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Doc Cleveland: Police, Danger, and the Social Contract
To me, one of the more troubling aspects of the War on Terror is how often our law enforcement agencies have broken potential terrorism cases by, in essence, finding disaffected losers and egging them on. In these cases, the police or FBI get wind of somebody mouthing off on the Internet about how they want to blow something up in an act of anti-American jihad and then they make contact, pretend to be al-Qaeda, and set the perp up with a phony bomb or plan of what have you, and then arrest him when he finally tries to pull the trigger on a plan that he would never have been able to pull off without government help in the first place.
It's really the straw man technique of fighting terrorism. We take a guy with a bad attitude and then build him up into a threat, only to take him down at the last moment. The War on Terror has mostly just round up ill-intentioned idiots playing G.I. Joe in their backyards.
In that sense, I understand why some think that our recent claim against Iran is dubious. The scheme of using Mexican drug cartels to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. is a bit too outlandish to be believed. And, of course, even the schemers would have thought that their plot would never have worked, had they not been egged on by undercover operatives from the U.S.
But, in this case, I think Obama's doing the right thing. Putting American lone wolves in jail for plots they never could have carried out seems a waste to me. But exposing the intentions of Iran's government is exactly what out intelligence agencies should be doing.
So I have to wonder why skepticism has been raised in this case, where an actual foreign enemy is behind the plot, but was never raised in the myriad of "homegrown terrorism" cases where the government really has proof of nothing more than bad intentions.
To me, this one seems serious. An actual foreign power, run by a dictatorship that has long considered itself an enemy to the U.S., fell into our web of intelligence. In most of these cases, where some loser is accused of plotting something they would never have been able to do anyway, I'm skeptical. But not in this case. There's a government involved and it should be punished.