Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested two New York City women, Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, on April 2. The two were charged with conspiring to build and detonate a bomb in the style of the 2013 Boston Marathon attack. After more than a year of talking about it, they hadn’t actually done anything about it. Reasonable people might conclude they just relished terror trash talk.
On April 10, the FBI arrested Topeka, Kansas resident John T. Booker as he attempted to arm a 1,000 pound bomb outside the US Army base at Fort Riley. The bomb was fake, as was the entire plan for the attack, drummed up and pushed at Booker by undercover federal agents. The FBI knew that Booker was mentally ill. In fact, two of its agents had taken Booker to a local Muslim imam in 2014 to procure counseling for him, telling the imam that Booker suffered from bipolar disorder.
G-Men Thwart Islamist Bomb Plot! Like a TV series that keeps getting renewed despite dismal ratings, some variant of that headline pops up every few days. And like that imaginary TV series — “How I Foiled Your Jihadist?” — the whole thing consists largely of recycled plot lines and cheap special effects.
What we’re watching is not a war on terror. It’s not desperate police work versus very dire, and very real, threats. It’s theater, scripted entirely for public consumption and for the purpose of maintaining the post-9/11 “homeland security” funding bonanza.
As of 2001, the FBI’s annual budget came to $3.3 billion (that’s $4.4 billion in inflated 2015 dollars). Its 2014 budget weighed in at nearly twice the spending: $8.3 billion. Director James Comey’s 2016 budget request would increase that to $8.48 billion. In his March statement to the US Senate committee evaluating that request, his top sales point was that “the terrorist threat against the United States remains persistent and acute.”
But that “terrorist threat” is, to all appearances, largely manufactured by the FBI itself. And as for real terrorist threats, we know how to reduce them: By ending the foreign military adventurism that has, each and every time, preceded and been used as justification for terror attacks on US soil.
The solution to terrorism isn’t to give James Comey more money to spend creating fake terrorists. It’s to give US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter less money to spend creating real ones.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.