All the jihad’s a stage(d)

The Washington Post treats us to this story of an “investigation” of the FBI’s handling of the recent supposed terrorist plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago by a group of criminal misfits (the “Sovereign Moors” and/or the “Moorish Science Temple”) in Miami that even the FBI conceded had no possible means whatsoever of carrying out their plot. Now, to be sure, infiltrating and uncovering plots of this nature is absolutely essential to combatting terrorism. Indeed, pains in the ass like myself would point out that in many cases, this sort of infiltration is the only way of combatting some forms of terrorism, in particular, terrorist plots not involving numerous electronically transmitted messages (and in a language for which translators are standing by!) and money wire transfers and such… or of course, terrorist activity not susceptible to being taken on by a slow moving armored division, aircraft carrier, or cruise missile (i.e. virtually all terrorism.)
So then, the fact that the FBI appears actively involved in infiltrating plots of this nature would seem to be… well, a good thing. And I agree wholeheartedly… to a point. And that’s just it.
Certainly, we know that the defendants will argue entrapment: ostensibly, they did not commit a “real” crime, but only one constructed by the FBI. This is frequently argued, and not usually successful as a defense (particular where the defendants appear to be not-particularly-well-off-Black-men– in Florida, no less!) More telling however, is where the investigation ultimately led. And that would be absolutely nowhere. The thing with plots of this nature is that it is hoped that they lead to contact with actual bad guys who, while they might not be caught up in the particular dragnet at hand, are identified, as are their confederates.
This plot… had none of that. Which is fine, too, IMHO, because there is no guarantee of success in setting these things up. No, no. What matters is, in fact, the intent of the FBI (ultimately overseen by our esteemed Attorney General, Alberto “Abu” Gonzales.) Was this even intended to combat actual terrorism… or just look like it? And there’s the rub. Our entire federal government, it seems, no longer seems to exist to provide “us” with “government services” (the most basic being defending our shores, protecting our borders, maintaining order, etc.), so much as to provide us with “salesmanship” as to why we should reelect it and its party, with services, if any, being entirely incidental if not beside the point.
And that’s just it with this plot: it has all the earmarks of being 100% lock, stock and barrel a publicity stunt. The plot was uncovered, as you recall, right at the end of June (a few days before, btw, the Supreme Court would hand the Bush Administration an “in your face” by striking down the Gitmo military commission process in the Hamdan case and holding that the Geneva Conventions apply to the War on Terror). There were lots of things happening… soldiers kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq… another failed flag-burning amendment…
The plot came at another low point in the President’s approval ratings, and like the seemingly premature announcement of the foiling by the British of the plot to blow up airliners… appeared to be more in the nature of countering political backsliding as opposed to counter-terrorism.
And now, it appears, that the methods used in this particular operation resembled (perhaps) as much or more stagecraft than actual police work… And a group of irrelevant petty criminal crackpots with no means of doing much were elevated to world class terrorist status, at least for our consumption.
I have no idea whether or to what extent actual terrorists are out there plotting against us. It would seem that our government has no idea, either, because it isn’t really that interested in the long, boring work associated with ferreting out such plots unless they make for well-timed (and frequently diversionary) headlines. Color me “not particularly comforted” by all this.