Years ago, when the “right wing militia” were being made into the “enemy” by the press, some local good old boys drinking at a bar began talking against the government. This was common at the time, but in this case, a visitor played on them to entice them into a scheme to bomb a local dam.

There are slews of small dams in central Pennsylvania, and release of water is one of the nightmares of living there, but the point was that when the “plot” went to court, the jury declared them innocent.

I asked one of our nurses, an ex coal miner, what was going on, and he replied that these men were well known braggarts, big in talk after a few beers, but never acting on their talk, and the jury figured it was the visitor, an FBI informant, who enticed them and even supplied the dynamite. Essentially the jury figured they were unwittingly entrapped by an agent who heard their loose talk and manipulated them to “act” on their threats. Hence the aquittal.

The nurse then said something that startled me: that most of the locals knew that if someone tried to get you involved in a plot to actually do something against the government, that most locals knew that this was probably a government sting.

This conversation came to mind when I heard about the Portland bomber.

From The Washington Examiner:

After initially making email contact with Islamist radicals in Pakistan, he took part in constructing what he hoped would be an extraordinarily powerful bomb…

That Mohamud was arrested and no one was hurt is a testament to good intelligence and law enforcement work.  Having Mohamud behind bars has undoubtedly saved lives in Portland; had he not encountered the undercover FBI agents, he might have worked with actual terrorists to construct a bomb, (Italics mine) or he might have simply gotten a gun and carried out “an operation here, you know, like something like Mumbai,” as he told the agents.

Yes, or maybe someone would have taken him aside and said: Hey Mohamud, just cool it” and sent him to a psychiatrist for anger control management. His anger wasn’t really against the US, it against his parents for divorcing, (or maybe against Christians in his school for bullying him) and like many radicals, he merely projected it against a likely but innocent target.

Without FBI help, he would probably never have been able to construct a bomb.

And it should be noted that, despite a fairly large Muslim presence in the area, he didn’t conspire with his friends from the mosque, but with outsiders who seduced him into acting on his anger.

Yet legally, as the Portland Tribune points out, Mohamud is responsible for his own actions because he was a willing participant.

Why do I bring this up? Because this plot could have endangered the lives of many people if it had not been “caught” in time.

It’s not only the rednecks of central Pennsylvania who learned to distrust that the FBI was trying to frame them. Entire radio shows are full of conspiracy theories that the government “knew” about the first World Trade Center bombing, or the Oklahoma city bombing.

Like the rednecks of Pennsylvania, few are more patriotic than Oklahoma residents.

Yet few outside the “heartland” notice that although Timothy McVeigh was executed, his co conspirator was given a life sentence by two separate juries. All sorts of conspiracy theories have been offered about that, from Nichols meeting with known Jihadis in Makati (the theory here in the Philippines) to the theory that he got help in making the bomb from a nearby white racist cult that was full of FBI informants and being monitored by the ATF.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, which is why the juries want at least one of the conspirators alive in the hopes he might eventually spill the beans. McVeigh was angry and paranoid, but a lot of folks feel the full story isn’t being told.

So two of the most loyal groups in America, Pennsylvania rednecks and stoic Okies, have questions about their government’s involvement in encouraging terrorism by loose cannons in anti government movements in order to destroy anti government movements.

In both cases, conspiracy folks think that these were set ups as an excuse to clamp down on loud mouths among the anti government types in rural areas, most of whom are harmless braggarts.

A single person does not simply make and deliver a car bomb. It takes many to help him. From strategyPage  commeting on jihadi bombs in Iraq: you need bomb builders, you need someone to get the explosives, you need someone to get the car so it wouldn’t be traced, you need a keeper to get the patsy to deliver the bomb and to set off the bomb (too often “suicide bombers” change their mind, so AlQaeda traditionally uses car phone detonators). And you need a lot of money to do all of this.

Others have noticed it too. From the Portland Tribune:

Writing on the Salon.com website on Sunday, Glenn Greenwald said the FBI might have complied with the legal restrictions for such undercover operations.

“But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a ‘Terrorist plot’ which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction,” wrote Greenwald, who is also a lawyer.

That the target was a city in Oregon that previously had refused to cooperate with such stings in the past, as the Washington Examiner has pointed out.

What is ironic is that the operation that found and stopped Mohamud is precisely the kind of law enforcement work that Portland’s leaders, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, rejected during the Bush years.  In April 2005, the Portland city council voted 4 to 1 to withdraw Portland city police officers from participating in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

So it makes one wonder if the “sting” was directed against Portland to prove a point.

Ah yes, I’m being paranoid again…but on the other hand, the story has resulted in someone setting fore to the local mosque, which had little or nothing to do with the plot.

And if Mohammed gets some good lawyers, maybe he will get a light sentence.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Makaipablog.

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