Monday, November 29, 2010

Do sting operations help to deter terrorism?

Does anyone seriously believe that the FBI sting operations that entrap young, often confused Muslim men really help to thwart terrorism? Or is this just another effort at fear mongering on the part of the national security state?

There is apparently no evidence linking the 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud with any terrorist group. He became an FBI target because of his fascination with violent Islamist websites. This has been the story with other young Muslim men singled out for these high-profile stings.

What is the real purpose of these stings? As the old saying goes, follow the money. There is a lot of money to be made in the national security business, just as there is a lot of money to be made in the so-called "war on drugs." Those who stand to profit from these highly profitable wars are law enforcement officials, judges, prison guards, not to mention the shadowy figures involved in sting and entrapment operations.

Why Portland, Oregon? Could it be because the city council of Portland was skeptical about the war on terrorism and voted five years ago not to give homeland security its unconditional support. See

Now of course, the city council will cooperate fully and pony up whatever funds are necessary for its share in protecting its citizens from non-existent threats.

Does tempting a young man to become a terrorist deter terrorism?

If the man had a prior history of involvement, and there was no other way to prove his involvement other than by means of a sting, a case could be made for such a tactic being effective. (Whether such a tactic is moral or ethical is another matter.)

Imagine if the FBI tried to fight bank robbery using stings If a fake FBI gang went into poor neighborhoods and tried to recruit young men who were not gang members, but fantasized about being part of a gang, would this help reduce the number of bank robberies? Or would it convince young men that the FBI couldn't be trusted, and system was out to get them, and perhaps induce them to join a real gang?

I suspect that stings and entrapment will not reduce the threat of terrorism but actually increase it. Young men who are smart and want to become terrorists will simply be more careful when someone offers to recruit them. The Muslim community will be less likely to trust the FBI and support its legitimate activities.

But of course the whole purpose of the national security state is not to reduce terrorism, but to intimidate citizens into financing expensive schemes that perpetuate rather than solve the problem.

Let me conclude with a Sufi story about that wise fool Nasruddin.

Nasraddin was seen spraying his back yard every day and his neighbor was curious about why he was doing this.

"I am spraying my yard with tiger repellent," said Nasruddin.

"Tiger repellent?" said his neighbor. "There are no tigers for a thousand miles from here!"

"See," said Nasruddin, "It's working!"

The same may be said about most of the efforts to reduce terrorism here in the USA.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree. It's quite troubling that the FBI has to go beyond surveillance. It seems the young man in Portland's own family was concerned. Why not assist the family with resourced that might help them help their son? Instead he is encouraged to act on his thoughts. Actually, it goes beyond encouragement. It becomes enabling and equipping. I find it frightening.

    I also think this does indeed play into the politics and the money of national security. If enough manufactured threats can be paraded before the public, then we can all be convinced to continue to finance the federal agencies involved.