Shocker: Only 1% of So Called Terrorists Nabbed by the FBI Were Real
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TA: For the purposes of my book, I used the 10 years after 9/11 as the area that I was going to analyze data in, and what we know is that in the 10 years after 9/11, there were a little more than 500 defendants who were charged with federal crimes involving international terrorism. About 250 involved people who were charged with things like immigration violations or lying to the FBI and who are somehow linked to terrorism.
Their charges did not involve any sort of terrorist plot. Of the 500, you have about 150 who were caught in sting operations; these operations that were solely the creation of the FBI through an FBI informant or undercover agent providing the means and the opportunity, the bomb, the idea and so on.
Then if you’re really being generous, you can find only about five people of the 500 charged with international terrorism who were involved in some sort of plot that either had weapons of their creation or their acquisition or were connected to international terrorists in some way. These include Najibullah Zazi who came close to bombing the New York City subway system, Faisal Shahzad, who delivered a bomb to Times Square that fortunately didn’t go off, and then you have Jose Padilla—the dirty bomber—the underwear bomber and the shoe bomber, for example.
Being generous, those are the five that you can point to in the decade after 9/11 who seemed to pose a significant threat. Fortunately, none of them were successful. That’s a handful compared to the more than 150 who were caught in these sting operations, and in these sting operations the men never had access to weapons; it was only the FBI that provided it as part of the sting operation that they were controlling from beginning to end.
JH: I’m no attorney, but this sounds like it gets close to entrapment. Have defense attorneys raised that?
TA: Yeah, and this is an interesting area of this story. Obviously, a layman like you or me looking at this thinks this is definitely entrapment. Unfortunately, the legal definition of entrapment is very different, and what we know is that 11 defendants have formally argued entrapment in these cases and none have been successful.
A large reason for that is the government is able to argue against entrapment in two ways; one is to say the person was predisposed to commit the crime. That he had done something that suggested he was interested in committing a crime before the introduction of the government agent.
Traditionally speaking, if this was a bank robbery plot, the government would have to prove that the defendant was researching bank robberies or casing banks prior to the FBI informant getting involved. The FBI and the Department of Justice are able to do this very easily in these terrorism cases in part because they are able to introduce evidence that is really sketchy to prove that there was predisposition.
For example, often the government will cite the fact that someone watched a jihad video and they’ll put on the stand a government expert who will testify that, "Hey, you know, because he watched the jihad video and this is one of Al-Qaeda’s classics," that meant he was becoming a terrorist and the government line essentially, rather an absurd one, is that if you watch a Jihad video then, trance-like, you become a terrorist. It’s absurd on its face because I’ve watched those videos. You’ve watched those videos and I don’t think either of us are going to become terrorists.