In the frenzied days following 9/11, the FBI and a newly formed Homeland Security launched a counter-terrorism effort that dropped scores of informants into neighborhoods throughout America.
It was a reasonable idea, seeing as how law enforcement missed the whole commercial pilot training for the Saudi terrorists in Florida, but as it turned out, there really wasn't much to report on.
With the programs in place, the informants on the ground, and the money being spent, the concern about justifying it all became a growing concern. Cases needed to be made, and as that need grew sharper, the list of Americans scooped up on terrorism charges has grown as unlikely, as it is long.
Communities, and former informants, are only now fighting back and voicing their concerns.
"The way the FBI conducts their operations, It is all about entrapment … I know the game, I know the dynamics of it," former FBI informant Craig Monteilh recently told the Guardian. "It's such a joke, a real joke. There is no real hunt. It's fixed."
With an FBI provided alias, Montheilh infiltrated an Orange County mosque and secretly recorded its members, providing what one federal transcript describes as "very, very valuable information" that proved "essential" to a federal prosecution.
Maybe, or maybe not.
Montheilh first made headlines in 2010, two years after his time as informant, when he sued the FBI for failing to erase a grand theft conviction he picked up on one of his undercover stints, and for nearly getting him killed by not giving him a new identity.
Monteilh told Paul Harris at the Guardian that the FBI even OK'd sex with Muslim women from the mosque, if it led to better intel. "They said, if it would enhance the intelligence, go ahead and have sex. So I did," Monteilh says.
There's only one problem according to Fordham Law professor Karen Greenberg.
"The target, the motive, the ideology and the plot were all led by the FBI," Greenberg, who specializes in studying the new FBI tactics, told Harris.
The professor goes on to explain that there are two different uses of the word entrapment:
“There is the common usage, where a citizen might see FBI operations as deliberate traps manipulating unwary people who otherwise were unlikely to become terrorists. Then there is the legal definition of entrapment, where the prosecution merely has to show a subject was predisposed to carry out the actions they later are accused of.”
This bit of legalese has a personal meaning to the people of Cleveland, GA (pop. 1,900) who feel they witnessed a deliberate trap by the FBI when the agency built its case against the “Grumpy Old Terrorists.”
Also called the "geriatric jihadists," the four ne'er-do-wells arrested in that sting had a long list of debilitating physical ailments and a combined age of 273 years old. Among them was a retired Navy veteran who liked to get together with his buddies at a local Waffle House, and talk trash about the government.
In this case, FBI informant Joe Sims infiltrated their Cleveland, GA based "militia group."
"It's pretty scary, that this person can insinuate himself and then get you to say the one thing that puts you in prison for the rest of your life," Sam Crump's daughter, Karon Bond told Tom Junod of Esquire Magazine last fall.
What the people of Cleveland, and American Muslim communities as a whole have noticed, is that the FBI and Homeland Security slip these informants into the lives of ordinary citizens, and provide the motivation, the money, and the means to do harm.
Often, informants will bribe impoverished targets with material goods they could never otherwise afford, if only
Alicia McWilliams, aunt of one of the alleged terrorists of Newburgh Four, told AOL News that the FBI offered to pay for her other nephew's liver transplant if his brother agreed to take part in the terrorist plot.
She could be talking about Craig Monteilh on the other side of the country who slipped into the Orange County mosque. He was recruited after talking to off duty cops at a gym about convicts he'd met while doing time at Chino prison in California.
It paid off for the ex-con, at the peak of the investigation he was pulling in about eleven-grand a month.