On Monday, The Daily Beast reported new evidence which suggests that an undercover agent working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation coaxed a terror suspect into the resulting shooting in Garland, Texas, in May 2015. The suspect was known to have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State.
Last year, just outside of Dallas, two armed men identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi shot at police officers at a Prophet Mohammed cartoon drawing contest before being killed by Garland police. One officer was injured by the assailants.
An affidavit in a related case was released last week which showed text messages between Simpson and the agent, who allegedly egged him on to commit a mass shooting at the cartoon drawing contest in Garland.
Critics have quickly pointed out that this comment to “Tear up Texas” only pushed the suspect to commit a violent crime, rather than preventing one from happening. In the affidavit, the FBI explained that it supported the use of the agent’s remark as “an effort to continue their dialogue” with the ISIS suspect. Ironically, the FBI in this case made the situation worse by provoking a criminal act instead of preventing one.
The New York Times reported in June that the FBI has increased its use of undercover agents in such sting operations to find and prosecute ISIS operatives. However, several pundits have commented as to how the FBI may be undermining itself as an institution used for protection against these religious militants if they allow their agents to engage recklessly in conversation with suspects.
Arun Kundnani, a lecturer at New York University, told The Intercept, “The FBI uses informants and undercover agents to pressure suspected ISIS sympathizers into committing acts of violence, so that they can be prosecuted.” He continued to say that this case of the Texas shooter “suggests the government may be manufacturing the very threat it is supposed to be countering.”
Furthermore, a former FBI agent, Michael German, explained to The Daily Beast in an interview that such behavior by an undercover agent is inexcusable. He said, “It would certainly be inappropriate for an FBI undercover agent or cooperating witness to provoke or inspire or urge a person to commit an act of violence.”
What good are counter-terror sting operations that lead to violence? The public relies on the FBI for its counter-terrorism initiatives, but does not by any measure expect it to amplify the problem. The Department of Justice needs to hold the FBI accountable for engaging with an ISIS suspect with such careless dialogue.
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