Most Terrorist Plots in the US Aren't Invented by Al Qaeda -- They're Manufactured by the FBI
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Five days later, Martinez met again with the man he believed to be a terrorist. The informant was there, too. They were all, Martinez believed, brothers in arms and in Islam. In a parking lot near the Armed Forces Career Center on Baltimore National Pike, Martinez, the informant, and the undercover FBI agent piled into an SUV, where the undercover agent showed Martinez the device that would detonate the car bomb and how to use it. He then unveiled to the twenty-two-year-old the bomb in the back of the SUV and demonstrated what he’d need to do to activate it. “I’m ready, man,” Martinez said. “It ain’t like you seein’ it on the news. You gonna be there. You gonna hear the bomb go off. You gonna be, uh, shooting, gettin’ shot at. It’s gonna be real. … I’m excited, man.”
That night, Martinez, who had little experience behind the wheel of a car, needed to practice driving the SUV around the empty parking lot. Once he felt comfortable doing what most teenagers can do easily, Martinez and his associates devised a plan: Martinez would park the bomb-on-wheels in the parking lot outside the military recruiting center. One of his associates would then pick him up, and they’d drive together to a vantage point where Martinez could detonate the bomb and delight in the resulting chaos and carnage.
The next morning, the three men put their plan into action. Martinez hopped into the SUV and activated the bomb, as he’d been instructed, and then drove to the military recruiting station. He parked right in front. The informant, trailing in another car, picked up Martinez and drove him to the vantage point, just as planned. Everything was falling into place, and Martinez was about to launch his first attack in what he hoped would be for him a lifetime of jihad against the only nation he had ever known.
Looking out at the military recruiting station, Martinez lifted the detonation device and triggered the bomb. Smiling, he watched expectantly. Nothing happened. Suddenly, FBI agents rushed in and arrested the man they’d later identify in court records as “Antonio Martinez a/k/a Muhammad Hussain.” Federal prosecutors in Maryland charged Martinez with attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He faced at least thirty-five years in prison if convicted at trial.
“This is not Tony,” a woman identifying herself as Martinez’s mother told a reporter after the arrest. “I think he was brainwashed with that Islam crap.” Joseph Balter, a federal public defender, told the court during a detention hearing that FBI agents had entrapped Martinez, whom he referred to by his chosen name. The terrorist plot was, Balter said, “the creation of the government—a creation which was implanted into Mr. Hussain’s mind.” He added: “There was nothing provided which showed that Mr. Hussain had any ability whatsoever to carry out any kind of plan.”
Despite Balter’s claims, a little more than a year after his indictment, Martinez chose not to challenge the government’s charges in court. On January 26, 2012, Martinez dropped his entrapment defense and pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction under a deal that will require him to serve twenty-five years in prison—more years than he’s been alive. Neither Martinez nor Balter would comment on the reasons they chose a plea agreement, though in a sentencing hearing, Balter told the judge he believed the entire case could have been avoided had the FBI counseled, rather than encouraged, Martinez.
The U.S. Department of Justice touted the conviction as another example of the government keeping citizens safe from terrorists. “We are catching dangerous suspects before they strike, and we are investigating them in a way that maximizes the liberty and security of law-abiding citizens,” U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement announcing Martinez’s plea agreement. “That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver.”