Monday, December 18, 2006

Rockford Breathes a Sigh of Relief, Safe from the Menace of Derrick Shareef

The Rockford Register Star celebrated the weekend with a special section on the Derrick Shareef story, named without any apparent hint of intentional irony "Terror In The Region: Plot Foiled".

In "Local News: Cherry Valley", Bridget Tharp tells us the sting was all-federal, and Police Chief Gary Maitland explains why he thinks it should be that way: Cherry Valley police tell how small their terror response really was
It was “just luck” that Police Chief Gary Maitland was lunching with two law-enforcement leaders when the FBI agent showed up at his office Dec. 6, he said.

The timing meant that South Beloit Police Chief Larry Schultz and Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers learned together that the FBI had thwarted a terror plot set for CherryVale Mall.
"Just luck"-- That's a good one. Remember that for later, will you?
Maitland shared details Tuesday of his department’s reaction and minimal involvement in last week’s terror scare with the village Public Safety Committee.
"Minimal"?? That's putting it kindly, is it not? Unless you mean "minimal" as in "negligible"...
Federal officials said Derrick Shareef, 22, was plotting to set off hand grenades in garbage cans in CherryVale Mall. By the time local officials were told, Shareef already had been arrested.
So ... "minimal" as in "none". And it's something of an issue in Rockford, according to several references in this special section of the Rockford Register Star.

But this is no surprise.

The story continues:
Although some booed the FBI’s secrecy, Maitland understands why local officials were left out of the loop. If he’d heard of the threat before the arrest, he would have put extra patrols around the mall. Doing so might have interfered with the federal investigation, Maitland said.
In my "model" of this so-called "terror plot foiled", I see Gary Maitland as something of a diplomat. There's at least a finite chance that he was righteously steamed to find out what had been going on under his nose, and look at how he found out: after the fact, and not even in private but also in the company of other police chiefs. What could he say about the FBI, especially there and then? Nothing but nice things, right?

To a coincidence theorist, it may have looked like
it was “just luck” that Police Chief Gary Maitland was lunching with two law-enforcement leaders when the FBI agent showed up at his office Dec. 6
but it may have been something else, too. Appearances can be deceiving.

And that aspect of the story was interesting, as were some other spots I will point out in a little while, but it was the Editorial that really engaged me. It's called "A scary thought: Threat of terror in our backyard", and it opens with some classic sleight-of-hand.
Whether or not Derrick Shareef was capable of pulling off a terrorist attack or multiple attacks he’s accused of, it’s unnerving to think that some of us walked alongside him and an FBI informant at CherryVale Mall as Shareef talked about how to detonate grenades to kill the most people.
Remember that last phrase, will you? "to kill the most people." We'll be coming back to that later. But first the sleight-of-hand. In my view,
Whether or not Derrick Shareef was capable of pulling off a terrorist attack or multiple attacks he’s accused of
is the essential question. Or at least that's the essential small question. The sleight-of-hand appears in the way it's included in the opening phrase, the "whether or not" intro, the "let's all sweep this part under the rug" preamble, as if to say, "Let us move past the physical realities of the case, let us not tolerate any outrageous conspiracy theories, let us move along to things we can all agree on."

When I see this happening, I always think "Let us try to prevent the next big attack without ever really understanding the previous one." But I digress.

When Webster Tarpley looks at a terrorism case, he uses a simple question to differentiate perpetrators from patsies: "Do they have the physical and technical ability to cause the effects observed?" In the event of a "foiled terror plot", I ask a similar question: Did he have the physical and technical ability to cause the effects being claimed? In other words, "Could the defendant have committed the crime for which he is accused?"

Whether or not Derrick Shareef was capable of damaging anything at all is an open question, and whether he could or could not have exploded grenades in the mall is central in my view. So slipping this aspect of the story under the rug is a natural opening move for an editorial of this sort. It was well done, but of course you can't fool all the people all the time.
When did we lose our ability to think clearly?
Rember that phrase, too, will you? "When did we lose our ability to think clearly?"

The editorial continues:
We have to be grateful for the informant’s decision to notify authorities when, according to the charges, Shareef shared his intention to wage a one-man jihad against America.
Is that so? Grateful for the informant’s decision to notify authorities? In my view, that's no reason to be especially grateful. That's the informant's job, to sell information.

You'd have to expect the informant to keep the authorities notified all along the way. That's how these things work. How else could you do it?

I mean, how could they give him his instructions unless the he sent them regular status reports?
After that, authorities say, there was never any danger that Shareef would be able to create the mayhem he spoke about.
The editors and I agree here, but I would go even further:

There was never any danger that Shareef would be able to create the mayhem he spoke about, period. He wouldn't have even been speaking about it if not for the FBI informant.

