FBI agent goaded Garland shooter to “Tear up Texas,” raising new alarms about Bureau’s methods
Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:
The revelation that an undercover FBI agent encouraged a would-be terrorist to “Tear up Texas” shortly before he opened fire on a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, last year raises new concerns about FBI counterterrorism efforts that were already under fire for manufacturing terrorism cases rather than halting them.
According to an affidavit filed in a related case last week, Elton Simpson — one of two men who donned body armor and fired assault weapons before being shot dead by a Garland police officer — had been corresponding with an undercover FBI agent. And in a text message roughly a week before the attack, as they discussed the cartoon contest, the agent had exhorted Simpson to “Tear up Texas.”
The FBI, in the affidavit, explained the comment as “an effort to continue their dialogue” with the suspect.
But testing the willingness of suspects to take certain steps in a conspiracy is one thing; actively encouraging them to commit a violent, criminal act is another.
“The FBI uses informants and undercover agents to pressure suspected ISIS sympathizers into committing acts of violence, so that they can then be prosecuted. The Garland shooter case is the most striking illustration yet of the dangers of this approach,” says Arun Kundnani, a lecturer on terrorism studies at New York University. “Essentially, it suggests the government may be manufacturing the very threat it is supposed to be countering.”
Kundnani called for “an independent congressional investigation of the FBI’s tactics.”
The extensive role played by the undercover agent was first reported by theDaily Beast.
Though sting operations are generally seen as an appropriate tool for infiltrating criminal organizations or conspiracies, their use is more problematic in contemporary terrorism cases involving isolated individuals. In those cases, the concern is that the informant or undercover agent could plant the idea to actually conduct an attack in the mind of a suggestible or unstable person.
“These cases always have a lot of gray area and there has always been a question of how far the FBI should go when they get involved in these sting operations,” said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. “But if you’re going to target potentially unstable, vulnerable individuals in undercover sting operations, you have to examine the potential consequences of having these types of discussions with them.”
The utility of sting operations has changed in . . .
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The FBI’s practice of inciting people to commit acts of terrorism is at best entrapment, and in this case amounts to acting as an accessory.