[Marxism] The Terror Factory

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 21 06:22:59 MST 2013


Most Terrorist Plots in the US Aren't Invented by Al Qaeda -- They're 
Manufactured by the F

The following is an excerpt from The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's 
Manufactured War on Terrorism [3] by Trevor Aaronson (Ig Publishing, 2012).

Antonio Martinez was a punk. The twenty-two-year-old from Baltimore was 
chunky, with a wide nose and jet-black hair pulled back close to his 
scalp and tied into long braids that hung past his shoulders. He 
preferred to be called Muhammad Hussain, the name he gave himself 
following his conversion to Islam. But his mother still called him Tony, 
and she couldn’t understand her son’s burning desire to be the Maryland 

As a young man, Martinez had been angry and lost. He’d dropped out of 
Laurel High School, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and spent his 
teens as a small-time thief in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. By the age 
of sixteen, he’d been charged with armed robbery. In February 2008, at 
the age of eighteen, he tried to steal a car. Catholic University 
doctoral student Daniel Tobin was looking out of the window of his 
apartment one day when he saw a man driving off in his car. Tobin gave 
chase, running between apartment buildings and finally catching up to 
the stolen vehicle. He opened the passenger-side door and got in. 
Martinez, in the driver’s seat, dashed out and ran away on foot. Jumping 
behind the wheel, Tobin followed the would-be car thief. “You may as 
well give up running,” he yelled at Martinez. Martinez was apprehended 
and charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle—he had stolen the 
vehicle using an extra set of car keys which had gone missing when 
someone had broken into Tobin’s apartment earlier. However, prosecutors 
dropped the charges against Martinez after Tobin failed to appear in court.

Despite the close call, Martinez’s petty crimes continued. One month 
after the car theft, he and a friend approached a cashier at a Safeway 
grocery store, acting as if they wanted to buy potato chips. When the 
cashier opened the register, Martinez and his friend grabbed as much 
money as they could and ran out of the store. The cashier and store 
manager chased after them, and later identified the pair to police. 
Martinez pleaded guilty to theft of one hundred dollars and received a 
ninety-day suspended sentence, plus six months of probation.

Searching for greater meaning in his life, Martinez was baptized and 
became a Christian when he was twenty-one years old, but he didn’t stick 
with the religion. “He said he tried the Christian thing. He just really 
didn’t understand it,” said Alisha Legrand, a former girlfriend. 
Martinez chose Islam instead. On his Facebook page, Martinez wrote that 
he was “just a yung brotha from the wrong side of the tracks who 
embraced Islam.” But for reasons that have never been clear to his 
family and friends, Martinez drifted toward a violent, extremist brand 
of Islam. When the FBI discovered him, Martinez was an angry extremist 
mouthing off on Facebook about violence, with misspelled posts such as, 
“The sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease 
inshallah.” Based on the Facebook postings alone, an FBI agent gave an 
informant the “green light” to get to know Martinez and determine if he 
had a propensity for violence. In other words, to see if he was dangerous.

The government was setting the trap.

On the evening of December 2, 2010, Martinez was in another Muslim’s car 
as they drove through Baltimore. A hidden device recorded their 
conversation. His mother had called, and Martinez had just finished 
talking to her on his cell phone. He was aggravated. “She wants me to be 
like everybody else, being in school, working,” he told his friend. “For 
me, it’s different. I have this zeal for deen and she doesn’t understand 
that.” Martinez’s mother didn’t know that her son had just left a 
meeting with a purported Afghan-born terrorist who had agreed to provide 
him with a car bomb. But she wasn’t the only one in the dark that night. 
Martinez himself didn’t know his new terrorist friend was an undercover 
agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that the man driving 
the car—a man he’d met only a few weeks earlier—was a paid informant for 
federal law enforcement.

Five days later, Martinez met again with the man he believed to be a 
terrorist. The informant was there, too. They were all, Martinez 
believed, brothers in arms and in Islam. In a parking lot near the Armed 
Forces Career Center on Baltimore National Pike, Martinez, the 
informant, and the undercover FBI agent piled into an SUV, where the 
undercover agent showed Martinez the device that would detonate the car 
bomb and how to use it. He then unveiled to the twenty-two-year-old the 
bomb in the back of the SUV and demonstrated what he’d need to do to 
activate it. “I’m ready, man,” Martinez said. “It ain’t like you seein’ 
  it on the news. You gonna be there. You gonna hear the bomb go off. 
You gonna be, uh, shooting, gettin’ shot at. It’s gonna be real. … I’m 
excited, man.”

