Is it entrapment if the FBI grooms and helps a "terrorist"?

Ok, so I read the news articles on the Christopher Cornell case, and I’ve previously read stories about the other ‘terrorists’ the FBI have nailed.

Here’s roughly how it went, assuming it was anything like the previous cases :

Christopher Cornell (in some internet posts) : Aloha Snackbar! Mohammad Jihad! Durka Durka! Just you wait infidels, your day of reckoning will be here shortly!

(note that if Christopher Cornell had gone to join ISIS, they probably would have seen right through his facade of conversion and held him as another American hostage to be beheaded when convenient)

FBI Informant : Hey, so I’ve been following your blogs. Good stuff. Allahu Akbar! So, what’s this about a “day of reckoning”, I too would like to be a part of it. Let’s be friends.

Christopher Cornell : Well, I’m sure my Muslim brothers have a grand scheme in the works. The Day of Reckoning will hit anytime now…

FBI Informant : Not that I’ve heard. You know, if you really want to make sure the infidels pay for their crimes, you’re gonna have to make it happen yourself. No one else will do it for you.

Christopher Cornell : Err, umm, I don’t have any resources. And, umm, do I really have to be the one who dies for a cause?

FBI Informant : I can help with that. And I’ll be right there with you. Muslims Unite!

FBI Informant : So any thoughts as to the target? Everyone hates Congress, what about making those infidels pay!

Christopher Cornell : Huh. Congress is a bunch of sleazebag infidel hypocrites. But how would we go about getting to those guys…

FBI Informant : Well, we could buy some guns and then throw a bomb in. Maybe some glocks…

Christopher Cornell : glocks won’t kill enough infidels. Let’s buy Black Rifles and throw the bomb in first. It’s gonna be awesome! Screwing 72 virgins will be amazing, I have not had many virgins on my penis as of late…

FBI Informant : So when we gonna do this?

Christopher Cornell : Well, I don’t have any money…And I don’t know anything about the layout of the capital…

FBI Informant : Save up! Here’s a link to some photos of the capital my Jihad brothers have taken…

Christopher Cornell : Wow, these photos are really good. And you sent them to me with a marker so I can write my terroristy plans in my own handwriting on these large, clear photos with my bare hands! I feel like a real terrorist now!

*This last sentence is embellishment, but I can see the FBI purposefully supplying materials that will look good to a jury later. *

FBI Informant <a short time later>: So when we gonna do this. I am impatient to get my Jihad on and join my brothers in the afterlife!

Christopher Cornell : Well, umm…I dunno about this. And I don’t have enough money to buy even 2 of the cheapest Black Rifles available. I only have $1200

Christopher Cornell : You’re not backing out now, are you? Allah despises cowards! And I’ll chip in, here’s some money (hands him an envelope) so we can get the weapons we need!

Christopher Cornell now has possession of 2 scary Black Rifles that can be put on the evidence table the jury will see. He’s typed up a storm of incriminating text messages, etc that can be printed out and blown up to be easily read from the jury box. The FBI decide not to bother with waiting til he builds a bomb, but they probably had him “design” them with the help of his FBI handler. That means that in court the FBI will be able to build a working bomb from the “plans”, and even set off that FBI designed bomb on a test range so the jury can see a video of what FBI bomb designers can do…

So, the FBI supplied the money, the plan, an accomplice, the weapons, and probably the design for the bomb…

Christopher Cornell supplied the incoherent ranting and eagerness to commit many felonies at the slightest bit of urging.

How would this proposed attack have gone down had the FBI not been involved? I haven’t been to the Capital, but I suspect it’s got similar security to other Federal buildings. There’s got to be a small army worth of armed police and guards posted nearby, and those concrete highway dividers that prevent vehicles from being driven next to the building itself. That means that vehicle borne bombs won’t be close enough for the blast to do significant damage, so the “bombs” will have to be something that can be carried by hand.

Level IV body armor costs several thousand dollars, and given that these “terrorists” were on a tight budget, I doubt it was part of the plan.

So they get as close to the Capital building as civilians can reach and leave their cars. Maybe they have concealed their bombs and black rifles under coats or something so they aren’t gunned down immediately. They waddle up to the capital entrance. By sheer chance, they are not spotted as suspicious. There’s a security checkpoint here with high end metal detectors, probably one of those CT scanners. No way they are getting past that with their weapons and explosives. So, the best they can do is toss the pipebombs into the crowd of people in line at security and start shooting.

I don’t see any scenario in which the terrorists live more than about 60 seconds. They might kill a few innocent people standing in the security line, or get the drop on maybe 1 guard - but I seriously doubt under any circumstances that they will get any of the elected representatives who are their stated target.

The scenario you imagine is entrapment.

Your post is woefully short of citation connecting your imagination to what happened.

I believe this is what the OP is talking about.

I am just old enough to remember the SDS at Pitt and C-T (now CMU). It seemed like half of it was FBI informants spying on police informants spying on other informants and on each other and trying to talk each other into criminal acts. Would I be surprised at the same thing today? Not really.

Man, did Soundgarden do an extreme version of Cat Stevens or what?

So the Man Who Was Thursday?

