This Week's Terrorism Arrests

Four points. One: There was little danger of an actual terrorist attack:

Authorities said the four men have long been under investigation and there was little danger they could actually have carried out their plan, NBC News' Pete Williams reported.

[...]

In their efforts to acquire weapons, the defendants dealt with an informant acting under law enforcement supervision, authorities said. The FBI and other agencies monitored the men and provided an inactive missile and inert C-4 to the informant for the defendants, a federal complaint said.

The investigation had been under way for about a year.

"They never got anywhere close to being able to do anything," one official told NBC News. "Still, it's good to have guys like this off the street."

Of course, politicians are using this incident to peddle more fear:

"This was a very serious threat that could have cost many, many lives if it had gone through," Representative Peter T. King, Republican from Long Island, said in an interview with WPIX-TV. "It would have been a horrible, damaging tragedy. There's a real threat from homegrown terrorists and also from jailhouse converts."

Two, they were caught by traditional investigation and intelligence. Not airport security. Not warrantless eavesdropping. But old fashioned investigation and intelligence. This is what works. This is what keeps us safe. Here's an essay I wrote in 2004 that says exactly that.

The only effective way to deal with terrorists is through old-fashioned police and intelligence work -- discovering plans before they're implemented and then going after the plotters themselves.

Three, they were idiots:

The ringleader of the four-man homegrown terror cell accused of plotting to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and military planes in Newburgh admitted to a judge today that he had smoked pot before his bust last night.

When U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa M. Smith asked James Cromitie if his judgment was impaired during his appearance in federal court in White Plains, the 55-year-old confessed: "No. I smoke it regularly. I understand everything you are saying."

Four, an "informant" helped this group a lot:

In April, Mr. Cromitie and the three other men selected the synagogues as their targets, the statement said. The informant soon helped them get the weapons, which were incapable of being fired or detonated, according to the authorities.

The warning the warning I wrote in "Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot" is timely again:

Despite the initial press frenzies, the actual details of the cases frequently turn out to be far less damning. Too often it's unclear whether the defendants are actually guilty, or if the police created a crime where none existed before.

The JFK Airport plotters seem to have been egged on by an informant, a twice-convicted drug dealer. An FBI informant almost certainly pushed the Fort Dix plotters to do things they wouldn't have ordinarily done. The Miami gang's Sears Tower plot was suggested by an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the group. And in 2003, it took an elaborate sting operation involving three countries to arrest an arms dealer for selling a surface-to-air missile to an ostensible Muslim extremist. Entrapment is a very real possibility in all of these cases.

Actually, that whole 2007 essay is timely again. Some things never change.

Posted on May 22, 2009 at 6:11 AM • 56 Comments

Comments

Nick LancasterMay 22, 2009 6:35 AM

Yup, it's another plot involving 'terrorists' who don't know how to make bombs, don't have access to weapons, have no operational security, and couldn't vet their contact's bona fides.

I'm supposed to be AFRAID of these people?

gregMay 22, 2009 6:44 AM

How is having the "informant" leading them on like this not entrapment?

BF SkinnerMay 22, 2009 7:09 AM

@greg re: entrapment

It's a fine line that defense has to argue and the LEO has to ensure their CI doesn't cross. It's the "SukEFukE/5$" routine out of Choirboys.
If a cop propositions SukEFukE and the hooker replies 5$ or the hooker propositions SukEFukE and the cop replies 5$ then its a good bust. If the cop SukEFukE 5$ it's entrapment

SCOTUS Sorrells v. US said "the controlling question as "whether the defendant is a person otherwise innocent whom the government is seeking to punish for an alleged offense which is the product of the creative activity of its own officials"

There are two measures used the criminals subjective understanding and an objective review of the persons likely behavior.

As I understand it (OBDisclaimer: not a lawyer just trying to stay out of their hands)
If the CI said "I want to kill someone!"
and the mark said "Me Too!"
CI:"I can get C4!"
Mark:"Yeah!"
CI:"Give me 5$!"
Mark:"Here!"
CI:"Here's the C4!"
Mark:Boom

That would be entrapment.
But If the started with the Mark
Mark:"I want to blow someone up!"
CI:"I can get some C4 it'll cost"
Mark:"It's all good. Here."
It would not be. The predisposition of the mark to blow people up would be reviewed as well as his intent.

bobMay 22, 2009 7:10 AM

So if me and 2 other drunks all agree to hijack the Starship Enterprise and use it to hold the world hostage we would be terrorists, not morons?

And if both the other drunks are multiply convicted felons who are working for the FBI, they get paid more money if I agree to commit this "crime" and it was their idea; they were driving the getaway car (a police cruiser provided by the DA) and they were buying the beer why am I the only one who committed a crime?

Why not just pick up a phone book and grab people alphabetically (start at the back, please!) and throw them in prison until prisons are full then quit in the glow of pride of a hard days work well done. Faster, cheaper and same end result in terms of security.

Is it just me or are the inmates running the asylum (and worse yet, the country)?

If this is the worst terrorists the government can come up with (after years of work!!!!) its time to dismantle FBI, DHS and TSA because we've won.

MathFoxMay 22, 2009 7:15 AM

greg, Don't forget that the most important task of the DHS, FBI, CIA and other TLA employees is to ensure their own job security.

Finding some morons, handing them plans and fake explosives and get them arrested nearly ensures a conviction... Desperately needed to get their conviction rate up.

KMay 22, 2009 7:19 AM

"Why not tell people? People are smart."
"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

Nick LancasterMay 22, 2009 7:33 AM

@BF Skinner:

The point is, we're responding on the whole in a manner far beyond the scope of the threat.

For Rep. King to be wailing about 'homegrown terrorists' and what a serious threat these clowns are is pretty disingenuous.

bobMay 22, 2009 7:44 AM

K has it! IQ of a group = IQ of average person in group divided by number of people in group. And bear in mind that there are 100 people in the Senate and 400 in the House.

The government pointing to this as an "antiterror win" is like a mechanic bragging that he and a team of 4 other mechanics during 6 months hard work successfully changed the oil in one single-cylinder air-cooled rotary push mower. Or a team of surgeons successfully trimming one fingernail over 6 weeks. Lumberjacks felling a single 4-inch seedling. House painters painting one of those little plastic houses in a monopoly set (and painting it green at that). The "return" was not worth the investment and to claim such is somewhere on a line between incompetence and fraud.

RickyMay 22, 2009 8:03 AM

Trial n tribulation has existed in society from ages..and now it has come as a scourge of terrorism.
we should go deep into the grass root level of this menace and should work out on eradicating the terrorism
by not just eliminating perpetrators but also cause of it.

dafoinkMay 22, 2009 8:06 AM

is buying a fake weapon a crime? I can buy a toy gun from Toys R Us and that is ok. If I use it to rob a bank, I get charged for bank robbery, but do I get charged for robbing a bank with a fake gun?

Sea CatMay 22, 2009 8:49 AM

Who *doesn't* think we could find half a dozen Free Software communists, whip them into a frenzy, hand them a block of Playdogh (telling them it's C4), and convince them they should bomb Microsoft headquarters and Bill Gates' home? This whole case would be laughably absurd if it weren't for the fact that the American people actually *believe* something bad might have happened.

My only question is: what freedoms of ours are we going to loose now, or what unreasonable -- and illegal! -- searches will now be carried out in the name of stopping terrorists like the inept pot-smokers who wanted to bomb a synagog?

Case OfficerMay 22, 2009 9:15 AM

Yes, all seems like it was an entrapment/setup, but....

lets not forget that this type of operation acts as a huge deterrant to wannabee terrorists. The unknown of who they are dealing with may serve to remove some jihadis from the equation - especially the border-line ones.

This allows resources to be focused on the real bad guys.