That night, Martinez, who had little experience behind the wheel of a 
car, needed to practice driving the SUV around the empty parking lot. 
Once he felt comfortable doing what most teenagers can do easily, 
Martinez and his associates devised a plan: Martinez would park the 
bomb-on-wheels in the parking lot outside the military recruiting 
center. One of his associates would then pick him up, and they’d drive 
together to a vantage point where Martinez could detonate the bomb and 
delight in the resulting chaos and carnage.

The next morning, the three men put their plan into action. Martinez 
hopped into the SUV and activated the bomb, as he’d been instructed, and 
then drove to the military recruiting station. He parked right in front. 
The informant, trailing in another car, picked up Martinez and drove him 
to the vantage point, just as planned. Everything was falling into 
place, and Martinez was about to launch his first attack in what he 
hoped would be for him a lifetime of jihad against the only nation he 
had ever known.

Looking out at the military recruiting station, Martinez lifted the 
detonation device and triggered the bomb. Smiling, he watched 
expectantly. Nothing happened. Suddenly, FBI agents rushed in and 
arrested the man they’d later identify in court records as “Antonio 
Martinez a/k/a Muhammad Hussain.” Federal prosecutors in Maryland 
charged Martinez with attempted murder of federal officers and attempted 
use of a weapon of mass destruction. He faced at least thirty-five years 
in prison if convicted at trial.

“This is not Tony,” a woman identifying herself as Martinez’s mother 
told a reporter after the arrest. “I think he was brainwashed with that 
Islam crap.” Joseph Balter, a federal public defender, told the court 
during a detention hearing that FBI agents had entrapped Martinez, whom 
he referred to by his chosen name. The terrorist plot was, Balter said, 
“the creation of the government—a creation which was implanted into Mr. 
Hussain’s mind.” He added: “There was nothing provided which showed that 
Mr. Hussain had any ability whatsoever to carry out any kind of plan.”

Despite Balter’s claims, a little more than a year after his indictment, 
Martinez chose not to challenge the government’s charges in court. On 
January 26, 2012, Martinez dropped his entrapment defense and pleaded 
guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction under a deal 
that will require him to serve twenty-five years in prison—more years 
than he’s been alive. Neither Martinez nor Balter would comment on the 
reasons they chose a plea agreement, though in a sentencing hearing, 
Balter told the judge he believed the entire case could have been 
avoided had the FBI counseled, rather than encouraged, Martinez.

The U.S. Department of Justice touted the conviction as another example 
of the government keeping citizens safe from terrorists. “We are 
catching dangerous suspects before they strike, and we are investigating 
them in a way that maximizes the liberty and security of law-abiding 
citizens,” U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein 
said in a statement announcing Martinez’s plea agreement. “That is what 
the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what 
we aim to deliver.”

Indeed, that is exactly what the Justice Department and the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation have been delivering throughout the decade since 
the attacks of September 11, 2001. But whether it’s what the American 
people expect is questionable, because most Americans today have no idea 
that since 9/11, one single organization has been responsible for 
hatching and financing more terrorist plots in the United States than 
any other. That organization isn’t Al Qaeda, the terrorist network 
founded by Osama bin Laden and responsible for the spectacular 2001 
attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, 
D.C. And it isn’t Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Shabaab, Hamas, 
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or any of the other more than forty 
U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations. No, the organization 
responsible for more terrorist plots over the last decade than any other 
is the FBI. Through elaborate and expensive sting operations involving 
informants and undercover agents posing as terrorists, the FBI has 
arrested and the Justice Department has prosecuted dozens of men 
government officials say posed direct—but by no means immediate or 
credible—threats to the United States.

Just as in the Martinez case, in terrorism sting after terrorism sting, 
FBI and DOJ officials have hosted high-profile press conferences to 
announce yet another foiled terrorist plot. But what isn’t publicized 
during these press conferences is the fact that government-described 
terrorists such as Antonio Martinez were able to carry forward with 
their potentially lethal plots only because FBI informants and agents 
provided them with all of the means—in most cases delivering weapons and 
equipment, in some cases even paying for rent and doling out a little 
spending money to keep targets on the hook. In cities around the country 
where terrorism sting operations have occurred—among them New York City, 
Albany, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Portland, Tampa, Houston, and 
Dallas—a central question exists: Is the FBI catching terrorists or 
creating them?

In the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal law 
enforcement profile of a terrorist has changed dramatically. The men 
responsible for downing the World Trade Center were disciplined and 
patient; they were also living and training in the United States with 
money from an Al Qaeda cell led by Kuwaiti-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. 
In the days and weeks following 9/11, federal officials anxiously 
awaited a second wave of attacks, which would be launched, they believed 
at the time, by several sleeper cells around the country. But the feared 
second wave never crashed ashore. Instead, the United States and allied 
nations invaded Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s home base, and forced Osama bin 
Laden and his deputies into hiding. Bruised and hunted, Al Qaeda no 
longer had the capability to train terrorists and send them to the 
United States.

