Of course the press conferences announcing the convictions of drug dealers and "terrorists" are equally successful. They also equally announce an ongoing campaign doomed to failure. The campaign for "terrorists" developed under President George W. Bush and expanded, like so much else, under President Barack Obama.
Aaronson spoke with J. Stephen Tidwell, former executive assistant director at the FBI. Tidwell argued that someone thinking about the general idea of committing crimes should be set up and then prosecuted, because as long as they're not in prison the possibility exists that someone other than the FBI could encourage them to, and assist them in, actually committing a crime. "You and I could sit here, go online, and by tonight have a decent bomb built. What do you do? Wait for him to figure it out himself?"
The answer, based on extensive data, is quite clearly that he will not figure it out himself and act on it. That the FBI has stopped 3 acts of terrorism is believable. But that the FBI has stopped 508 and there wasn't a 509th is just not possible. The explanation is that there haven't been 509 or even 243. The FBI has manufactured terrorist plots by the dozens, including most of the best known ones. (And if you watched John Brennan's confirmation hearing, you know that the underwear bomber and other "attacks" not under the FBI's jurisdiction have been no more real.)
Arthur Cummings, former executive assistant director of the FBI's National Security Branch, told Aaronson that the enemy was not Al Qaeda or Islamic Terrorism, but the idea of it. "We're at war with an idea," he said. But his strategy seems to be one of consciously attempting to lose hearts and minds. For the money spent on infiltrations and stings, the U.S. government could have given every targeted community free education from preschool to college, just as it could do for every community at home and many abroad by redirecting war spending. When you're making enemies of people rather than friends, to say that you're working against an idea is simply to admit that you're not targeting people based on a judicial review finding any probable cause to legally do so.
The drug war's failure can be calculated in the presence of drugs, although the profits for prisons and other profiteers aren't universally seen as failures. The FBI's counterterrorism can be calculated as a failure largely because of the waste of billions of dollars on nonexistent terrorism. But there's also the fact that the FBI's widespread use of informants, very disproportionately in Muslim communities, has made ordinary people who might provide tips hesitant to do so for fear of being recruited as informants. Thus "counter terrorism" may make it harder to counter terrorism. It may also feed into real terrorism by further enraging people already outraged by U.S. foreign policy. But it's no failure at all if measured by the dollars flowing into the FBI, or the dollars flowing into the pockets of informants who get paid by commission (that is, based on convictions in court of their marks). Nor do weapons makers, other war profiteers, or other backers of right wing politics in general seem to be objecting in any way to the production of widespread fear and bigotry.
Congressman Stephen Lynch has introduced a bill that would require federal law enforcement agencies to report to Congress twice a year on all serious crimes, authorized or unauthorized, committed by informants (who are often much more dangerous criminals than are those they're informing on). The bill picked up a grand total of zero cosponsors last Congress and has reached the same mark thus far in the current one.
The corporate media cartel has seen its ratings soar with each new phony incident. Opposition to current practice does not seem to be coming from that quarter.
And let's all be clear with each other: our society is tolerating this because the victims are Muslims. With many other minority groups we would all be leaping to their defense.
It may be time to try thinking of Muslims as Samaritans, as of course some of them are.