HelfrickMay 22, 2009 9:19 AM

I take exception to labeling them as idiots because they smoke pot. How about we focus on their attempted murder based on mindless religious zealotry instead?

jimmyMay 22, 2009 9:34 AM

I'm detecting an implication here that smart people don't blow things up, that somehow only idiots blow things up and because a lot of these guys the feds get are idiots we don't have anything to worry about. What about Kaczynski? And McVeigh was not an idiot.

And if they weren't nabbed, then everyone would say the feds were idiots, just like they did after 9/11 by retro-examination of how easily the terrorists could have been foiled when the feds knew of associated threats but did nothing blah blah blah.

I think this is just more of the same self-serving anti-authority sensationalism.

mcbMay 22, 2009 9:41 AM

I keep thinking the credibility of the case against these home grown terror wannabes ought to hinge at least a little on the real world ability to actually acquire the devices they throught they were using. I suppose I can imagine that C4 is available on the street in kilogram quantities, but if I ever met someone who said he could deliver a Stinger to me inside the U.S. my very first thought would be he must be a confidential FBI informant.

mcbMay 22, 2009 10:02 AM

"I'm detecting an implication here that smart people don't blow things up, that somehow only idiots blow things up and because a lot of these guys the feds get are idiots we don't have anything to worry about."

It's not "a lot of these guys" it's all of these guys. Name a post-9/11 U.S. terror conspiracy that would have gone beyond the beer-swilling rant stage without the prompting, scripting, and provisioning of a confidential informant.

Trichinosis USAMay 22, 2009 10:06 AM

Look no further for a terrorist: Peter King has made a lucrative political career out of terrorizing his wealthy constituents with fearmongering fairy tales, and likewise terrorizing those with non-six-figure incomes and leftist politics with his Department of Hopeless Insecurity goons. He's a clueless, bigoted Bushco throwback. The only reason he's still around at all is because his district is shaped around some of the wealthiest real estate in the nation. I can't wait for Albany to eventually redistrict his sorry butt out of the picture. He's history in 2010 and good riddance.

Clive RobinsonMay 22, 2009 11:16 AM

For some time now it has been said that Osama bin Laden and the four men accused of the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa, could only have been brought to trial (and convicted in his abcense) in 2001 under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
(RICO) due to the US inventing al-Qaeda.

And apparently that there is no evidence that Osama or any of his (supposed) cohorts used the "al-Qaeda" name or even considered that there was an organisation untill considerably after the trial.

Apparently as a matter of law, the U.S. Department of Justice had no choice but to show that Osama bin Laden was the leader of a "criminal organization" in order to secure a conviction.

That is, no organisation no posability of a trial...

So there was conciderable incentive for there to be an organisation "found".

The well reviewed BBC documentary "The Power of Nightmares" by journalist Adam Curtis pointed this embarising coincidence out and actually states that the idea of al-Qaeda as a "formal organization," is primarily an "American invention."

So you could say the US Government has well documented "Previous" on inventing crimes and organisations to enable trials to bolster their otherwise fanciful notions.

Wether you would agree with the point or even if it is true is actually not that important, the rest of the world tends to belive it and I guess it will not be long before most US citizens also believe it...

Nick LancasterMay 22, 2009 11:20 AM

"I think this is just more of the same self-serving anti-authority sensationalism."

@jimmy:

You mean the authority that decided to torture prisoners and violate the constitution willy-nilly? That authority?

It would seem you haven't actually read anything Bruce has written on the subject.

In the meantime, the terrorists have you clutching frantically for any measure, no matter how ineffective or illegal, to protect yourself.

Who's being self-serving, again?

Franky B.May 22, 2009 11:20 AM

@Helfrick

I don't want to speak for Bruce, but I took that comment to mean that they're idiots not because they smoke pot, but because this guy readily admits it to the judge.

