Fordham Law

Agents Arrest Terror Suspect Allegedly Planning to Bomb U.S. Capitol, But is the FBI Guilty of Entrapment?

Karen Greenberg in Policymic, February 17, 2012

Media Source

Federal authorities arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, but there’s debate over whether the FBI provoked the suspect.

The FBI says Amine El Khalifi considered attacking a host of targets for over a year, including a synagogue, an Alexandria, VA building with military offices, and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials. Khalifi was arrested at approximately noon on Friday, carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

But the gun and vest were actually provided to Khalifi by the FBI. On Friday, he was charged in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal property, and he faces life in prison if convicted.

But, critics accuse the FBI of provoking, or entrapping, Khalifi to action.  Officials say that Khalifi conducted surveillance on the Capitol and planned this attack. Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department said, “at each step, it was the defendant [Khalifi] who proposed the alleged plot and sought help in obtaining the weapons to carry it out.”

Legal experts question the FBI’s role in the affair. “You want to be very sure that the narrative is not substantially provided by the government. There’s a lot of gray area in these cases,” said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.

In the past year, federal agents have arrested at lest 20 people in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges. But, the FBI has often relied on cover agents to carry out its arrests. According to Ashraf Nubani, a Muslim lawyer in Washington, “It’s controlled from beginning to end by FBI. But you can’t create a terrorism case and then say you stopped it,” he said. “Had the FBI not been involved, through their manipulation or informants, would the same thing have happened? Would there be attempted violence?