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« Killers, hidden bodies, and lawyers' ethics | Main | NBC's "Deception": haven't these people heard of Google? »

January 24, 2013

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Trevor Aaronson

In his review of my book The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism, former FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan does not tell Wall Street Journal readers that the only direct connection Tarik Shah had to Al Qaeda was Soufan, who posed as a terrorist during the sting (“Enemies Domestic,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2013). Soufan says a police search of Shah’s car found “evidence” of his terrorist intent. But that evidence was just a phone number of a Maryland man accused of having traveled to a training camp in Pakistan. While Soufan believes that Shah's interest in joining Al Qaeda justifies what he and the FBI did, he in turn does not seem to take issue with the facts I presented in my book. What Soufan gets wrong is his statement that I attempt to show that no threat of terrorism exists in the United States. I do no such thing. Richard Reid and Faisal Shahzad meant harm and had the means to deliver that harm without the help of an agent provocateur. They are real terrorists. In his review of my book, Soufan specifically cites these men as examples of the threat of terrorism. He doesn't mention, however, that neither terrorist was caught in an FBI sting operation. In The Terror Factory, I am critical of the FBI’s justification of elaborate, expensive undercover sting operations designed to identify people who for whatever reason hate the United States -- but who are incapable of significant violence without assistance from undercover FBI agents and informants -- as something the American people want. To be sure, Al Qaeda has attacked here at home, and there is every reason to monitor those who sympathize with terrorist organizations. But should the FBI manufacture crimes to punish people who simply have bad thoughts?
-- Trevor Aaronson
Author, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism (Ig Publishing, January 2013)

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