Author: John Loizeaux
In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, media reports questioned why government agencies did not identify the shooter as a threat prior to the attack. At the same time, the F.B.I. was busy conducting operations to thwart attacks by those perceived to be radical Muslim terrorists, who have not posed a legitimate threat on American soil since 9/11.
On September 14, Adel Daoud, an 18-year old Muslim man from the Chicago suburbs attempted to detonate an inert car bomb, which was assembled and supplied by undercover F.B.I. agents near a downtown Chicago bar. Daoud was subsequently charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to destroy a building with an explosive device, but he may have also been a victim of an entrapment scheme. This type of operation aims to quell public safety concerns and justify similar operations, but it has the exact opposite effect. Publicizing an incident like this heightens the sentiment that there is still the imminent threat from radical Muslims – our de facto enemy. We need to reflect on key issues regarding legitimacy of preemptive operations to prevent domestic acts of terrorism.
This incident is proof that the 9/11 terrorists fulfilled one of their main goals, which was to force Americans to live in constant fear of another attack. Unfortunately, the government is largely to blame for insisting that there is still a threat from the radicalized Muslim community.
Daoud strongly disagreed with the state of American-Middle East relations. This attitude drove him to become very active on jihad-related Internet forums. He compiled numerous publications justifying “violent jihad.” According to the criminal complaint, he relayed this information to at least seven individuals in attempts to convince them to join his cause. None of these potential accomplices accepted his invitation to participate in his plan.
Just when it seemed like he was out of options, two forum members expressed interest in helping him and provided him with the partner he was clearly looking for. He walked unknowingly into an F.B.I. counterterrorism operation. Without the undercover agents’ encouragement and contributions to the plan, it is very unlikely Daoud would be interested in carrying out his attack alone.
His inability to convince others to participate in his plan to “kill many people” and “cause destruction,” as the undercover agent cited in the criminal complaint, shows that he was hardly the dangerous terrorist we now inherently fear. This is where the issue of entrapment comes into play. Daoud clearly desired to carry out an attack similar to the one set up by the F.B.I, but he did not have the means to do so. The United States Department of Justice says, “Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” The F.B.I. followed each aspect of this statute except that they did, in fact, “originate a criminal design.” All Daoud had to do was choose a target and park the car in front of it.
In order for Daoud to be fully accountable for the attempted attack, he needed to have a significant role in the assembly of the bomb. Without this, he simply holds extremist beliefs with no way to act upon them.
Future counterterrorism operations need to prove the alleged terrorist has all the skills to carry out the attack in order to hold them fully accountable. This case received little national media attention, but highlights a potential problem with the way these operations are conducted. We need to openly critique the guidelines set forth to catch truly dangerous individuals committing criminal acts. The F.B.I. cannot continue to single out disillusioned Muslims, hand them a fake bomb, then watch them try to detonate it. If this persists as an acceptable means of thwarting terrorism, the result will be extremely exaggerated incidents of foiled terror plots.
The government needs to honestly reassess the threat posed by extremist groups or individuals and reallocate its resources accordingly. If this is done, we will be able to see that the level of fear we have been living in has been dramatically overstated.
John Loizeaux is a junior economics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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