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The Most Effective Al Qaeda Franchise

On February 17th, al Qaeda tried, once again, to strike at America. Armed with a suicide vest and an automatic weapon, Amine El Khalifi--a sworn al Qaeda operative--planned to kills dozens of Americans in cold blooded murder, terrorism by any definition.
Worse yet, Amine El Khalifi worked for the most active and sophisticated al Qaeda franchise. The only branch of al Qaeda that can actively recruit terrorists to target America on our own soil. A branch with an active web presence that trains, supplies, and motivates its members.

It’s name? Al Qaeda, FBI.

Despite their supposedly robust web presence, most wannabe terrorists can never contact the real al Qaeda--or a real affiliate--instead, they end up contacting undercover FBI agents. What I call “al Qaeda FBI” then sends an undercover agent to “train” the wannabe, provide him with “explosives” and, in several cases, motivate him. At the extremes, this means pushing and encouraging the “terrorist” to conduct a terror attack even after he expresses doubts.

I could describe each individual case where this occurs, or I could just point you to Professor John Mueller’s excellent breakdown of terrorism cases in the US, which includes mostly wannabombers who never worked with al Qaeda, and exclusively worked for al Qaeda FBI; wannabes like Antonio Martinez, Khalid Abudl Latif, Mohamed Osman Mohamed, Farooqe Ahmed, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi and more.

I don’t want terrorists attacking America. I also appreciate the work of FBI agents intercepting terrorists. That said, I have several problems with the extensive involvement of “al Qaeda FBI” in promoting terrorism:

1. Is this entrapment? Because entrapment isn’t constitutional. Several respected journalists have shown how the FBI doesn’t just intercept plots, it helps create them. Personally, I don’t like the government creating crimes that wouldn’t have existed in the first place. Read these two articles to get a great perspective on this, particularly the Mother Jones article by Trevor Aaronson, “The Informants”.

2. We get the narrative all wrong. Though it goes mostly unsaid by reporters, pundits and politicians, al Qaeda isn’t very good at what they do. Instead of telling the public a good news story--look at silly Al Qaeda, they can’t recruit anyone--advocates for increased national security spending use these cases to frighten the public. But look again; these wanna-bombers can’t ever get to the real al Qaeda. If the supposedly super-effective jihadist websites were so super effective, how come they don’t warn followers about al Qaeda FBI? If al Qaeda has so many men ready to sacrifice themselves for Allah, why don’t they?

Nothing exemplifies this stunning impotence better than the fact that al Qaeda cannot gain a foothold on American soil. Instead of reveling in this, instead of relegating al Qaeda to an after-thought of history, the media--with the cooperation of the FBI and Justice Department--continue to stoke al Qaeda’s reputation with press releases about each of their foiled “attacks”. The executive branch especially loves this narrative. As President Obama constantly reminds the public, Al Qaeda remains ready and able to strike America.

3. Where have all the lone wolves gone? The number of lone wolf terrorists in America is tiny, microscopic, infinitesimal. You have a better chance of winning the lottery (which happens at least twice a week in almost every state) than knowing a lone wolf terrorist. Excluding all the al Qaeda FBI cases, there are less than a handful of serious attempted terror attacks (Fort Hood Shooting, Time Square Bomber and Underwear Bomber). Listen to Charles Kurzman on To The Best of Our Knowledge to hear specific numbers on this issue.

(Finally, rhetoric point: don’t wolves hunt in packs? How many actual lone wolves are there?)

4. With so few lone wolves, does al Qaeda have a single branch in the US? It is like the proverbial tree in the forest, “If al Qaeda has a branch in the United States, but it doesn’t ever launch or plan on launching a terror attack, does it have a branch in the U.S.?”

Consider that the FBI doesn’t use undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist networks in the U.S. Instead, in case after case, the FBI agents act as the senior leadership. Unlike drug cartels or organized crime, which cause way more violence in the US, the FBI has nothing to infiltrate.

So what? News coverage implies that “al Qaeda” is effective, or at least operating. Facts don’t bear this out. Which means we probably over-reacted when it comes to counter-terrorism spending. The extreme approaches to counter-terrorism--the NYPD spending binge, the super-surveillance, the vast Top Secret America--pale in usefulness to some undercover FBI guys monitoring jihadi websites.

So the next time the FBI and Justice Department make an arrest, let’s celebrate it for what it is, another successful attack planned and executed by al Qaeda FBI. Let’s celebrate Al Qaeda’s continued impotence.

One comment

This point might not be super original, but it needs to be said and said, repeated and repeated until everyone internalizes it.