Brandioch ConnerMay 22, 2009 11:43 AM

@Jimmy
"And if they weren't nabbed, then everyone would say the feds were idiots, just like they did after 9/11 by retro-examination of how easily the terrorists could have been foiled when the feds knew of associated threats but did nothing blah blah blah."

This is the USofA. Anyone who cannot get enough weapons to carry out an attack on their own is an idiot.

"What about Kaczynski? And McVeigh was not an idiot."

And they managed to acquire their weapons on their own. Which is what differentiates an idiot from a real threat.

MarkHMay 22, 2009 12:00 PM

@Clive:

Any sources on that? Here's my understanding of what appears to be well-established history:

In the 1980's, "al qaeda" was the name for an organization that supported foreign fighters who wanted to help Afghanistan expel the Red Army. In particular, al qaeda compiled a list/database of these foreign fighters. Usama bin Laden became an important backer of this organization (he had deep pockets). The organization was not at that time associated with "international terrorism," except perhaps to those who were on the losing side in Afghanistan. So UBL as an important man in al qaeda predates the 2001 trial by more than a decade.

At the beginning of the 1990's, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, UBL approached one of Saudi Arabia's princes (don't have time at the moment to look up which one, but he has publicly spoken about this conversation), offering that his (UBL's) mujahadeen would repel Iraq, and that U.S. intervention was therefore not necessary. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the army that UBL proposed to command was associated with the "mailing list" of foreign fighters that al qaeda had compiled.

Thus, a decade before 2001, we have UBL representing himself as a leader of an organization of significant military capability. I don't know that he called it "al qaeda", or whether he uses this name today, but there is very good evidence that UBL has been a leader of a paramilitary organization.

To be very precise, it may be inaccurate to use the name al qaeda. Perhaps it would be better to say, "UBL's private army, which developed as an outgrowth of al qaeda." This does NOT mean that his organization is a prosecutorial invention!

We also have (apparently real) video of UBL discussing the 2001 attacks in the US, stating his pre-knowledge of the WTC attack. This doesn't prove that it was "his organization," but it certainly seems to indicate a close connection with the conspiracy.

BTW, I don't believe something because the "US government said so." Some of what comes out is bulls**t. I'm also a big fan of BBC documentaries, many of which are truly excellent, but some of them are also bulls**t.

AnonymousMay 22, 2009 12:04 PM

@Helfrick, Franky B.,

"I don't want to speak for Bruce,"

Nor do I but consider this, is he being stupid or actually quite smart.

By admitting to the judge he has taken pot but by going on to say he can still understand them could be a very very curious form of defense.

The fact he thinks he's ok does not make it so he is incompetent to make that decision as he is "judging himself" and no person can do that impartialy.

The judge is now in an awkward position they have befor them a "self confessed drug user" of a drug that is known to affect peoples judgment and behaviour, also leading (supposadly) in some cases to longterm mental health problems.

Is the defendent mentaly fit to stand trial? was the defendent mentaly fit at or before the conspiracy was hatched?

Importantly did the drug habbit cause a dependency relationship to form...

That is was the Confidential Informant also his drug dealer either directly or indirectly by "sliping him some on the side" as the defendent nods along with the CI and the "big it up talk".

If it could be shown that the defendent had a dependancy on the CI then the whole case is heading for a very very messy time.

Sometimes it is very dificult to tell the difference between realy stupid and realy smart, and there is not enough information to say at this time...

ModeratorMay 22, 2009 12:13 PM

I've removed a couple of comments so far. Please keep the thread civil and on-topic, and please don't insult people for their political beliefs, not even in the aggregate.

Also, please remember this is a security blog, not a political one. Criticizing politicians' words and actions as they relate to security -- as Bruce does above -- is fine, but do keep it focused.

FordMay 22, 2009 12:24 PM

The willingness of a jury to convict hapless entrapped bozos makes me wonder about the folks at Guantanamo who "are guilty but can't be tried."