In response, Al Qaeda’s leaders moved to what FBI officials describe as 
a “franchise model.” If you can’t run Al Qaeda as a hierarchal, 
centrally organized outfit, the theory went, run it as a franchise. In 
other words, export ideas—not terrorists. Al Qaeda and its affiliated 
organizations went online, setting up websites and forums dedicated to 
instilling their beliefs in disenfranchised Muslims already living in 
Western nations. A slickly designed magazine, appropriately titled 
Inspire, quickly followed. Article headlines included “I Am Proud to Be 
a Traitor to America,”9 and “Why Did I Choose Al-Qaeda?” Anwar 
al-Awlaki, the American-born, high-ranking Al Qaeda official who was 
killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011, became 
something of the terrorist organization’s Dear Abby. Have a question 
about Islam? Ask Anwar! Muslim men in nations throughout the Western 
world would email him questions, and al-Awlaki would reply dutifully, 
and in English, encouraging many of his electronic pen pals to violent 
action. Al-Awlaki also kept a blog and a Facebook page, and regularly 
posted recruitment videos to YouTube. He said in one video:

I specifically invite the youth to either fight in the West or join 
their brothers in the fronts of jihad: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.

I invite them to join us in our new front, Yemen, the base from which 
the great jihad of the Arabian Peninsula will begin, the base from which 
the greatest army of Islam will march forth.

Al Qaeda’s move to a franchise model met with some success. U.S. army 
major Nadal Hassan, for example, corresponded with al-Awlaki before he 
killed thirteen people and wounded twenty-nine others in the Fort Hood, 
Texas, shootings in 2009. Antonio Martinez and other American-born men, 
many of them recent converts to Islam, also sent al-Awlaki messages or 
watched Al Qaeda propaganda videos online before moving forward in 
alleged terrorist plots.

The FBI has a term for Martinez and other alleged terrorists like him: 
lone wolf. Officials at the Bureau now believe that the next terrorist 
attack will likely come from a lone wolf, and this belief is at the core 
of a federal law enforcement policy known variously as preemption, 
prevention, and disruption. FBI counterterrorism agents want to catch 
terrorists before they act, and to accomplish this, federal law 
enforcement officials have in the decade since 9/11 created the largest 
domestic spying network ever to exist in the United States. In fact, the 
FBI today has ten times as many informants as it did in the 1960s, when 
former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made the Bureau infamous for 
inserting spies into organizations as varied as Reverend Dr. Martin 
Luther King Jr.’s and the Ku Klux Klan. Modern FBI informants aren’t 
burrowing into political groups, however; they are focused on terrorism, 
on identifying today the terrorist of tomorrow, and U.S. government 
officials acknowledge that while terrorist threats do exist from 
domestic organizations, such as white supremacist groups and the 
sovereign citizen movement, they believe the greatest threat comes from 
within U.S. Muslim communities due, in large part, to the aftereffects 
of the shock and awe Al Qaeda delivered on September 11, 2001.

The FBI’s vast army of spies, located in every community in the United 
States with enough Muslims to support a mosque, has one primary 
function: to identify the next lone wolf.  According to the Bureau, a 
lone wolf is likely to be a single male age sixteen to thirty-five. 
Therefore, informants and their FBI handlers are on the lookout for 
young Muslims who espouse radical beliefs, are vocal about their 
disapproval of U.S. foreign policy, or have expressed sympathy for 
international terrorist groups. If they find anyone who meets the 
criteria, they move him to the next stage: the sting, in which an FBI 
informant, posing as a terrorist, offers to help facilitate a terrorist 
attack for the target.

On a cold February morning in 2011, I met with Peter Ahearn, a retired 
FBI special agent who directed the Western New York Joint Terrorism Task 
Force, in a coffee shop outside Washington, D.C., to talk about how the 
FBI runs its operations. Ahearn was among the Bureau’s vanguard as it 
transformed into a counterterrorism organization in the wake of 9/11. An 
average-built man with a small dimple on his chin and close-cropped 
brown hair receding in the front, Ahearn oversaw one of the earliest 
post-9/11 terrorism investigations, involving the so-called Lackawanna 
Six—a group of six Yemeni-American men living outside Buffalo, New York, 
who attended a training camp in Afghanistan and were convicted of 
providing material support to Al Qaeda. “If you’re doing a sting right, 
you’re offering the target multiple chances to back out,” Ahearn told 
me. “Real people don’t say, ‘Yeah, let’s go bomb that place.’ Real 
people call the cops.”

