Perhaps no entity generates more fake news than the FBI’s counterterrorism unit. Several times a year, a press release is issued announcing the bust of a so-called terrorist. Almost invariably, the “terrorist” has been handcrafted through the relentless intercession of undercover FBI agents.
Here’s how the DOJ website describes its latest self-crafted anti-terrorism coup:
Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr., 25, of Columbia, Missouri, was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Hester was charged in federal court based on his role in making preparations to launch a terrorist attack with persons he believed were associated with ISIS, who were actually undercover law enforcement personnel.
And here are the far more mundane and sad details behind the official statement, as provided by Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept.
Robert Lorenzo Hester of Columbia, Missouri, didn’t have the $20 he needed to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, and roofing nails his new FBI friends wanted him to get, so they gave him the money. The agents noted in a criminal complaint that Hester, who at one point brought his two small children to a meeting because he didn’t have child care, continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim.
This is the supposed terrorist who would have killed hundreds of people on President’s Day if the FBI hadn’t stepped in to intervene. But the FBI’s “intervention” looks suspiciously like “encouragement…” or “entrapment.”
[T]he only contact Hester had with ISIS was with the two undercover agents who suggested to him that they had connections with the group. The agents, who were in contact with him for five months, provided him with money and rides home from work as he dealt with the personal fallout of an unrelated arrest stemming from an altercation at a local grocery store.
Undercover agents began working with/on Hester shortly after this arrest. Seizing on his anti-government social media posts [good lord], the agents told Hester they could put him in touch with someone with direct terrorist connections. This “direct connection” was just another FBI agent. It was the FBI that suggested acquiring weapons. And it was the FBI who chose to take Hester seriously, despite his nonexistent terrorist group (“the Lion Guard”) sporting a name that had been pulled from a cartoon his children watched.
It was also an FBI agent who suggested that even thinking about planning a terrorist attack was an irrevocable act — and that entertaining second thoughts about committing acts of violence would be rewarded with acts of violence.
The agent cautioned Hester that once he decided to proceed there was “no turning back.” He also told Hester that under no circumstances was he to do conduct any sort of operation on his own. The agent, referred to in the complaint as UC-2, then “threatened to come back and find HESTER if he learned that HESTER reneged on the promise. For emphasis, and for the purpose of mitigating the security threat posed by HESTER, UC-2 displayed a knife and reminded HESTER that UC-2 knew where HESTER and his family lived, among other forceful words.”
After threatening his family, FBI agents continued to push Hester forward with “his” plan to commit an act of terrorism. His plans required $20 worth of supplies… which Hester couldn’t afford. But Hester did promise to be more materially-supportive in the near future:
Hester promised that he would help buy ammunition for the weapons once he had received the money from his tax refund.
A lot of the FBI’s standard counterterrorism M.O. is on display here. The agency prefers to work with people in desperate or dire circumstances — people who don’t have the financial independence or mental toughness needed to create and carry out plans on their own. And when they get cold feet, agents apparently suggest their dire circumstances will be made even worse. The end result is the government congratulating itself for rounding up “terrorists” that likely never would have gone beyond anti-government Facebook posts if they’d been left alone. And for the few who appear capable of committing violent acts, the government pushes these people towards extremism rather than attempt to pull them back from this precipice.