Pat CahalanMay 22, 2009 1:15 PM

@ Anonymous

Anyone reasonably smart knows that it is very, very difficult to get an insanity or non compos mentis defense, to the point where people who are *actually nutbars* usually don't succeed.

I think there is enough available evidence to support the proposition that these guys were idiots, and very little reasonable evidence that they're super-crafty double loop thinkers.

AnonymousMay 22, 2009 1:24 PM

Amateur hour, indeed.

Reminds me of the Clinton era. Bush era had some serious errors as well.

Money sure is a powerful motive to cheat the system. The revolving door in the USA is really bad, and is fueling all this nonsense.

I wonder how much all this little sting cost.

And stinger missiles are old, and not likely for this class of bozos. You would expect modern terrorists to build or have access to comparable items. Pumped up water pressure Estes model rockets with nitromethane does not count as souped up stingers, unless one is drugged up and pumped up by a CI over time. LAME!!! Only fuels more problems.

kangarooMay 22, 2009 2:24 PM

@BF:

Who cares what the legal definition of entrapment is? That's for these folks defense lawyers.

What matter -here- as a security matter is whether the entire incident is concocted by an informant or not --- whether or not the incident would have happened in the counterfactual.

Legal definitions are technical matters for the ritual of judgment. They aren't substantive, but purely procedural. Using them outside of that domain only confuses matters.

MikeMay 22, 2009 3:38 PM

I agree the guys where dumb. But plenty of smart people smoke pot. I write exploit code and I smoke, so what?

Clive RobinsonMay 23, 2009 2:11 AM

@ Helfrick,

When you seperate the "wheat from the chaf" in the articles it gets more interesting.

You have a man claiming to be 55, who the police say is 44 and admitting smoking drugs to the judge, but tells her I'm ok...

This person is effectivly destitute and has a history of commiting random acts you might expect of an unruly teenager being "lead along" by others.

You then have another man who is shown to be an "Ultra Violent type" determined to commit vilonce of any kind even against those that are supposedly (ie the informant) helping him achieve "his aims".

You also have "The Forigner" who is "just trying to stay to see his kids".

And of course the dreaded specter of "Islam". With the men supposadly being effectivly "brain washed" whilst in prison.

You then have all of the defendents not entering plees and defense attorney Suzane Brody reserving the right to request bail with,

“Of course, there is more to the story,”

Now she may just be grandstanding but it smells like somebody with brains is behind this little show.

Perhaps the defense are positioning to get some of the men not into the "prison" system but "psychiactric" system. Or have realised that the current political climate is not conducive to a fair trial for some of the more "pitifull black defendants" (and lets be honest the prosecution statments so far reported are very much over the top to the point of right leaning political campaining).

So perhaps the plan is get grounds for an "unsafe conviction" and apeal a few years down the road when the all the media and political hype/posturing has died down and the social climate is more conducive to their case... And with a few good psych reports, one or two of the men will be back on the streets trying to cope with a harsh society they are compleatly ill equiped to deal with.

From one of the articles the men are due back in court on June 5 and I suspect the circus will start moving into town shortly there after.

I guess we will have to wait for the "next thrilling episode"...

Seriously though as has been observed about this sort of case in the past "there still is to little information to say" what on earth was happening, perhaps their "home video" will tell us more when it hit's prime time TV...

But unlike Bruce I don't think that all of these men are idiots, I think some are on different points of the scale.

Back in the 1800's people who where seen as "subnormal" by the society they lived in where subjected to the "hot coin" test to see if they where an idiot / imbecile etc.

Such testing gave rise in Paris in the early 1900's to the "Binet intelligence test". Sometimes known as the Binet-Simon test it was the early forrunner of the IQ test. However in the US Binet's warnings about missusing his test where ignored and sterilisation and other eugenic notions where proclaimed much as they where in Nazi Germany.

Is the latest scourge of society "terrorism" being missused by the authorities just like the Binet test to lock up or remove those who for whatever reason lack the abilities to survive in the US "freedom for all" "Great American Dream".

