Since it’s difficult to identify and capture terrorists, the FBI seems to have concluded that an effective counterterrorism program can only work if they first find potential terrorists, coach them and then catch them. It’s a bit like sports hunting for those whose pride in displaying a trophy is undiminished by the fact that the animal was raised to be shot.
Associated Press reports:
A 21-year-old man charged with trying to blow up a military recruiting center briefly hesitated when he heard about a federal sting operation that nabbed an alleged terrorist in Oregon last month but decided to keep going with his plan, authorities said.
Antonio Martinez, a naturalized U.S. citizen who goes by the name Muhammad Hussain after recently converting to Islam, faces charges of attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
He told an informant working with the FBI he thought about nothing but jihad and wasn’t deterred even after a Somali-born teenager was arrested in Portland, Ore., the day after Thanksgiving in a sting, court documents released Wednesday showed.
The Oregon suspect intended to bomb a crowded downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. But – like Martinez – the people he’d been communicating with about the plot were with the FBI. Martinez wondered if he was headed down a similar path, documents say.
After hearing about the Oregon case, Martinez was uneasy and called the informant demanding to know who he was, according to court documents.
“I’m not falling for no b.s.,” he told the informant. He said he still wanted to go ahead, but the informant told him to think about it overnight and call the next day, which Martinez did.
In the following days, Martinez reiterated his support for the plan several times, documents show, at one point reassuring the informant that he didn’t feel pressured to carry it out: “I came to you about this, brother.”
The bomb he’s accused of trying to detonate was fake and had been provided by an undercover FBI agent. It was loaded into an SUV that Martinez parked in front of the recruiting center, authorities said, and an FBI informant picked him up and drove him to a nearby vantage point where he tried to set it off.
“There was never any actual danger to the public during this operation this morning,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Wednesday. “That’s because the FBI was controlling the situation.”
The FBI’s dubious approach to counterterrorism was highlighted earlier this week in a Washington Post report on a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh who became an FBI informant and is now suing the agency.
The Islamic Center of Irvine in Southern California was a target of Monteilh’s operations.
In the Irvine case, Monteilh’s mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.
He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat.
Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his “handlers” trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.
Officials declined to comment on specific details of Monteilh’s tale but confirm that he was a paid FBI informant. Court records and interviews corroborate not only that Monteilh worked for the FBI – he says he made $177,000, tax-free, in 15 months – but that he provided vital information on a number of cases.
Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.