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Counter-Terrorism: How America is destroying itself

By Davi Barker, M4L

December 2, 2010


At a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland Oregon another FBI co-produced terror plot landed a young Muslim in custody charged with “attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.” According to an affidavit detailing the sting operation the bomb the FBI provided never contained any explosives, and they claim the public was never in any real danger.

19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud allegedly made contact with an “unindicted associate” in northwest Pakistan known as, “Abu Abdallah.” Together they discussed Mohamed traveling overseas to engage in “violent jihad.” Abu allegedly referred Mohamed to a second “unindicted associate” who went by, “Abdul Hadi” to make travel arrangements, but this second contact was never made. Instead Mohamed was emailed by an undercover FBI agent posing an associate of Abdul Hadi. Together, Mohamed and two undercover agents posing as financiers spent months planning the attack.

Judging by the content of the FBI affidavit, Mohamed is not a sympathetic character. He was allegedly committed to violence since the age of 15, and he apparently expressed glee at the notion of killing innocent civilians in his attack. In a video he prepared to explain his reasons for the attack Mohamed explained, “For as long as you threaten our security, your people will not remain safe. As your soldiers target our civilians, we will not help to do so. Do you think that you could invade a Muslim land, and we would not invade you?”

Mohamed’s defense attorneys released a public statement saying, “The information released by the government raises serious concerns about the government manufacturing a crime.” They have asserted that he couldn’t have accomplished the attack without their encouragement and financing. To avoid entrapment as a defense the FBI must be able to show the Mohamed acted of his own volition and not at their instruction. Although the FBI recorded all their conversations on multiple recording devises during their investigation, the critical conversation where Mohamed allegedly asked to become “operational” was not recorded due to “technical problems.”FBI stings of this kind are becoming routine. An undercover agent posing as a financier approaches a potential patsy and provides him with equipment and money to fulfil his violent ambition. Once he takes the bait the agent provides him with a fake bomb, and when he attempts to detonate the dud he is arrested as a terrorist.

Waiting for the suspect to attempt to detonate a fake bomb, rather than busting him earlier in the operation leaves the prosecution wide open to an entrapment defense, and the news coverage severely compromises access to a fair trial. Member of the Portland Muslim community have argued that Mohamed was young enough that some kind of community intervention could have saved him from the extremist message he found on the Internet. In fact, after hitting a dead end with his contact in Pakistan, there’s no guarantee Mohamed ever would have acted on his violent ambitions without help. But law enforcement has a perverse incentive to try to bust big cases instead of preventing them because they make headlines, get promotions and grow budgets. Ironically, headlines, promotions and budgets are the primary problem with this strategy.

What’s not commonly understood is that Al Qaeda’s primary goal is not mass murder but economic damage. Mohamed alluded to this fact in his video when he said, “To those doubting the victory of Allah then we say there’s a lesson in the USSR for you.” This rather obscure reference would be lost on most observers, but stands out like light house when one considers that Al Qaeda’s strategy against the US is identical to the Mujaheddin strategy against the USSR in the 1980s.

Al Qaeda can not win militarily, just as the Mujaheddin could not hope to defeat the Soviet Union by battlefield victories alone. Instead their strategy is to provoke the U.S. into spending itself into insolvency. Using relatively inexpensive means they can force the U.S. to spend unsustainable amounts of money on counter-terrorism measures until the economic reality forces them to withdraw, or worse, collapse.

By the best estimates Al Qaeda spent $500,000 on the September 11th attack, which cost the U.S. more that $500 billion. The price tag on last year’s underwear bomb was in the thousands, but in response the U.S. has spent over $300 billion on their new full body scanners. This level of spending is unsustainable, as it was in the USSR. Even when an attack fails to do any actual damage, Al Qaeda still succeeds in their economic goals.

The FBI’s counter terrorism strategy plays right into Al Qaeda’s objectives. After the FBI thwarted their own terror plot in Washington D.C. the Metro Police announced new more expensive security procedures. After the FBI busted this recent plot the Portland City Council is considering reversing it’s 2005 decision and rejoining the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Now, thanks to the FBI, Al Qaeda doesn’t have to spend one thin dime tricking America into destroying itself with headlines, promotions and budget increases.

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