For those so inclined to know a little more about the US History of "dealing with retardation" have a look at,

http://iq-test.learninginfo.org/iq01.htm

http://www.nyupress.org/webchapters/...

never neverMay 23, 2009 7:37 AM

> Some things never change.

Don't say "never", rather "did not yet".

AnonymousMay 24, 2009 8:45 PM

@MathFox:

If DHS, FBI, CIA and TLA employees didn't get involved in this case, and these guys managed some form of attack, there would people like you second guessing why they aren't doing enough to keep their conviction rate up.

I understand your pessimism, but please don't make such sweeping judgments; some of us who work for these agencies actually care about what we do to try and protect you and your family...

RonKMay 25, 2009 5:18 AM

"If DHS, FBI, CIA and TLA employees didn't get involved in this case, and these guys managed some form of attack, there would people like you second guessing why they aren't doing enough to keep their conviction rate up."

You obviously don't read this blog regularly, do you (I suppose the fact that you didn't even bother to not call yourself Anonymous is a big tipoff, eh?). So understand: most of the people here are second guessing why we need to pay (most of) your salaries, even if there are a few cuckoos running around who might manage to do a bit of damage here and there (or even a lot of damage, since we're totally unconvinced that paying you reduces the chance of success greatly enough to be worthwhile).

KBMay 25, 2009 9:20 AM

@RonK:

On the contrary, I read this blog daily and understand its premise quite well, thank you. (My previous comment came up as "Anonymous" since I went back to correct a spelling error and did not re-enter my initials - but way to be courteous and non-judgmental)

My original point, which I feel you may have missed, is that it's unfair to categorically lump any action taken by law enforcement and/or the intelligence community as an effort to "boost conviction rates."

Feel free to question our procedures, methods or techniques - those of us out in the field do it all the time. You're equally justified in questioning our salaries, I'm a taxpayer too and I think there are a lot of overpaid folks with in all branches of government.

But understand this, some of us have dedicated our lives to pursuing all types of "cuckoos running around who might do a bit of damage here or there," and we don't do it for conviction rates or media attention. We do it because we believe in something bigger than ourselves, something I feel you may want to think about.

Semper Fi.

PackagedBlueMay 25, 2009 11:56 AM

TLA are very different. Part of the problem is the newer TLAs.

I think people might also worry about some of the reckless TLA times of the 90s.

I do have a problem with putting RIAA in power and the rise of copyright cops. Existing laws were ample, but RIAA loves to go after small fry for 100M gain so far. GRR, not good in a depression time.

The FBI also has lots of legal power to hack with any warrants. Conflicts of interest will start up.

Things are looking like conflicts will show up in time, thats what I think the gripes are about.
Kudos to all the good hard working TLAs, in a world like this, especially in todays times.

mcbMay 26, 2009 9:36 AM

@ KB

As an apparent insider would you care to comment on the dependency of most if not all of these cases on the use of confidential informants who apparently provide the ideas, planning, logistics, and bogus devices to these conspiracies-of-dunces? Any chance the alphabet agencies renditioning or disappearing the real bad guys they interrupt?

BF SkinnerMay 26, 2009 10:31 AM

@Helfrick "take exception to labeling them as idiots because they smoke pot"

How 'bout labeling them idiots because the imman suspected a police plant and warned his mosque away from him....and the idiots still fell for it.

@kangaroo "Who cares what the legal definition of entrapment "

Do you mean "why would a preventative control on human behavior be relevant to this case?"

The entrapment laws provide protect in a two fold manner. They deter government officials from creating the very work for themselves that they being accused of here. AND they provide relief to an injured citizen. Doesn't matter if that citizen is a scumbag in a dozen other ways if they didn't do THIS crime and are framed for it they deserve relief.

When a bust isn't good then at some point in the process it will be thrown out.

