That is the allegation being kicked around by some in the media. They argue that announcements of foiled terrorist plots make for lurid reading and great press for the the FBI. The question is, how many of those “foiled attacks” would ever have been planned without the assistance of the agency?
Over the last eight years, the FBI has taken credit for stopping dozens of alleged terror plots. Ranging from schemes to carry out a Presidents Day attack on a train station, bomb a 9/11 memorial event, set off a 1,000-pound bomb at Fort Riley and even detonate a WMD at a Wichita airport. All of which showed a great deal of imagination and complexity.
But now, the media is starting to ask how many of these plots were real and how many were wishful thinking? A review of some of the more grandiose plots has revealed that many recent terrorism cases investigated by the FBI were questionable at best. The most sensational plots appear to have been largely the invention of FBI agents carrying out elaborate sting operations on individuals identified through social media as being potentially dangerous.
In terrorism investigations in Wichita, at Fort Riley and last week in Kansas City, the alleged terrorists reportedly were following the directions of undercover FBI agents who supplied fake bombs and came up with key elements of the plans. Michael German, a former FBI agent said: “What I get concerned about is where the plot is being hatched by the FBI. There has been a clear effort to manufacture plots.”
Has the need to uncover such plots become the driving force that allows our government to step on our freedoms and liberties in the name of security? “Security equipment” allowances to local and state law enforcement agencies has increased dramatically since 911, do they feel they must justify those increases? Law enforcement has increasingly used undercover agents and informants to develop such cases in recent years, especially against people suspected of being inspired by the Islamic State.
Of 126 cases prosecuted by federal authorities since 2014, nearly two-thirds involved undercover agents or informants, according to the Center on National Security at the Fordham University School of Law in New York. The FBI has stepped up its use of sting operations, which were once seen as a tactic of last resort.
FBI officials say sting operations are one tool for thwarting terrorist attacks and that suspects in such cases are given many opportunities to back out before their arrest. But is the FBI catching real terrorists or tricking troubled individuals?
Alleged plotter, Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr. of Columbia, was indicted last week after prosecutors accused him of participating in an Islamic State plan to cause mass casualties in a bombing attack on a train station in Kansas City on Feb. 20. But Hester’s two accomplices were actually undercover FBI employees. In fact, they suggested the time, place and type of attack and loaned Hester $20 to buy the batteries, duct tape, nails and wire that they implied would be ingredients for a bomb.There were no actual bombs.
The question is, Did Hester really have a desire or the funds to commit such an act, or was he really just a dupe being used to make the FBI look good prior to appropriations time?