(NaturalNews) If it seems as though the FBI is making a large number of terror busts these days, maybe it's because the agency itself is at least partly responsible for hatching the plots. That has some political observers wondering if the FBI's strategies are making the best use of the nation's limited counterterrorist resources.
In recent months, FBI agents have arrested suspects who were planning a range of terrorist attacks, from shooting Stinger missiles at military aircraft to driving vanloads of explosives into crowded events. But these amazing cases might not have ever been made if the FBI itself wasn't themselves planning the attacks.
A number of these cases were profiled recently in a New York Times op-ed column, which noted that the so-called plots were devised by an agency that seems to be operating as if the nation is so devoid of legitimate threats that it needs to manufacture some in order to seem relevant.
Withstanding legal scrutiny, but still questionable
Consider the case of Oregon college student Mohamed Osman Mohamud. He thought about using a car bomb to attack a well-attended, festive Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland. The FBI gave him a van packed with inert explosives consisting of some real, but inactive, detonators and six 55-gallon drums, along with a gallon of diesel fuel. An FBI agent even drove the van. When Mohamud called the cell phone number that was supposed to trigger the explosion, nothing explosive happened, except that he got arrested.
Was Mohamud seriously considering such an attack prior to the FBI involvement? If so, could he have put it together by himself? Was he working with someone else the FBI doesn't know about who is more of a legitimate threat?
It's hard to say. Obviously Mohamud was at least having bad thoughts, and that's disconcerting in and of itself (though not criminal). But if the FBI had not manufactured an attack, would he have gone through with anything?
Mohamud's case is far from the only one manufactured by the FBI, and it is certainly not the only one that has held up in court. In fact, such operations are not only legal but they are a common counterterrorism tactic employed by the agency in the post-9/11 world. Terror defendants most often try to claim entrapment, but they also most often lose because the law says as long as they showed at least some intent to commit a terrorist act, even if tempted to do so by undercover agents, they are guilty.
Using even the weak-minded to make a case
"Many times," says Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, "suspects are warned about the seriousness of their plots and given opportunities to back out." But, the Times report indicates recorded conversations show that the warning is not always given, and that in some cases suspects are even encouraged to continue.
Inventing such cases isn't as easy as, say, manufacturing a sting operation where an alleged drug dealer or arms trafficker sells to an undercover agent. That's because those kinds of crimes occur regularly in the United States. But David Raskin, a former federal prosecutor told the Times, "There isn't a business of terrorism in the United States, thank God."
"You're not going to be able to go to a street corner and find somebody who's already blown something up," he said. "So the goal is to find someone who isn't engaged in terrorism yet but is looking for a real terrorist who could provide them with an opportunity."
You can sometimes get the impression that maybe the FBI is operating off of some sort of counterterrorism quota. Consider one of the most recent cases of thwarting a planned attack:
Of five so-called anarchists who were arrested for ostensibly planning to destroy a bridge in Ohio in late April, three of them had documented mental health issues. One was even talked out of committing suicide in February, right before he was enticed to join in the plot by an FBI informant.