Staged Terror - FBI Stings


- The FBI recruits informants to assist them in locating and setting up potential terrorists in sting operations. The informant is usually a convicted felon who is cooperating in order to receive a reduced sentence on other charges, but he might also be a career informant, getting paid substantial amounts of money for his help ($100,000+). 

- Undercover FBI agents and informants pose as terrorists or other extremist types. 

- These agents/informants get involved with organizations and groups where potential targets might be found. It's very common for them to look for such people in online forums. 

- The agents/informants typically look for disgruntled individuals who might be willing to participate in a terrorist plot given the means and the opportunity. They primarily look for anyone who shows a willingness to carry out a violent act, but they will also look for people who are suicidal or show signs of mental illness, or even people who are financially strapped and desperate to make some money.

- Individuals with mental illness are very often targeted because they're easy to manipulate. Suicidal individuals also make good targets because they don't need as much provocation to engage in a violent act that might endanger themselves. 

- Very often, young people are targeted because they're typically more radical in their thinking and they're easier to recruit. 

- Informants also help to find and recruit other informants, usually through blackmail after learning about an extramarital relationship, immigration problems, criminal activities, drug use, etc. 

- Potential targets might be extensively profiled using background checks, psychological assessments, and whatever other means, in order to determine if they're capable of a violent act, and if so, how they might be coerced into committing one. 

- Informants will often be instructed to act like radicals in order to lure in like-minded sympathizers. 

- One of the informant's first tasks is to get the target to make a statement that shows his willingness to engage in a violent act, and to record it as evidence. 

- Once a potential target is found, agents/informants maintain constant contact and begin to surround him with a micro-community of people who provide social input while cultivating the target's thinking and slowly encouraging his willingness to engage in an act of violence. 

- Government agents are also interested in information on anyone that can be used to blackmail them into becoming informants. 

- During the grooming stage, the target is encouraged to insulate himself from outside influences. 

- If it's a terrorist plot, then the agent/informant will usually pose as a front man for a larger terrorist group. 

- The agents/informants help their target with the planning, and supply weapons, explosives, training, transportation, etc. 

- In the case where the target believes he is working for a terrorist group, a cash payment is often involved as an enticement. 

- The agent/informant gets the target to 'pull the trigger', and an arrest is made at the last moment, catching him in the act. 

- An target can be groomed for years before a sting is set up. 

- Informants interactions with a target are supposed to be recorded to assure that the informant isn't ever stepping out of line, but this isn't always the case. 

- The plots that targets are led into are usually so frightening that they can overwhelm a jury and lead to an unfair trial and quick conviction. 

- Entrapment is avoided as long as it can be shown that the target had a predisposition to engage in the violent act (even if he couldn't have engaged in it without the help provided). 

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Typically, the sting initially targets a suspect for pure speech — comments to an informant outside a mosque, angry postings on websites, emails with radicals overseas — then woo them into relationships with informants, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with FBI agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups. 

An informant who is working for the FBI might pose themselves to a target as a radical with connections to weapons and funding. The informant approaches the target and starts a relationship with him, slowly cultivating in the target the idea of engaging in a terrorist plot or other act of violence. The idea is nurtured over time and a plan is formulated, then the needed materials are gathered together, and when the target appears to be ready to take the initiative and carry out the plot, FBI agents are already waiting with a 'safety net' in place, ready to nab the target before he can act. 

From an article in the Intercept that describes a typical sting operation:
First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the “radical” political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.
They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a “terror plot”: either because they’re being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.
Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.
One major risk in this sort of operation is that an agent or informant might cultivate a target into a terrorist and then lose control of him. It's also possible that the target is allowed to carry out the act, with the informant taking the blame. 

Another problem with sting operations is that, with so much already invested in a particular operation, if the target decides to not go through with the plan at the last minute, they will have wasted a great deal of money and time. It's very likely that in these situations, the target is either set up to look like the perpetrator while someone else does the deed (i.e. Aurora), or he is eliminated and then put into a staged scenario in order to make it look like he was the perpetrator (i.e. Orlando), or he is arrested prior to the staging, and made out to be the perpetrator. In this last case, the public is led to believe that the event was real, while the courts know that it was staged but go along with it since it effectively stopped a potential terrorist before he could harm anyone, and it serves certain political agendas that the courts are in favour of. 

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The OKC bombing and the 9/11 tragedy were both developed as sting operations, but the targets were allowed to continue without interference. 

Columbine may have been a rogue operation, where an FBI informant was cultivating extremism among a group of kids (the Trench Coat Mafia) and didn't have enough control over the targets or didn't realize the extent of their willingness, and the targets proceeded to plan and carry out an attack without the informant's involvement. 

The Aurora shooting appears to have been a sting in which the target was unwilling to carry it through, so he was set up in a staged scenario. 

The Sandy Hook event appears to have been a staged event in which the target was named as the perpetrator in spite of his non-involvement. It's possible that the target had been identified long before the event, but it wasn't possible to bait him so he was eliminated and the staged event was carried through. 

The Boston bombing was a sting operation that was highly successful. The targets were cultivated over time to take part in a terrorist plot, and their apparent involvement was just enough to pin the act on them. Unlike prior operations, this one minimized any real violence while making it appear extensive with many casualties by incorporating controlled pyrotechnics and carefully staged theatrics. 

The Orlando shooting appears to have been a sting operation that involved staged violence. This suggests that the shooter was eliminated prior to the event and then the event was staged so that the operation wasn't wasted. 

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This change in operational approach (from real events to staged events) might be for any number of reasons. One possibility is that it's safer and easier to falsify a perpetrator and/or the violent act than it is to cultivate and control a real person. More likely, the change in approach is due to new laws that were enacted under President Obama that legalizes all forms of propaganda on American soil (see below). 

Whatever the case, the use of staged scenarios appears to be on the increase. A sting operation is normally set up so that the agents/informants know and even determine beforehand what the target is going to do -- who, what, when, where, and how he's going to attack. This gives them the ability to prepare the scene. 

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The NDAA (National Defence Authorization Act) was amended by President Obama in May of 2012, legalizing the use of propaganda on American citizens. This amendment effectively nullified the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, which explicitly forbade information and psychological operations aimed at influencing US public opinion. This amendment and further changes to the Act since then have opened the doors to all manner of deceptive tactics to influence the public for political reasons. 


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How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

Homeland Security Document on Internet Radicalization

Recruiting Terrorists Online

How Terrorists Recruit Online and How to Stop It

Tailored Online Interventions: The Islamic State's Recruitment Strategy

Terror Trap: It's Easy for the FBI to Bust Extremist Plans They Help Create

FBI Tried to Ensnare Orlando Shooter in Fake Terror Plot

Sting Operations, Undercover Agents, and Entrapment

How The FBI's Wiretaps And Sting Operation Failed To Stop The Orlando Shooter

The NDAA Legalizes The Use Of Propaganda On The US Public

NDAA 2013: Congress Approves Domestic Deceptive Propaganda

American and British Spies Posed as 'Orcs and Elves' on World of Warcraft to Infiltrate Terror Cells According to New NSA Revelations

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