Why does the government’s anti-terror net catch unconvincing villains like black men near mosques who, in exchange for promises of money, sign on to knuckleheaded schemes that would never exist if it weren’t for the informants being handsomely paid to incite them, asks Ted Conover on Slate.com. These prosecutions fail the smell test, he says. Last month, four African-American ex-cons from Newburgh, N.Y., were convicted of plotting to bomb two synagogues.
FBI informant Shahed Hussain, who was paid nearly $100,000, supplied a motley crew with two bogus bombs assembled for him by the government–lots of wires and timers, but harmless. He took them to Connecticut to show them a Stinger missile (disabled by the FBI), which they might use to bring down planes at an Air National Guard Base. An entrapment defense failed, as it has in each of the 30-plus terrorism prosecutions involving an informant since 9/11, according to Karen Greenberg of NYU’s Center on Law and Security. Conover wonders whether “dangling carrots that reward badness really make us safer?” He believes that “if it hadn’t been for the FBI, I don’t believe the Newburgh Four would have targeted” any neighborhood.