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The Metro bomb plot, the FBI and the question of terrorist threats

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A Metro officer watches trains arrive at the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop, which was not mentioned in the indictment against Farooque Ahmed. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

News hit yesterday that the FBI averted an alleged plot to bomb Washington Metro stations. Federal law enforcement officials arrested Farooque Ahmed, 34, a naturalized U.S. citizen. The indictment says he conspired with people he thought to be al-Qaeda operatives to bomb four Metro stations.

The case is yet another homegrown terrorist plot, on the heels of the failed Times Square bombing and sting operations in Springfield, Ill., and Dallas.

More than 60 U.S. citizens have been charged or convicted in terrorism cases since last year.

The Post's article raises a common element in many of these arrests: the question of how much the FBI's involvement in undercover operations encourages the participation of the suspects.

His arrest, however, touched off a conversation about whether Ahmed might have initiated a plot or whether law enforcement officials had floated the idea to him, as has been suggested in other FBI sting operations.

"It's a conversation that's definitely going on in the community," said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, spokesman for Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church. "At the same time, though, if you're dumb enough and sick enough to think you're working for al-Qaeda, then maybe your behind should be put in jail. If what the authorities accuse him of turns out to be true, I have very little sympathy for someone who plans something like that."

In the Dallas bomb plot and the Springfield case, the men used equipment provided by undercover FBI agents. In the Washington area case, Ahmed thought he had met Islamic radicals on a message board.

It is not yet known the level of involvement of federal investigators, though according to court records unsealed on Thursday, Ahmed came to the FBI's attention because he was asking people about ways to fight American troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Read more about the court affidavit here.)

What is your take on the subject? Should federal investigators be conducting investigations that encourage people to participate in fake terrorist plots or are officials stepping over the line?

By Melissa Bell  | October 28, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Your Take  
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Comments

Vivian Shiller -- are you looking over your shoulder when you ride the METRO?

Posted by: johne37179 | October 28, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

NO! They should not. This is police showboating and fear mongering. It doesn't prevent anything. It might even encourage it.

Posted by: iquitos | October 28, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I believe such actions by the FBI are defensive, over-reactive attempts to try to atone for the Bureau's and the CIA's criminal failures before and during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Let no stones go unturned, no dots go unconnected ...

Posted by: clitteigh | October 28, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely. We need to be more proactive now more than ever with regards to seeking out individuals whom are plotting to harm and kill innnocent civilians in the US. Living in a 5 minute walking distance to the Courthouse metro, one of the stations this clown was hoping to blow up, I am particularly grateful for the job the FBI did in nabbing this bastard AND PREVENTING any future harmful acts.

Posted by: cnupikapp | October 28, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

In the article, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik was quoted "If what the authorities accuse him of turns out to be true, I have very little sympathy for someone who plans something like that."

To which I have to ask: Why is there such scepticism of what he's been accused? And why no outrage for what he was planning to do? "if you're dumb enough and sick enough to think you're working for al-Qaeda, then maybe your behind should be put in jail." Maybe?!?!?!

How about a reminder to his followers that al-Qaeda does not equal Islam? How about a reminder that Islam is about peace (not pieces)?

Posted by: Disbelief | October 28, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

This guy had many opportunities to walk away, but he kept taking picture, doing surveillance, giving opinions about how to attack the subway system. They just kept the puppet on the string until they finally arrested him before he left the country in 2 weeks for his pilgrimage in Mecca. They weren't going to let him leave the country.

We're not talking about drugs or hookers... meaning "Hey wanna Date?" or "Hey, wanna buy some drugs?" ... "sure"... then you get arrested. We are talking about killing lots of innocent people. Any person with morals, even if the FBI brought up the subject first, should answer "Hell no!".

Posted by: tony325 | October 28, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

In a word, and absolutely unequivocally?

NO.

Posted by: Spring_Rain | October 28, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I support the FBI’s actions here. An FBI affidavit associated with a search warrant unsealed today indicates that Ahmed came to the attention of the FBI rather than him being some innocent Muslim who was set up by the FBI.

The affidavit of FBI Agent Charles Dayoub reads as follows:

"In January 2010, the FBI learned that Ahmed and an associate were inquiring about making contact with a terrorist organization in order to participate in jihad by travelling overseas to fight coalition forces in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan."

Once the FBI learned of Ahmed’s intentions, it then sprung a trap on him to catch him before he could actually carry out a terrorist attack. This is not entrapment. A person is “entrapped” when he is induced or persuaded by law enforcement officers or their agents to commit a crime that he had no previous intent to commit; and the law as a matter of policy forbids conviction in such a case.

I believe what people should focus on is the reaction of the Muslim community. Let’s examine the statement of the spokesman for the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik.
“[I}f you're dumb enough and sick enough to think you're working for al-Qaeda, then maybe your behind should be put in jail. If what the authorities accuse him of turns out to be true, I have very little sympathy for someone who plans something like that."
“Maybe” someone who plans to commit mass murder should be put in jail. The Imam has “very little sympathy” for potential mass murderers.

What a great opportunity for moderate Muslims to declare that Ahmed’s intentions were a perversion of Islam and that Ahmed apparently has completely misconstrued the Koran. But no, we hear only the sound of tut-tutting that this person wasn’t too smart to get caught by the FBI in such a manner and there is "conversation" "going on in the community" about the actions of the FBI.

Dave Webster


Posted by: maxj88 | October 28, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Well, as someone who rides through Pentagon and Pentagon and Pentagon City every single Monday through Friday, I haeve no problem with it. I can't believe anyone actually does.

