independent.org A news report published last week in the San Francisco Chronicle charges that the first man to provide firearms to the Black Panthers radical group, the late Richard Aoki, was an FBI informant. The revelation, although it reportedly shocked many who knew Aoki, should come as no real surprise: the agency has a long history of aiding, encouraging, and provoking dissident groups, activists, and misfits. Sometimes these capers have been concocted not to prevent crimes already planned, but rather to instigate crimes whose commission would help discredit a cause at odds with official policy. Sometimes they were hatched so that agency officials could bask in the media spotlight and score political points after they have foiled a criminal plot. Sometimes the strategy has backfiredâ€”like domestic versions of â€œFast and Furious.â€ Although Congressional hearings in the mid-1970s about FBI abuses led to a reduction in the agencyâ€™s counterintelligence program, similar schemes made a comeback after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory.
â€œIn the last decade, when the FBI wasnâ€™t preoccupied with spying on the ACLU or Quakers, it has busied itself encouraging acts of â€˜Islamicâ€™ terrorism,â€ Gregory writes in the Huffington Post. â€œA staggering number of foiled terror plots have involved entrapment reminiscent of COINTELPRO. In Dallas, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, and Portland, FBI informants have goaded people into planning attacks that they likely would have never concocted on their own, in some cases supplying fake explosives, and swooping in at the last minute to save the day.â€
Nor has the agency employed its dubious tactics of encouragement and entrapment only against Islamic militants. Last October, an FBI informant provided a group of Occupy protestors in Cleveland with C-4 explosives to blow up a bridge; the agency broke up the plot that it had encouraged before the plan became operational. And a few years ago, the FBI infiltrated the right-wing Hutaree militia in Michigan and charged its members with conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government by using weapons of mass destruction. A judgeâ€™s ruling that the G-men lacked sufficient evidence to make the charge stick suggests the magnitude of poor judgment exercised by the agency. â€œWith the FBI posing as dear friend,â€ Gregory concludes, â€œAmerican law and order need no enemies.â€