Indeed, while terrorism sting operations are a new practice for the 
Bureau, they are an evolution of an FBI tactic that has for decades 
captured the imaginations of Hollywood filmmakers. In 1982, as the 
illegal drug trade overwhelmed local police resources nationwide and 
contributed to an increase in violent crime, President Ronald Reagan’s 
first attorney general, William French Smith, gave the FBI jurisdiction 
over federal drug crimes, which previously had been the exclusive domain 
of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Eager to show up their DEA 
rivals, FBI agents began aggressively sending undercover agents into 
America’s cities. This was relatively new territory for the FBI, which, 
during Hoover’s thirty-seven-year stewardship, had mandated that agents 
wear a suit and tie at all times, federal law enforcement badge easily 
accessible from the coat pocket. But an increasingly powerful Mafia and 
the bloody drug war compelled the FBI to begin enforcing federal laws 
from the street level. In searching for drug crimes, FBI agents hunted 
sellers as well as buyers, and soon learned one of the best strategies 
was to become part of the action.

Most people have no doubt seen drug sting operations as portrayed in 
countless movies and television shows. At its most cliché, the scene is 
set in a Miami high-rise apartment, its floor-to-ceiling windows 
overlooking the cresting waves of the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a man 
seated at the dining table; he’s longhaired, with a scruffy face, and he 
has a briefcase next to him. But that’s not all. Hidden on the other 
side of the room is a camera making a grainy black-and-white recording 
of the entire scene. The apartment’s door swings open and two men 
saunter in, the camera recording their every move and word. Everyone 
sits down at the table. The two men hand over bundles of cash. The 
scruffy man then hands over the briefcase. The two guests of course 
expect to find cocaine inside. Instead, the briefcase is empty, and as 
soon as they open it to find the drugs missing, FBI agents rush in, guns 
drawn for the takedown. Federal law enforcement officials call this type 
of sting operation a “no-dope bust,” and it has been an effective tool 
for decades. It’s also the direct predecessor to today’s terrorism 
sting. Instead of empty briefcases, the FBI today uses inert bombs and 
disabled assault rifles, and now that counter-terrorism is the Bureau’s 
top priority, the investigation of major drug crimes has largely fallen 
back to the DEA. Just as no-dope busts resulted in the arrest and 
prosecution of those in the drug trade in the twentieth century, 
terrorism sting operations are resulting in the arrest and prosecution 
of would-be terrorists in this century.

While the assumptions behind drug stings and terrorism stings are 
similar, there is a fundamental flaw in the assumption underpinning the 
latter. In drug stings, federal law enforcement officials assume that 
any buyer caught in a sting would have been able to buy or sell drugs 
elsewhere had that buyer not fallen into the FBI trap. The numbers 
support this assumption. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is 
available, the DEA seized 29,179 kilograms, or 64,328 pounds, of cocaine 
in the United States. Likewise, in terrorism stings, federal law 
enforcement officials assume that any would-be terrorists caught in a 
sting would have been able to acquire the means elsewhere to carry out 
their violent plans had they not been ensnared by the FBI. The problem 
with this assumption is that no data exists to support it, and what data 
is available suggests would-be Islamic terrorists caught in FBI 
terrorism stings never could have obtained the capability to carry out 
their planned violent acts were it not for the FBI’s assistance.

In the ten years following 9/11, the FBI and the Justice Department 
indicted and convicted more than 150 people following sting operations 
involving alleged connections to international terrorism. Few of these 
defendants had any connection to terrorists, evidence showed, and those 
who did have connections, however tangential, never had the capacity to 
launch attacks on their own. In fact, of the more than 150 terrorism 
sting operation defendants, an FBI informant not only led one of every 
three terrorist plots, but also provided all the necessary weapons, 
money, and transportation.

The FBI’s logic to support the use of terrorism stings goes something 
like this: By catching a lone wolf before he strikes, federal law 
enforcement can take him off the streets before he meets a real 
terrorist who can provide him with weapons and munitions. However, to 
this day, no example exists of a lone wolf, by himself unable to launch 
an attack, becoming operational through meeting an actual terrorist in 
the United States. In addition, in the dozens of terrorism sting 
operations since 9/11, the would-be terrorists are usually uneducated, 
unsophisticated, and economically desperate—not the attributes of 
someone likely to plan and launch a sophisticated, violent attack 
without significant help.

Reprinted from The Terrorr Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on 
Terrorism [3] -- Copyright © 2012 by Trevor Aaronson. Reprinted with 
permission of Ig Publishing, Brooklyn, NY.

[1] http://www.igpub.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/trevor-aaronson
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/terrorism
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/sting-operation
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/fbi-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/justice-department
[8] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

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