The latest ‘terror plot’ foiled by the FBI

Once again we have the government announcing that, thanks to the diligent work of their security services, they have foiled a terrorist plot aimed at the heart of the US government and spared us all from a Paris-style attack.

For months, 20-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell had been on the FBI’s radar. Authorities said he left alarming posts on social media, talking about violent jihad.

On Wednesday, agents arrested the Cincinnati man before he could put his alleged plot into action.

Authorities say Cornell, who ostensibly tweeted under the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, hatched a simple scheme. It was similar to the Paris attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but at a key location — the U.S. Capitol, said a criminal complaint filed by an FBI agent.

The plan: Set off pipe bombs to put lawmakers and employees in panicked flight and then gun them down with an assault rifle as they ran across his path and that of an accomplice, Special Agent T.A. Staderman wrote.

Cornell was ready to go, the agent said.

He had made preparations with a partner. He had researched bomb-making instructions and by Wednesday, Cornell had bought two M-15 rifles with 600 rounds of ammunition.

But the man Cornell believed was his partner was actually an FBI informant, a man in trouble with the law who worked with the agency to improve his legal standing.

The last bit, of the alleged terrorist working with a ‘partner’ who was in trouble with the law, is a feature that is common to these terrorist plots foiled by the government and should tip off the alert reader that this story may not be what it seems to be on the surface.

Glenn Greenwald says that the latest scare story fits into the by-now standard pattern that is designed to frighten people and justify the invasive authoritarian powers that the government wants to entrench permanently.

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. As AP noted last night, “defense arguments have repeatedly failed with judges, and the stings have led to many convictions.”

What do we know about this dangerous Ohio man from whom we were saved at the last minute?

The alleged would-be terrorist is 20-year-old Christopher Cornell (above), who is unemployed, lives at home, spends most of his time playing video games in his bedroom, still addresses his mother as “Mommy” and regards his cat as his best friend; he was described as “a typical student” and “quiet but not overly reserved” by the principal of the local high school he graduated in 2012.

Cornell’s father accused the FBI of responsibility for the plot, saying of his son: “He’s a mommy’s boy. His best friend is his cat Mikey. He still calls his mother ‘Mommy.’” His father said that “he might be 20, but he was more like a 16-year-old kid who never left the house.” He added that his son had only $1,200 in his bank account, and that the money to purchase guns could only have come from the FBI. It was the FBI, he said, who were “taking him somewhere, and they were filling his head with a lot of this garbage.”

Greenwald also describes other similar ‘plots’ that were ‘foiled’ by the FBI after they carefully coaxed and bribed people into going along with various schemes. All this ensures that the FBI, CIA, NSA and all the other people and groups who are profiting from the anti-terrorism industry continue to have taxpayer money flowing to them. We should expect these things to occur periodically whenever they think that support for the national security state is flagging.

It is not hard to coax clueless and disaffected young men to take part in hare-brained grandiose schemes of violence. You can find plenty of such people among those in the sovereign citizens movement and the vast numbers of heavily armed militias in the country who think that Obama is a Communist Muslim hell-bent on destroying the US. If the security services wanted, they could recruit plenty of people like Cornell who believe they are acting out of patriotism to overthrow the government, and coax any number of plots they wanted.

But those ‘plots’ would not trigger the reflexive acquiescence of the general public they way that Muslim involvement would because those groups have their own powerful support structure in the US that would kick up a fuss if the government routinely set them up. Look at how Cliven Bundy’s heavily armed militia still threatens the government with violence if they come there while he refuses to pay the grazing fees. If an armed Muslim group refused to pay taxes and set up a no-go zone where government officials could not enter, you would have Predator drones striking them in no time and the public would be wildly cheering the government on.


  1. raven says

    These young adults don’t have anything like a working scam detector. A lot of people, maybe most would have had alarm bells going off long before the plots got anywhere.

    It’s amazing it even worked more than once. Anyone who pays attention knows the DHS does this. They have a lot of practice in stopping terrorism plots that they planned out.

  2. Anne Fenwick says

    It is not hard to coax clueless and disaffected young men to take part in hare-brained grandiose schemes of violence.

    Yes, it’s very worrying that the catalyst to a terrorist plan was an FBI agent. His actions seem to exactly mirror those of the radical who recruited the Charlie Hebdo killers as young men -- except that one was for real. Some aspects of Cornell’s personality also partly match those of the killers. I think there could be a strong presumption that this type of person will not cross the line to action without a charismatic catalyst, and often will if a catalyst turns up. And in this case, the catalyst was a fake. It’s literally a way for the government to generate their own terrorist plots without fully realizing that they’re doing it.

    Would it be better if they masqueraded as the more vulnerable party?

  3. DonDueed says

    In this instance, the FBI may have made a tactical error regarding the target of the terror attack. A lot of potential jurors may be inclined to sympathize with a kid whose supposed plan involved reducing the number of U.S. congressmen.

  4. steffp says

    It’s a tactics originally employed by the Tsarist secret police, called “Ochrana” at the turn to the 20th century. It is estimated that most Russian “anarchist assassination plots”, both successful and unsuccessful ones, were organized by Ochrana, in part to demonstrate the need for still more secret policing.
    “Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it -- while those who do know it, stand in horror while everybody else repeats it…”

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