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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The debate over domestic terrorism informants

For the debate over the FBI's practice of sending paid informants into Muslim communities to ferret out domestic terrorists, compare these two pieces in the wake of the conviction of four men in Newburgh, NY:
From Slate: The Pathetic Newburgh Four: Should the FBI really be baiting sad-sack homegrown terrorists?
"Why does the government's anti-terror net catch such unconvincing villains: black men near mosques who, in exchange for promises of money, sign on to knuckleheaded schemes that would never exist if it weren't for the informants being handsomely paid to incite them? [One of the] supposed plotter[s], a Haitian, was a paranoid schizophrenic (according to his imam), which was the reason his deportation had been deferred (according to The Nation's TomDispatch.com), and who kept bottles of urine in his squalid apartment (according to the New York Times). The last two, both surnamed Williams, have histories of drug busts and minimum-wage jobs in Newburgh. At trial the government asserted that the plot was driven by anti-American hatred. But in papers filed in court by defense lawyers before the trial began, Cromitie is quoted in government transcripts explaining to Hussain that the men "will do it for the money. ... They're not even thinking about the cause."
From Business Week: NY Bomb Plot Convictions Vindicate Use of Informant
"The convictions of four men for conspiring to bomb New York synagogues vindicated the post-9/11 strategy of using an informant to identify individuals deemed likely to engage in terrorism and encourage them up to the point of arrest, legal experts said. After being approached by one defendant who said he wanted "to do something to America," the informant testified, he sought to gain their trust, urging them forward with gifts, scouting targets with them and eventually supplying them with dud bombs. Undercover informants played similar roles in three other recent terrorism cases, helping develop, then foil alleged plots to detonate a bomb near Chicago's Wrigley Field, attack a federal courthouse in Illinois and blow up a Dallas skyscraper."