Friday, April 10, 2015

Another Entrapment Case

Mark my words. The case being splayed all over today's front pages of a supposed Muslim terrorist in Kansas arrested "while trying to arm what he thought was a bomb" will turn out to be another case of entrapment.

John Booker in 2010
In every case I know of in which federal law enforcement has arrested someone on much ballyhooed domestic terrorism charges, it's later turned out to be a case of entrapment. Those revelations of course only come long after all the TV cameras are gone and the public has ingested the storyline that we're all in imminent danger of being killed by crazed Muslims.

The case in Kansas, played up big in this LA Times piece, already has several obvious signs of entrapment:

1. A US attorney brought the charges, which means the biggest entrapment law enforcement agencies, the FBI being chief among them, are involved.

2. The charges resulted from a "months long investigation." In other words, it wasn't as if they caught someone in the act of something, and there was no danger to the public. They've been intimately involved with this person for a long time. It takes time to talk these troubled young men into going through with the plots presented to them by the agents. Usually the feds use an informant who gains the kids' confidence and then proposes bombing something. The informant then supplies the kid with a fake bomb provided by the FBI, which of course has been recording everything the victim's been saying for months and edits the tape to conceal the informants coercion and any misgivings the victim may have had. Sometimes the FBI even ships its informant elsewhere to entrap other victims.

3. The suspect is a poor, troubled young man, just the kind of person entrappers prey on. He fits the profile of those kids who were arrested in Florida for supposedly wanting to blow things up, and the young men arrested for supposedly wanting to blow up La Guardia airport, and the "Newberg Four" in White Plains, NY, or the 19-year-old Somali who was supposedly going to set off a bomb at a Portland, OR Christmas tree lighting ceremony. All were entrapment cases.

After the FBI has enough damning evidence, they give the young man the fake bomb and arrest him with it in his possession. Then, to provide the aura of officialdom, there's the press conference with the US attorney from that area, which the media dutifully transcribes without looking into the facts of the case. Watch this local Kansas station's breathless "team coverage" of John Booker's arrest today, that begins with a clip from the US attorney's press conference, which to the unsuspecting listener sounds pretty good but is pretty much an admission that they entrapped the guy.

"Ongoing Investigation" 

The press conference by the way follows the script all law enforcement uses for announcing charges of any kind: the threat to the public is exaggerated and what law enforcement actually did is cloaked in law enforcement press release jargon designed to exaggerate the difficulty and danger and make everyone involved sound like they just stepped out of a detective novel.

Law enforcement work is actually pretty mundane and routine. When I was a police reporter I would question the cops to find out exactly what they did. Building a case usually involves finding someone who will snitch on the suspect. They'll look for someone who's vulnerable, maybe someone they have a warrant for, or someone who is already in jail and can be enticed with getting out.

Sometimes they'll pick someone up and drive him around and use good cop/bad cop psychology on him. I found out about a case in which one detective drove a young kid around and two detectives sat the back seat and poked the kid in the back of the head and pulled his hair until they got him to talk.

Law enforcement always tells the press the case was solved as a result of a criminal "investigation," a term that conjures up images of Dick Tracy or Sherlock Holmes, made up people who were figments of someone's fertile imagination, but in reality most cases are solved because someone snitched; someone who in any other case, their own for instance, is never even believed.

The sad thing is, although there's a legitimate entrapment defense that's been used in important cases over time, courts almost never accept it anymore. For one thing the courts for years have been packed with law and order conservatives, the kind who don't mind frying innocent people, and for another, with all the terrorism hyperbole we've been subjected to, judges don't want to be the one who let off the terrorist, as explained as part of this serious article about entrapment by Adam Serwer in The American Prospect.

How many videos have to come out before the veneer of respectability police have been granted begins to wear thin? Recall that in the two days after the North Charleston, SC, police murder, before the video came out, the media was running with the police version of the murder. If not for the video that cop would have got away with it. It happens all the time, and African Americans have known for a long time that it happens all the time.

It really only makes sense in the context of the role race and class have in propping up Capitalism. The police, including the FBI and all the rest of them, the NSA included, are simply one of the coercive arms of the state. The nation state, with the compliance of Neoliberal/Reaganomics Democrats is merely the handmaid of the Capitalist system.

We go along with it, too, naively sitting on our couches wondering what's going on having internalized the violence of the thuggish goons of a thuggish Capitalist system -- that got away with stealing trillions from us in the Wall Street meltdown. Trillions. Not one of them has gone to jail, the most vulnerable among us are being gunned down in the streets, and we're sitting on our couches wondering what's going on.







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