luck on the right than the left. They’re just making things difficult on themselves.

    • mindysan33 says:

      They don’t think of right wingers as a threat. They are just “lone wolves”.  Left-wingers are more likely to work as a group, hence more of a threat. So I think the thinking goes.

      • acerplatanoides says:

         I went to a Green Party meeting once. It was like herding cats.

      • DataShade says:

        Right-wingers have historically been well-represented on the gang and terror watch lists.  However, since 9/11, I’d be willing to bet that most conservative home-grown terrorists (secessionist militia types, for example) are in full approval of the government’s focus on suspicious foreigners.

        Anyone with a dedication to real liberty, government transparency & accountability, etc, will certainly feel that there’s a long record of failures of all three branches of government to actually uphold and defend the Constitution.

        Anyone who actually cares about the founding principles of this nation is a threat to the power of the people who are currently running it or have been running it for the last 10 years.

  7. blissfulight says:

    The very definition of pre-crime (Minority Report:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/ ).  

  8. cleveland4solidarity says:

    To hear more about the guys from people who know them, read the response to this article from their support group. http://www.cleveland4solidarity.org/blog/plot-against-occupy

Leave a Reply