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TomDispatch: Stephan Salisbury: Stage-Managing the War on Terror, Ensnaring Terrorists Demands Creativity

From TomDispatch today, To what extent is the domestic war on terror a government creation? -- Stephan Salisbury, "Stage-Managing the War on Terror, Ensnaring Terrorists Demands Creativity."

Stephan Salisbury, cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of Mohamed's Ghost's: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland, explores a little known world of government informants and terror entrapment policies to ask the question: How much of the domestic war on terror is a self-created phantasm of the governmental/law enforcement imagination?

He begins his latest TomDispatch piece: "Informers have by now become our first line of defense in our battles with the evildoers, the go-to guys in the never-ending domestic war on terror. They regularly do the dirty work -- suggesting and encouraging the plots, laboring as bag men to move the money, fashioning the bombs, and eliciting the flamboyant dialogue, even while following the scripts of their handlers to the letter. They have attended to all the little details that make for the successful and now familiar arrests, criminal complaints, trials, and (for the most part) convictions in the ever-distracting war against... what? Al-Qaeda? Terror? Muslims? The inept? The poor?"

Salisbury reviews a range of far-fetched cases of domestic terror -- "A band of virtually homeless and penniless men in Florida, we were told, were planning to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. They just needed the right combat boots to pull it off, and a little free money..." -- and then considers two recent cases in detail. Both revolved around well-paid government informers and well-made government scripts for crime -- the Newburgh Four and the Detroit Ummah conspiracy. In the first, which the presiding judge has taken to calling "the unterrorism case," blacks from a poor neighborhood, petty criminals and Muslim converts, were led into a bizarre terror plot by an informer who made offers of significant payments and provided the "plotters" with their "bombs." In the second, an imam in Detroit, connected to sixties radical H. Rap Brown, was shot to death by the FBI.

As Salisbury concludes, "Both Newburgh and Detroit are, indeed, instances of 'unterrorism,' as the Newburgh judge said of the 'plot' before her. Yet both are starkly framed by the on-going war on terror, both involve elaborate set-ups arranged by federal informers and covert agents, and both ensnared inept, virtually destitute black people scrambling to get by in post-racial America."

This is a rare piece that takes on the role of the informer in the domestic war on terror and asks how much we are involved in creating our own fear machine. Don't miss this one!


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