FBI or al Qaeda?


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    The FBI didn’t make up the explosives that were just shipped here, and that are probably more the reason for the heightened vigilance on the Metro today (along with high traffic). But yeah, that case from Thursday or whenever is a howler.Report

  2. Avatar Scott says:

    Really, we did it to ourselves, what BS. It was the peace loving Muslims that did it to us and still want to attack us. I don’t want to see this country become a police state but there is a real need to protect public safety.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


      This was a guy who didn’t want to attack American civilians at all. The FBI encouraged him to change his plans.

      BS? I’d say so. What if, after they egged him on, he’d given the FBI the slip and managed to bomb the subway? What if he thought — hey, this is a good idea, but I’ll try in New York instead? And because they weren’t expecting it, he succeeded.

      Now I’ll freely admit that he wanted to go overseas and fight us there. But the appropriate course of action with someone like this is to try him for treason, not to dance him like a puppet on a string and see what else we can get him to do.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        @Jason Kuznicki,

        What, precisely, was the overt act for which he could be convicted of treason?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          @Mike Schilling,

          I’m not a lawyer, but I would think that buying weapons and ammunition with intent would be sufficient. And that’s what he is alleged to have done. Why not pull the plug on the operation then? Why wait till he also causes significant inconvenience for a major city?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, Do you have any idea what you’re talking about here Jason, honestly? I mean, he could do any number of things as a result of the delay in arrest. Do you really think you have a better sense from where you sit of the balance of threat he posed against the need to develop enough of a case to take him in and be able to put him away for any length of time. I don’t know that what you raise isn’t an issue, but you sound like you’re just making shit up here. The problem with entrapment is that it isn’t just. Why not just make that argument rather than spin totally speculative scenarios from a position of zero experience in counterterrorism or law enforcement practice? Or if you do have some basis for this, why not let us know what it is?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          @Michael Drew,

          Sure entrapment is unjust. I hadn’t thought it a controversial point. (To some, apparently, it’s fine to entrap, as long as the guy’s a Muslim.)

          But anyway, if we have an American citizen whom the FBI says is trying to wage war on U.S. troops abroad, then t he right thing to do with him is obvious. He should be tried for treason.

          If the FBI doesn’t have evidence to this effect, it shouldn’t be saying so. Perhaps I’ve been too trusting of the government?Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            @Jason Kuznicki, There’s no way that you actually think so many complicated things are so black and white as you profess to do.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              I honestly don’t understand how your comment here is at all apposite to the post.

              I’m generally anti-entrapment, and I understand that you are too. This case seems to present two additional complications, one certain and the other at least a potential.

              First, the certainty is that a major city is going to be further inconvenienced.

              Second, the potential, which thankfully did not materialize, is that turning the suspect’s attention to softer targets might have caused actual harm to those softer targets.

              Now, you can disagree with either of these, although if you disagree with the first I’ll just laugh and invite you to ride the Metro with me. But in neither case does this seem to be a matter of my ideology against yours.

              If things are still less simple, do tell me how this is so. From where I sit, I seem to be the one entertaining more complex possibilities, while you are saying that we ought not to think about them. You, in other words, seem to be the more glib of the two of us.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Michael Drew, This concern about inspiring the subject of a sting operation who is constantly under surveillance to attempt to mount attacks that you won’t be able to pick up on and stop that by feeding him similar ideas in an effort to entrap him into activities that he wouldn’t otherwise have thought of — is it based on any documented cases you can cite, or is it just the product of letting your powerful mind run free with the potential in that basic scenario, i.e. are you just making shit up? That’s all my comment was meant to get at. Because I see the problem here really as just the justice issue related to entrapment, but at the same time it is a standard law-enforcement technique, and since the point here was to get something that they could get to stick to this guy (maybe you hadn’t heard, but treason prosecutions are pretty rare and I would only guess as a result a total crapshoot), most likely it is barely but clearly this side of legit. Thompson could probably help us with this one.

              I guess what I’m saying here is I think I can play a better federal prosecutor and/or FBI agent in a combox than you can based on this post and thread, and I know very well I play a darn crappy one.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Michael Drew, I think that’s a pretty different kind of situation, but fair enough. I guess I just don’t see this concern as particularly serious in the context of a case where a guy hadn’t even been considering such acts before having them insinuated to him. I can’t see him being able to go from zero to potentially competent to operational on such acts without our having multiple points at which we can move in on the guy, likely with a lot of admissible evidence gained from the surveillance along the way. This is among the FBI’s core competencies, and God help me, but I actually do think they’re pretty damn good at it. I trust their competence at least in this kind of operation, and indeed I believe there is counterterrorism efficacy in these type of sting operations, entrapment included. The only sticking point for me is the justice problem of inducing someone to commit a crime and arresting him for it, which is profound, even if the subject has committed or shown intent to commit related crimes previously during surveillance. As I said, I’d be quite interested in Mark’s view of the legalities.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Jason, This much I’ll definitely give you: it would be perfectly appropriate for (and I’d be v. interested to be privy to) people in a position to hold the FBI accountable to press FBI managers hard on just the question you raise here – how sure are we that our methods are reliable and won’t result in the scenario you sketch out. Of course, the specifics would never be made public, but it’s perfectly fair to raise the question. I still get the impression it’s something you (tpically intelligently) came up with on your own, and as such I don’t see it as the clear efficacy argument against stings like this that I took you to be making it out to be. But it’s a fair concern to weigh against others.Report