The latest issue of Rolling Stone has an article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely about the FBI’s entrapment of five activists associated with Occupy Cleveland for a plot to blow up a bridge. As I’ve written previously, the case was carefully coordinated by the FBI; undercover FBI agents helped shape the “plot,” offered advice on how and where to use explosives, and sold explosives to the activists.
As Erdely writes:
“… the defendants started out as disoriented young men wrestling with alienation, identity issues and your typical buckets of adolescent angst. They were malleable, ripe for some outside influence to coax them onto a new path. That catalyst could have come in the form of a friend, a family member or a cause. Instead, the government sent an informant.”
I spoke with Erdely about how this case fits into the broader crackdown on radical social movements such as Occupy, and the FBI’s use of informants to entrap activists, such as the similar case of Eric McDavid:
“These tactics are beyond the pale for what could be seen as a legitimate anti-terrorism operation,” say Green Is the New Red author Will Potter, who tracks government crackdowns on activists. “But this is how the Bureau is spending their counterterrorism money, and thousands of man-hours: creating the terrorism plots that they are ostensibly preventing.”
In the time since the article went to press, the remaining defendants have plead guilty. That follow the announcement that Anthony Hayne agreed to cooperate against them in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20, and Connor Stevens, 20, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce, authorities said in a statement.
Prosecutors have not ruled out seeking a terrorism enhancement penalty, which could increase their prison sentences and change how they are treated in prison.
Erdely’s article captures how these young men made some very misguided decisions, but she documents quite clearly how these decisions were guided, every step of the way, by the FBI.
Thanks to Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone for covering this disturbing case. You can read the full article here.