Posted by: beardwn85 | October 28, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"This guy had many opportunities to walk away, but he kept taking picture, doing surveillance, giving opinions about how to attack the subway system."

Sure, but the guy offered to raise $10,000 in cash and give it to them to carry out of the country. They declined. Why?

Raising money would have expanded the investigation. Putting money on the table for Jihad is a hugely incriminating act. Not like taking money to buy some paramilitary clothes, as in the Miami investigation.

No, no money needed. Just keep with the pictures the agents said.

It looks like they're conducting a war on photography.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 28, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe this guy was a genuinely good person and then with FBI intervention, became someone hellbent on killing hundreds to thousands of people. Killing people isn't something that people can easily sway you into thinking is justified. He had every opportunity to say "no," and didn't.

Posted by: amvb86 | October 29, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Presenting someone with another path is wholly different than selling them on it. I don't think the FBI should ever be in the business of encouraging people to commit crimes just in order to bust them.

Posted by: Nymous | October 29, 2010 2:50 AM | Report abuse

You really have to laugh at the media as they trip all over themselves as they desperately avoid using terms like MUSLIM, ISLAM with the word TERRORIST...when it is a fact that 99% of all terrorist activity for a religion all have ISLAM at its core.

Islam is associated with Islamic terrorism because that is the association that the terrorists themselves CHOOSE to make. Why the media can't report this fact and the MOTIVE behind this madness is troubling.

The media needs to research and examine WHY "good" muslims act as they do.

Using the Koran definition, a "bad" Muslim is someone who won't fight to spread Islam. They are either ignorant of, or simply ignore the words of Allah and deeds of Muhammad. The koran describes these people as "hypocrites" in the 9th surah because they are good, peace-loving people. These bad, hypocritical, and peace-loving, "not-muslim-enough" Muslims were Islam's first victims and they remain the religion's primary target.

The best example of this is what is happening in Iraq today. We ought to care enough about these people to criticize the religion that terrorizes them into submission and surrender!

The advocates of political correctness, the moral code of socialist, secular humanism, most often attack me based upon the following conclusion: "After having invested the time to study why "good" muslims KILL., I recognize that all good Muslims are terrorists and most all terrorists are Muslims.

These are irrefutable statements of fact, not opinion, which is why this verdict engenders so much wrath with Muslim apologists and appeasers!!

Posted by: zakgold | October 29, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

It's a fine line and one that blurs the FBI traditional role as a law enforcement agency. If the FBI suspects someone plans to rob a bank, the FBI waits until the guys comes running out with the money before they arrest him. If a guy desires to blow up buildings and kill people you obviously can't let that happen before you arrest him.
However, as some of the earlier terrorist jury trials proved, you can't convict someone for talking about committing an act of terrorism.

It is too much of a risk to let him aquire real weapons and explosives. If he slips survelience, he might succeed in his mission. Some of the early threat level orange warnings that came out from DHS in the years after 9/11 was becuase someone they were watching slipped survielence.
The only real option left is to play the role of the supplier giving them fake versions of the items they seek and arrest them when they try to act.
We can't get the real Al-Quida operatives. They are too well trained to fall for these tactics. We can however get the homegrown idiots that they are seeking to recruit. Al-Quida sees them as invaluable opportunities. Whether they fail or succeed it bolsters their position. A mission success has obvious ramifications. A mission failure creates a propagana tool to claim even western muslims think the US is evil.

Posted by: akmzrazor | October 29, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

I want my country back. You know, the "Home of the Free, and Land of the Brave."

I don't want to live in a country where the FBI goes trolling for people who are THINKING about being criminals, where there is warrantless government surveillance, where people can be put on life-ruining "secret lists" by faceless unaccountable Homeland Security bureaucrats, where we tremble in fear at every "suspicious packages", and where we're encouraged to report anything that looks "unusual" to a domestic intelligence hotline. This is not what a free country looks like.

We accept some crime as the price of living in a free society. "Terrorism" is just another crime, not a reason to jettison our civil rights and turn into a surveillance state with secret police running "loyalty test" stings on the citizenry.

Posted by: vfr2dca | October 29, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

The FBI tactics in this case are no different from how they bait and catch sicko pervert child abusers when they work undercover and catch them over the internet and set them up to meet with fake underage children then arrest them. At least the FBI is doing something to track these people who have obvious intent to harm others.

Posted by: smd6 | October 29, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I am an American Muslim and I condemn terrorism. So does every Muslim I have ever talked with about the subject.
Yes, the FBI is walking a fine line. If the facts cited in the Post are true, they caught a guy who was planning to attack American soldiers abroad. To catch him, they created a dummy plot to attack American civilians here and lured him into it. I trust our American judicial system to sort out whether this was entrapment or a legitimate sting.

Posted by: dricks | October 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I am an American Muslim and I condemn terrorism. So does every Muslim I have ever talked with about the subject.
Yes, the FBI is walking a fine line. If the facts cited in the Post are true, they caught a guy who was planning to attack American soldiers abroad. To catch him, they created a dummy plot to attack American civilians here and lured him into it. I trust our American judicial system to sort out whether this was entrapment or a legitimate sting.

Posted by: dricks | October 29, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I think such measures have a damping effect on individuals who may be in a very early stages of becoming involved in such criminal activities. It sends a message - hey, you cannot trust anyone - even the most sympathetic person may be an informer or that ultra guy on the Jihadi site may be a FBI agent.
FBI has demonstrated that even an educated fellow with a Computer Science degree could not sniff an agent...

Posted by: tk11 | October 29, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

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