Bagging The Sheep, Not The Shepherds
I want to follow up on the “Dumb Terrorists” story from yesterday, and an exchange I had with Bagley of all people in the comments thread from yesterday. Bagley’s point, as I understand it, was that these types of investigations and prosecutions are just as valuable if they stop dummies like these guys because it may prevent killings. Fair enough, but five years after 9/11, billions of dollars wasted and my privacy thrashed, all in the name of protecting me from terrorists here at home, I was hoping for a little more from our government that entrapping morons whose only link to Al Qaeda was through federal informants and agents who lied to them. We admitted as much yesterday when the Justice Department stated they stopped this case as soon as they had enough to prosecute these guys not for actually being tied to Al Qaeda, (which they weren’t except for our phony informant) but for being stupid and sounding like they were wannabes.
The official, John S. Pistole, deputy director of the F.B.I., and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said at a news conference that authorities chose to head off the would-be plot, involving scouting potential targets in Florida, when it was largely at the discussion stage.
Mr. Gonzales acknowledged that the men, who had neither weapons nor explosives, posed "no immediate threat." But he added, "they did take sufficient steps that we believe does support this prosecution."
In general, Mr. Gonzales said, homegrown terrorists "may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda."
No Abu, a bunch of morons who ask for boots, uniforms, money, and bling from a guy they don’t know aren’t as dangerous as guys who enroll in flight school, and operate under your f*cking radar screen for months. As George Tenet told Ron Suskind in “The One Percent Doctrine”, the Bush Administration has spent all of its time building an unnecessary organization and layers of bureaucracy to fight terrorism here at home instead of simply giving law enforcement around the country speedy access to data and other tools they need to catch Al Qaeda, based on their known habits. As a result, as Suskind notes, experts feel that we could just as easily be hit again in much the same way now as we were almost five years ago.
News of the arrests touched off widespread television coverage of the plot against the Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. But details of the indictment disclosed Friday at news conferences in Washington and Miami presented a less alarming picture. The indictment made clear that a pivotal role was played by an unidentified undercover F.B.I. informer who posed as a Qaeda member and met repeatedly with the reported ringleader of the group, Narseal Batiste.
The problem I have with this “prevention through prosecution” approach is that five years after 9/11, with a host of new laws now on the books to aid in the fight against domestic terrorism, it’s not clear to me what we are doing to the actual Al Qaeda infrastructure inside this country. In justifying their prevention through prosecution approach, the Justice Department trots out the statistics on the number of such prosecutions of these dupes around the country that were led to admit support for Al Qaeda not by real Al Qaeda agents, but by our informants and agents.
Aside from a couple of high-profile convictions early on after 9/11, it seems to me that what the Bush Administration is doing is entrapping the sheep through federal informants or agents instead of bagging the shepherds. I would feel a lot safer if I knew all that information that the NSA was grabbing from my private life was actually leading to the capture and conviction of true Al Qaeda ringleaders in this country, instead of the snagging of some stupid and disgruntled wannabes who are easily led by our informants and agents into saying stupid things.
Sure, let’s bag these stupid guys if a judge and jury feel it is warranted. But what has this case done to deal with Al Qaeda in this country?