On the heels of FBI’s arrest this week of a 21-year-old Baltimore man who converted to Islam and allegedly tried to set off a fake car bomb outside of a military recruitment center, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the federal government’s undercover operations to prevent terror plots before they further develop.
“I think that we are on an appropriate course,” Holder said at a news conference Thursday in response to a question from TPM. “I’m comfortable with the way that we’ve been conducting ourselves with regard to these investigations.”
Some Muslim organization have criticized the FBI’s infiltration of mosques, and other critics have suggested the FBI has entrapped some of the individuals they targeted. One FBI informant who infiltrated a mosque got so aggressive that the community at the California mosque got a restraining order against him.
“We are bound and determined to protect the American people and we will use every legitimate, lawful technique that we have in order to do that,” Holder said. “We are very mindful of the rights that people have. We do not engage in tactics that entrap people or make them do things that they are otherwise not disposed to do.”
The feds started looking into Antonio Martinez, who went by the name Muhammad Hussain, after he posted Facebook messages calling for violence in defense of Muslims. FBI agents posing as terrorists gave Martinez fake bomb materials and helped move the plot forward but gave him several opportunities to back out, according to the affidavit. The FBI earlier arrested a Somali-born teen in Oregon who allegedly wanted to attack a Christmas tree lighting in a similar manner late last month and busted up a fake plot to attack Metro stations in late October.
“I think you’ll see in the case in the case yesterday in Baltimore and in Oregon or in any number of occasions where people were arrested, they were given the opportunity to turn away from their stated desire to harm American citizens,” Holder added. “The techniques that we use, like I said, I think are legitimate. The way that these techniques have been deployed have been appropriate. We are very sensitive to the ways we use these tactics and techniques.”
Holder said he would be flying to California today, where he expected to discuss the matter with a Muslim organization he’ll be meeting with in San Francisco.