How does, "Yes they were terrorists but because of our bad procedure the courts let them go.", sound? No body likes it; that's why the Bush administration avoided any contact with the law they could avoid and had the SCOTUS reduce the protection of the Miranda warning. Obama is wrestling with the issue now when in spite of his stated intentions during the campaign he's still going forward with military tribunals.

We are a nation of law. Law provides our basic security. Is it perfect? No security is perfect. A nation of our weird little laws because we as a people are, rightly, suspicious of the arbitrary use of power on behalf of whoever gets their hands on it. Unless you're a fan feudin', of kangaroo courts or the French experiment with j'accuse you accept that living under a rule of law are not simple but it's much better than the alternatives.

So the legal definition isn't a niceity. It's a rule...or a law if you will.

This event - does argue for Bruce's frequent observation that our security controls are calibrated to catch stupid terrorists.

HelfrickMay 26, 2009 10:59 AM

@Clive Robinson, @BF Skinner

You both raise some good points, but I don't believe much of that information was available when Bruce made his post. My point is simply that singling out pot usage on the day of the attack is, in my opinion, no different than saying they were stupid because one of them had a beer earlier in the day. There was plenty of information to come to the conclusion that they were mentally deficient without focusing on something so trivial.

KBMay 26, 2009 4:44 PM

@mcb:

Any agency, whether local, state or federal, is at a disadvantage when it attempts conduct an investigation into any criminal enterprise. Many times the only way to identify and disrupt these groups and their activities is either by one of the members coming forward and volunteering to assist, or by using a confidential source and attempting to have them accepted into the organization. These tactics are nothing new, they have been used by intelligence agencies for ages.

A major reason we lost so much ground going up against would-be bad guys is that our reliance on spy satellites and other tech gadgets increased, as we diminished our use (and subsequent development of) sources who can infiltrate these organizations and assist in their demise.

As far as renditions, I don't think that will ever happen. Besides, three of the four guys arrested in the latest event are American citizens, they and the fourth suspect will likely serve out their terms here if convicted.

BF SkinnerMay 27, 2009 6:33 AM

@Helfrick

True. It's a symptom of impaired reasoning but it doesn't follow that the reasoning was impaired by the drug use.

I'd focus rather on the admission of guilt to a minor crime (drug use) before an officer of the court (the judge). These guy's histories indicate they've had problems making judgements their whole lives. This is just the latest in a bad string.

BF SkinnerMay 27, 2009 6:36 AM

@KB "As far as renditions, I don't think that will ever happen"

But it has happened. The memos the OLC in the Justice Department clearly reason it's allowable and legal for the President to declare US citizens as illegal combantants no matter where in the world they are apprehended. These guys are lucky they were'nt caught in 2002 since they'd quite likely be in a brig (maybe guantanomo if Dick had his way) for the duration.

KBMay 27, 2009 8:14 AM

@BF Skinner:

While that may be true of past administrations, don't expect it to happen much, if at all, under the new regime....

BF SkinnerMay 27, 2009 5:24 PM

@KB "under the new regime"

There's always a new regime. Obama and his administration are trying for the high ground but they are pragmatic and politicians who are constrained by what people expect. Hell maybe even the last administration was.

It comes done to fear in my mind. If you, my leader, don't deal with the evil, my devil, then you my leader ARE my devil and will be deposed - come the revolution.

So how do we reduce fear? I've been working on that question since Bruce's Beyond Fear.

KBMay 28, 2009 9:12 AM

@BF Skinner:

Reducing fear is certainly a worthwhile effort, but so is reducing the actual threat.

mcbMay 28, 2009 11:20 AM

Heard an interview on the radio this morning that the CI in this case has been working for the Bureau since 2003 and was the CI in another case where he solicited funds from US residents to purchase Stingers overseas for Jihadis overseas...if true, this fella gets around.

So, what's the risk that one these trolling CIs get his targeted wannabee terrorists all fired up but then loses control of them and they acquire weapons and act independently of CI supervision and FBI surveillance?

