Why G-Men Convert to Spies: The Means, Motive & Opportunity (Part II)

Why G-Men Convert to Spies: The Means, Motive & Opportunity (Part II)

Robert Folsom | July 3, 2012

For more than two years, the Socionomics Institute has followed the growing global trend toward polarization. This volatile trend pits authoritarians against anti-authoritarians, and promises to become even more explosive as negative mood deepens.

The authoritarian side is clearly becoming more strident. In part one of this article I showed that the FBI had shifted its focus from law enforcement to domestic spying, in an effort that spends several billion dollars annually and relies on a 15,000 domestic spies. Since 9/11, this has led to the prosecution of about 500 alleged domestic terrorists.

Here are a few facts about those prosecutions.

  • Some 53% of the prosecutions did not involve acts of terrorism, but allegations such as immigration violations, false statements, and financial crimes;
  • 41% of the defendants had no alleged affiliation with a terrorist group;
  • 48% were the target of an informant.
  • About 66% of the prosecutions led to a guilty plea
  • 21% were found guilty by trial.

That's the overview, but the full story becomes clear only after a close look at the cases themselves. If you've ever closely followed and read about the highest-profile cases that the FBI announces publicly, you know where I'm going. Most of these cases begin when an informant hears or solicits a remark from a deeply disgruntled person, expressing some wish to act out their anger.

Then, having heard the "motive," the informant and the FBI provide the means and the opportunity for that person to "act." What follows is the stuff of a bad movie: As a recent Rolling Stone article put it, "the alleged terrorist masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage."

One especially notorious example was a 23-year old in Lodi, CA, who was convicted of training in a terrorist camp in Pakistan. The New York Times reported that the "informant in the case, a convenience clerk who was paid more than $200,000 over four years in salary and expenses, could be heard on tape angrily ordering [the suspect] to seek terrorist training." A retired FBI agent who reviewed the case described it this way: "It's shameful, because I've never seen the department do this before."

Similarly, the "Liberty City Seven" who allegedly planned to blow up the Sears Tower in 2006, the Hemant Kakhami case in 2005 prosecuted by then-U.S. attorney Chris Christie, and the very recent case of the three individuals loosely affiliated with the Cleveland "Occupy" movement who allegedly tried to blow a bridge: and, as many would content, each case involved informants who helped the FBI carry out "sting" operations that target people or groups whose defining attribute was hapless incompetence.

As negative social mood grows, cases like these will increasingly be seen as the government taking expressions of anti-authoritarianism and making them synonymous with terrorism.

This particular battleground is but one of many in the growing conflict between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians. I invite you to learn more by reading Alan Hall's April-May 2010 study on the topic. You'll find it in the all-access archives that are open via a subscription to The Socionomist. Follow this link to begin.

Andrea Dibben contributed research.

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