Sunday, May 6, 2012

FBI Should Investigate the Real Terrorists

Has the FBI become the Federal Bureau of Instigation?  The moniker seems to fit the announcement earlier this month that five young men loosely associated with Occupy Cleveland were infiltrated by a provocateur on the agency’s payroll who promised to provide C4 explosives and the cash to buy it when the boys began dreaming up hypothetical schemes to disrupt business-as-usual in corporate America. Their youthful braggadocio verged on the hair-brained: setting off stink bombs, knocking the signs off bank buildings, and tossing thumb-tacks out the back of their get-away vehicle. From the FBI affidavit, it’s not even clear the young men owned a car.

The actual transcript shows how the FBI mole—a bona fide criminal with a history of robbery, cocaine possession, and multiple counts of passing bad checks—incites 26-year-old Douglas Wright, who has just discovered an online “Anarchist’s Cookbook”  for brewing homemade trouble. 

Wright: We can make smoke bombs, we can make plastic explosives, we can make, like, we can--it teaches you how to pick locks. It does everything. (laughs)

FBI: How much do we need--that--how much money we need to make the plastic explosives.

WRIGHT: I'm not sure, I haven't really read too much into yet, um, I'll have to get into that. I just downloaded it last night.

FBI: Well you gotta get with me--

WRIGHT: Should be able to find it.

FBI: You gotta get with me, uh, if we gonna be trying to do something in a month you need to get with me as soon as possible on how much money we gonna need …

Attorneys for the self-described anarchists, who are now facing possible 20 year prison sentences, will doubtless use information like this to suggest the defendants were entrapped, lured into a plot that likely never would have occurred had the FBI not been egging them on.

Spying on political activists is nothing new for the Bureau, which wire tapped Martin Luther King Jr.’s phone and blackmailed him with information about an extra-marital affair in an attempt to force him to commit suicide.  Over the years, the FBI has infiltrated the Quakers, vegetarian societies and similar pockets of radicalism.  Surveillance of the Occupy movement—which in keeping with its remarkable commitment to non-violence has disavowed any connection to the Cleveland Five—fits the FBI’s pattern.

Law enforcement might focus less on imaginary threats to our nation’s security and more on real thieves and looters, including those in corporate boardrooms.  In the wake of September 11, 2001, the FBI shifted a third of its agents away from racketeering, financial fraud and similar crimes toward “counter terrorism.”  The economic meltdown that destroyed millions of jobs, forced untold numbers of families into foreclosure, and annihilated trillions of dollars in retirement savings was at least partly a result of inadequate policing, as resources were diverted from investigating securities and insurance scams to eavesdropping on Muslims and peaceniks.  In the five years leading up to 2008, federal corporate fraud cases dropped over fifty percent.

The FBI needs to ask, who is the more dangerous criminal—the hapless twenty-something trying to buy plastique, or the investment banker, betting against the exploding securities he’s sold to a pension fund which then blast millions of seniors’ nest eggs sky high?
If “terrorists” are people who threaten to poison our water, contaminate our food supply, wreak havoc on our economy and put innocent  life at risk for the sake of short term gain, I am less worried about the activists who are occupying Wall Street than by the terrorists on Wall Street itself.