DC Transit terror plot involved a $245 donation and… nothing else

DC Metro; Source: Wired

Earlier this week, Americans were alarmed and instantly relieved to learn that the FBI had uncovered and arrested a dangerous terrorism suspect who was a member of the DC Transit police. The suspect was accused of aiding ISIS, and the nature of his employment was particularly ominous, which probably explains why it was included in most headlines.

Unfortunately, initial reports were light on details, and we were all naturally anxious to learn more.

Specifically, what horrible tragedy had just been averted by the intrepid folks at the FBI? A bombing of the DC subway system perhaps? An attack on Capitol Hill or other iconic symbols of America?

How about sending $245 in telecom gift cards? Turns out, that was it. That’s the crime that justified national headlines this week.

As trifling as that sounds, however, it gets more farcical upon looking into the details.

The reason it was a crime at all was because the suspect believed he was sending the gift cards to a friend living in ISIS territory. In fact, his friend was an informant paid by the FBI and had nothing to do with ISIS. And at least at one point during the investigation, the suspect was found trying to console the informant and persuade him against joining ISIS. Nevertheless, the investigation continued until this dangerous suspect finally snapped and sent $245 to what he thought was a friend in need. It’s not yet clear whether he even agreed with ISIS’s broader worldview or tactics.

If that weren’t bad enough, you should also know the investigation to entrap capture the suspect took roughly six years altogether, involving some 20 meetings between the informant and suspect and interviews with law enforcement. Needless to say, Americans probably would have been better off if these years’ worth of resources were dedicated to just about anything else.

The suspect faces up to 20 years in prison for the gift card purchase.

Just another day in the War on Terror.

Read The Intercept’s report on this story for the rest of the details.

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