Is that a defence to Terrorism charges in the United States?

Really? I thought the FBI could make a reasonable case based on that transcript.

Cornell was the one who initiated the dialogue and mentioned the “Day of Reckoning”. The FBI agent asked Cornell what the Day of Reckoning involved. And Cornell didn’t say he lacked the motivation to commit the crime; he said he lacked the resources.

So it seems to me that Cornell had a pre-existing intent and all the FBI did was give him an apparent opportunity to act on it.

Yes. Objectively speaking, I’m sure he’s guilty of something by the letter of the law. (all of the tens of thousands of pages of the Federal codes) And the evidence against him - chat logs, IP logs, written statements, his twitter posts, possession of the weapons - is probably solid, where it is beyond a reasonable doubt that he bought the guns and said the things he said.

So it’s open and shut. Jury isn’t supposed to judge based on fairness, they are supposed to find him guilty if the evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated <regulation X>. Since he violated it, they find him guilty, then the judge has a recommended sentence he has to adhere to, which is somewhere between decades in jail to life. Sometimes, juries acquit because the law isn’t fair (jury nullification), but he’s accused of being a terrorist. They won’t - because if there’s even a tiny chance he is a terrorist, and they acquit, and he goes and kills a dozen people later in an act of terror, the jurors would feel responsible.

With all that said, morally it feels like they gave the guy a raw deal. I think it’s virtually certain that if the FBI hadn’t done anything, he would have been just another nut, ranting and raving from time to time online for the rest of his days on this earth. That’s the problem I have with this. They took a nut and made him into a master criminal, and they did so for selfish reasons. The FBI can trumpet “the terrorists, they’re everywhere! See, we did our job and caught one! We need more money to find more terrorists!”

I agree that what happened in Newburgh was wrong. That was a case where a government agent went out and offered money to anybody who was willing to become a terrorist. That’s entrapment and you can make a good argument that the people who were caught would never have become terrorists without the government creating the situation.

Cornell appears to be different. He apparently was already thinking about becoming a terrorist before the government got involved in his case. Now maybe Cornell would never have done anything. But on the other hand, he’s exactly the kind of person that terrorist organizations recruit.

Yes, sometimes the government oversells the threat of terrorism. But there is a kernel of real terrorism out there.

I thought only the CIA groomed and funded terrorists.

Government is supposed to be scared of the people, they have turned the tables and use media to keep the population ‘in terror’. Ever notice how a herd of cattle or sheep run when scared of something they can’t see… i.e. the wool over their eyes or in the dark?

Can’t say I’ve ever seen a herd of cattle with wool over their eyes running scared in the dark, no. Not a lot of livestock in my neighborhood.

Yeah, but mooks with motivation are a dime a dozen - it’s the guys with the resources who’re the actual high-quality targets. In my experience, going after potential suicide bombers is a waste of effort; there’s always more where they came from. Smart counter-terrorism organizations go after the bomb-makers.

The solution is to not be a cow or a sheep. Think for yourself.

Don’t believe everything the government tells you.

Don’t believe everything the people who tell you not to trust the government tell you.

You have to work at it from all sides. You want to arrest the people who are up at the top planning the crimes. And you want to arrest the people out on the streets who are committing the crimes.

The only reason to go after the people on the street is in order to use them to get to the people on the top.

When the government supplies some remedial schmuck with the (fake) bombs and (fake) anti-aircraft missiles and then arrests you for attempted terrorism, it certainly seems to fall short of the standard practice of evidence retrieval and arrest based on reasonable cause.

It looks a lot more like “Hey we arrested an evil terrorist look at how awesome a job we are doing!! Give us more of your civil liberties and we’ll keep staging terrorism prevention!!”

Nope, the story as given is entrapment, because the FBI person is the one who brings up the idea of actually doing something and gets him to plan something he was not going to plan. Before that, he just was trusting his superiors to do something instead.

I just got through listening to an NPR story about a former Islamist, and one of the things he mentioned that separated them from the Jihadists is that they don’t believe it’s their job to make the infidels pay, but the job of a new Caliphate. Jihadists will go and kill someone who draws Mohammed. Islamists try to put a guy in power who will execute them under Muslim law.

If we go by the OP’s scenario, it sounds like the FBI took an Islamist and recruited him to be a Jihadist. Of course, I have no idea if the OP’s description is accurate. I would sincerely hope not, as, in that scenario, the FBI created that terrorist.

All people who would end up becoming a terrorist are just this sort of nut, so it’s really a catch-22 situation. It’s mean to pick on them, since it’s not their fault that they have an illness. But at the same time, that illness makes it likely that one day someone is going to convince them to go step onto a bus, wearing a bomb vest.

It’s not kosher with the philosophical underpinnings of the American law system, but really the way to think of it is that Cornell is being put into a care facility where he will be fed, clothed, and entertained for the rest of his life, for his own and the rest of society’s sake. Viewing prison as “punishment” isn’t necessarily the right way to view it in all (nor even most) cases.

And the philosophical underpinnings of the American law system really handle the concept of mental illness poorly.

Here’s a Glenn Greenwald (famously associated with Edward Snowden) article: