5 Outrageous Examples of FBI Intimidation and Entrapment
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Informants present a particular problem because they may be receiving a benefit for helping the FBI target individuals (for example, a reduction in a criminal sentence or a change in immigration status, etc). They may also be receiving payment for their service. The “dangerous incentive structure,” inevitably helps to increase the possibility of abuse of authority by the FBI. As former FBI agent Mike German says:
If the government targets somebody based on political advocacy, and can lure a few people into committing bad acts, then a successful prosecution in those cases justifies future targeting of people who are in the same position. . . Whether these cases could survive an entrapment defense is not the relevant question. It’s whether it’s appropriate for the government to act in a way where they’re aggrandizing the nature of the threat. It’s just difficult to understand what the legitimate government interest is in these cases.”
Williams and the other men were found guilty in October 2010. In May of this year, a judge denied the defendants’ motions for dismissal “on the basis of outrageous government conduct and entrapment.” The men are currently in the process of being sentenced for their participation in this scheme and prosecutors are pushing for life sentences for three of the four men, including Williams.
5. The Criminalization of Travel by the FBI
At least 23 antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Several of the activists from Chicago, the Twin Cities in Minnesota and other areas have had their homes raided by the FBI with documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers and children’s artwork seized.
The FBI alleges the activists have provided “material support for terrorism.” In the past months, it has been discovered the FBI used an informant named Karen Sullivan to spy on an antiwar organization for months as it made plans for the 2008 Republican National Convention. The FBI also flubbed the investigation when an agent left documents in the home of one of the subpoenaed activists.
A troubling aspect of the investigation is how it effectively criminalizes outspoken citizens who travel to other countries to meet groups that may have beliefs or agendas that are in conflict with US foreign policy. For example, Sarah Smith, a Jewish American woman and avid traveler who lives in Chicago, received a call from the FBI on December 3, 2010. The agent, Robert Parker, asked Smith to meet with him and answer some questions.
Smith asked what questions the agent had, and he said he was not at liberty to discuss the questions. This made Smith think she needed a lawyer. The agent told Smith that it was not necessary to have a lawyer because she was not in trouble. He claimed he had some routine questions about a trip and said, "I think you know which trip I'm talking about." Realizing Parker wanted to talk to her about the trip she took to Israel and Palestine in August, just months ago, she reached out to a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild.
"We went on an educational trip in which we met with NGOs, teachers, nonviolent protesters," explains Smith. "We didn't meet with anyone who is on any terrorist list. We didn't give money to anyone that is on a terrorist list. We wanted to see what it was like for ourselves, to live in Israel with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank."
Suppressing the right of American groups to travel is not new to U.S. government policy. In 1992, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) mounted a case on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Geo-Vista Global Experiences and Veterans for Peace asserting regulations on group travel to Vietnam and Cambodia were "making it impossible to organize academic study groups, to travel with study groups, to travel with colleagues to assess humanitarian aid and to engage in group fact-finding trips."