Nearly every major post-9/11 terrorism-related prosecution has involved a sting operation at the center of which is a government informant, The Nation magazine reports.
The publication cites the findings of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. The Center has tracked 138 terrorism or national security prosecutions involving informants since 2001.
As the informants work for money or a reduction of their own criminal charges, their testimony may well be tainted. What’s particularly distressing, writes Petra Bartosiewicz, a New York City journalist in the July 2nd issue of the magazine, is that the FBI informants “have crossed the line from merely observing potential criminal behavior to encouraging and assisting people to participate in plots that are largely scripted by the FBI itself.”
The reporter explains that “Under the FBI’s guiding hand, the informants provide the weapons, suggest the targets and even initiate the inflammatory political rhetoric that later elevates the charges to the level of terrorism.”
One judge hearing a “terrorism” case, Colleen McMahon, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said it was “beyond question that the government created the crime here” and criticized the FBI for sending informants “trolling along the citizens of a troubled community, offering very poor people money if they will play some role—any role—in criminal activity.”
Adds Amna Akbar, a supervising attorney at CLEAR, the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project of the City University of New York Law School: “The FBI approaches the vast majority of our clients as potential informants to partake in mass surveillance of Muslim communities, unconnected to any real criminal investigation.”
Within a year of the 9/11 attacks, Bartosiewicz writes, the FBI reassigned nearly half of its field office positions formerly devoted to the ‘War on Drugs’ to the new ‘War on Terror.” It also launched 3,000 new counterterrorism investigations. Today, of an $8.1 billion budget, the FBI allocates $4.9 billion to intelligence and counterterrorism, “approximately $1.7 billion more than all other federal crimes combined,” the journalist reports.
The author says the FBI is operating in a post-9/11 environment of relaxed guidelines that allow the FBI “to engage in lengthy and extensive surveillance of individuals and communities with little or no evidence of any wrongdoing afoot.”
If Americans are not shocked that real criminal prosecutions are being scrapped by FBI Director Robert Mueller in favor of “terrorism” probes which may be cooked up by the FBI to feed the nation’s Islamophobic paranoia, perhaps they should be.
A related article published in the same issue of the magazine quotes Andrew Shryock, a University of Michigan professor, having this to say about prosecutions using government informants: “It’s fabricated police work. And the disturbing thing is not that it produces arrests but that the public tolerates it.”
Sherwood Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org