The FBI’s preference for easily-investigated terrorism is well-documented. We’re routinely assured that all sorts of domestic surveillance tech and agency opacity is necessary to protect us from a whole host of threats, but for the most part, the terrorists “apprehended” by the FBI seem to be people who’ve had the misfortune of being “befriended” by undercover agents and/or confidential informants.
When over 90% of the funding, idea generation, transportation and motivation comes from those saving us from terrorism, we have reason to be worried. While the FBI performs its predatory handcrafting of “extremists,” the real terrorists — who don’t need someone else to provide weapons, money and motivation — are still going about the business of terrorism.
This isn’t to say that all, or even a majority, of the FBI’s anti-terrorist resources are devoted to digging a hole and filling it back up. But a portion of it is, and that portion is squandered completely. And these numbers, gathered by The Intercept, put the squandered portion at nearly 50% of the total.
Osmakac was 25 years old on January 7, 2012, when he filmed what the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice would later call a “martyrdom video.” He was also broke and struggling with mental illness.
After recording this video in a rundown Days Inn in Tampa, Florida, Osmakac prepared to deliver what he thought was a car bomb to a popular Irish bar. According to the government, Osmakac was a dangerous, lone-wolf terrorist who would have bombed the Tampa bar, then headed to a local casino where he would have taken hostages, before finally detonating his suicide vest once police arrived.
But if Osmakac was a terrorist, he was only one in his troubled mind and in the minds of ambitious federal agents. The government could not provide any evidence that he had connections to international terrorists. He didn’t have his own weapons. He didn’t even have enough money to replace the dead battery in his beat-up, green 1994 Honda Accord.
Osmakac was the target of an elaborately orchestrated FBI sting that involved a paid informant, as well as FBI agents and support staff working on the setup for more than three months. The FBI provided all of the weapons seen in Osmakac’s martyrdom video. The bureau also gave Osmakac the car bomb he allegedly planned to detonate, and even money for a taxi so he could get to where the FBI needed him to go. Osmakac was a deeply disturbed young man, according to several of the psychiatrists and psychologists who examined him before trial. He became a “terrorist” only after the FBI provided the means, opportunity and final prodding necessary to make him one.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has arrested dozens of young men like Osmakac in controversial counterterrorism stings. One recent case involved a rudderless 20-year-old in Cincinnati, Ohio, named Christopher Cornell, who conspired with an FBI informant — seeking “favorable treatment” for his own “criminal exposure” — in a harebrained plot to build pipe bombs and attack Capitol Hill. And just last month, on February 25, the FBI arrested and charged two Brooklyn men for plotting, with the aid of a paid informant, to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. The likelihood that the men would have stepped foot in Syria of their own accord seems low; only after they met the informant, who helped with travel applications and other hurdles, did their planning take shape.