July 25, 2014 2 Comments
Last night I watched a terrific HBO documentary, “The Newburgh Sting.” It is basically the story of how the FBI completely manufactured a terrorism case. The FBI offered four ex-cons $250,000 dollars to blow up a synagogue and parked military planes. The “terrorists” were quite clear they didn’t want to hurt anybody, but they would gladly take a quarter million dollars and pretend to actually be serious Muslims (they were all nominally Muslim at best) for the money. Guess what, if the criteria for being a terrorist is a willingness to engage in serious property destruction for $250,000 than there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of terrorists in this country. Were these guys stupid? Absolutely. Amoral? Sure. Terrorists? Not on your life. Deserving of 25 year prison sentences for a crime the FBI created out of whole cloth to entice them? No way. Damn, damn, damn, I hate that our government behaves this way.
And let’s not forget the opportunity cost. The FBI certainly does not have unlimited resources. All those resources turning poor, greedy, ex-cons into terrorists would surely be better off trying to catch real terrorists. Also, as the film points out, how much better off would we be if the FBI would work with mosques, rather than alienating them by having them wonder if every new member isn’t an FBI informant seeking to create “terrorists” from among their members. Naturally, this is not a one-off case. First time I heard about the FBI manufacturing terrorism was this excellent This American Life episode.