DavidMay 28, 2009 4:23 PM

@KB:

But what is the actual threat? Currently, I classify terrorists the same as man-eating tigers: certainly dangerous if I actually encounter one, but I don't expect ever to be near one in my lifetime.

If we disregard the puffed-up terrorist plots, then maybe people like you can protect people like me in a more efficient way. I do expect to see drunk drivers now and then, and twice in my neighborhood we've had police around with drawn guns (in the last ten years).

KBMay 28, 2009 8:08 PM

@David:

Therein lies the challenge; how do we separate "real" threats from those that aren't? Let's say for the sake of argument you did encounter a man-eating tiger on your way home; and during the encounter you and/or your family were seriously injured.

Would you be asking why someone wasn't doing more to prevent man-eating tigers from walking around, or would you write it off as a chance encounter? Chance or not, the damage will be done.

I freely concede that the media coverage concerning most terrorist arrests is blown out of proportion, but I can assure it it isn't the "cop on the beat" generating the news. Please believe me when I tell you we are always looking for more effective ways to do our jobs. We have families and friends we want to protect as much as you or anyone you know.

Coleen RowleyMay 28, 2009 11:29 PM

The issue of Bush "pre-emption" doctrine being employed, not only internationally to launch unjustified wars on other countries but, more and more, to push FBI agents to target people in the "domestic war on terrorism" who are not otherwise predisposed to commit acts of terrorism; the recent (Dec. 2008) erasing of all the prior (reasonable) restrictions that existed under Attorney General Guidelines, (which, as a result of the abuses revealed by the Church Committee, required some factual predication in order to target groups or as in the Newburgh case, to "troll the mosques" for petty criminals and losers); and the blurring of dissent and non-violent civil disobedience with terrorism all combine to create a "perfect storm," if you will, which explains the series of fiascos that FBI agents like the "Newburgh 4" case agent Robert Fuller have apparently been involved in. See "FBI Agent on Synogogue Case Has Questionable Record" http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/...

Everyone who is concerned about this problem, which will only grow worse, if not addressed, should write to the Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine who actually has a good track record of independent oversight and investigation of the FBI's various post 9-11 screw-ups, including their misguided post 9-11 round up of 1000 immigrants, none of whom turned out to be terrorists; the FBI's reckless serving of 200,000 "national security letters" for Americans' bank, credit, phone, computer, and travel records; and most importantly, the Inspector General's 2005 investigation of the FBI's informant program which found the FBI failed to comply with its own informant policies 87% of the time.

Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints
Office of the Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Room 4706
Washington, D.C. 20530

mcbMay 29, 2009 10:00 AM

@ KB

"Let's say for the sake of argument you did encounter a man-eating tiger on your way home... Would you be asking why someone wasn't doing more to prevent man-eating tigers from walking around...?"

The tiger scenario leads to the question of how much and what sort of preemption is tolerable. In the case under discussion the question is whether preemption means letting the alphabet agencies employ criminals to hang out at the zoo's employee break room to encourage a disgruntled employee to a buy a key to the tiger cage so he can let the tiger out.

"I freely concede that the media coverage concerning most terrorist arrests is blown out of proportion, but I can assure it it isn't the 'cop on the beat' generating the news."

You're right of course; it's not the cop on the beat who spins up the media machine in these cases. Press releases and talking point memos are written by PR staffers working for the alphabet agency directors, the mayor's office, metro PD chiefs, and federal prosecutors...many of whom may be reasonably suspected of harboring personal, professional, and political interests in the pursuing the GWOT at nearly any cost.

mcbMay 29, 2009 1:55 PM

Upon proofreading I realize my post might better read:

"In the case under discussion it seems the question is whether preemption means letting an alphabet agency employ a criminal to hang out at the zoo's employee break room to encourage a disgruntled employee to a buy a key to the tiger cage so that the alphabet agency can arrest the disaffected loser as he's attempting to release the tiger."

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