As a close study of the affidavit makes clear, Shareef would never have spoken about hand-grenades or shopping malls, would never have been to CherryVale even once, had it not been for the informant, who led him along every step of the way.
The FBI set up a bizarre swap of two stereo speakers for some phony grenades, a pistol and some nonfunctioning ammunition. When the swap was made, Shareef was arrested.
A bizarre swap indeed. What was the FBI-connected fake arms-dealer going to do with a pair of speakers? Use them as evidence, of course.

Derrick Shareef had no idea that he was being set up. He didn't have any money, he didn't have a car, he didn't have any friends, and he didn't have a clue. He even thought he could get four functional hand grenades, a handgun and functional ammo for the gun, all for a pair of speakers. They must have been some speakers!

He’s in jail now, held without bond and facing federal charges, including one involving use of a weapon of mass destruction aimed at people and property.
Use of a weapon of mass destruction? Are they serious? It's difficult to see how that particular charge could ever stick.

Aside from the question of whether a hand grenade -- or even a set of four -- constitutes a weapon of mass destruction, Derrick Shareef never used any weapon. Derrick Shareef never even obtained any weapons, if by "weapon" you mean a functional instrument of violence.

Surely a box containing four "phony grenades, a pistol and some nonfunctioning ammunition" does not constitute a weapon of mass destruction; and moving that box from the trunk of the FBI-connected fake-arms-dealer's car to the trunk of the FBI-connected informant's car does not constitute "use" of said so-called "weapon" in any way shape or form, especially considering that all this happened in a store parking lot full of federal agents who, as the editorial correctly states, were set to arrest Shareef as soon as they could also seize the so-called "evidence" of his so-called "terror plot" in his so-called "possession".
The news went all over the world about a terrorist plot against a mall in Rockford, Ill., not exactly the kind of public relations this city relishes, but it could have happened anywhere, really.
Creating the news itself, and sending it all over the world, were the main points of this exercise. Derrick Shareef's future is a non-issue to the feds. They don't care whether they have to drop the charge about "use of a weapon of mass destruction"; if this case goes according to the usual pattern, that won't happen for another year or more.

By then Derrick Shareef will have been forgotten by all but a few. And the dropping of the charge will receive little or no attention. But the damage will already have been done.

The editorial is absolutely correct on this point: It certainly could have happened anywhere. It could have happened anywhere the FBI wanted it to happen. This particular bogus terror alert could have happened anywhere in the Chicago/Milwaukee area; it just happens that the informant chose to take Shareef out to CherryVale. Or something...

As noted in a previous article, that didn't make any sense. Why CherryVale? Remember that, too, ok?
The FBI affidavit released by the U.S. attorney’s office details how the counterterrorism squad documented Shareef’s actions and stated intentions as the case against him was put together. It’s fascinating reading, as it reveals the simplistic, dehumanizing nature of such a person’s grievances, their self-aggrandizing martyr tendencies and the apparent disregard for the sanctity of life. A scary combination, indeed.
This is an insane reading of the affidavit, in my view. But then, I've read it twice. And I'm willing to link to it, so others can read it and make up their own minds.

Let's cut to the chase:

The affidavit also reveals that Derrick Shareef had no car, no money, and no clue. He was a loner, a few bricks short of a full load, just the sort of person these sting operations focus on. Derrick Shareef was the perfect target for an entrapment operation such as this.

The affidavit goes on to reveal how it was the informant who started talking about the mall, and it was the informant who started talking about the grenades, it was the informant who started talking about disrupting Christmas and killing as many people as possible.

It was the informant who brought Derrick Shareef to Rockford to "case" CherryVale Mall.
It could have been anywhere....
Right. It could have been anywhere...

But here's the thing: Have No Fear! The grenades will always be phony, the ammunition will always be non-functional, the parking lot will always be full of federal agents, and the terrorist will always be hapless and helpless, toothless and useless.

That's the pattern. That's how the FBI gets all these bogus terror arrests.
The FBI did admirable work, as far as we can tell, with one rather obvious omission: The agency did not notify local law enforcement until very late in the game. Mayor Larry Morrissey and Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson said they didn’t know what was going on until the news was breaking across the nation.
Well of course they didn't know what was going on. Gary Maitland, Larry Schultz and Dick Meyers all found out about it at the last minute, too, as noted above. And that's the way it was supposed to happen.

In traps like this one, it's seen as essential that the local authorities be kept completely in the dark until the trap has been sprung, and for the exact reason Gary Maitland mentioned. Had he known what was happening, he would have put on extra patrols, which might have interfered with the FBI investigation.

OOPS! What would have happened then? What if Maitland's extra patrols were on duty -- and paying attention -- when the FBI Informant brought Derrick Shareef out to Rockland case the mall? That might have been messy, no? They might even have arrested the informant!

Is this what the Mayor was wondering about, or was he thinking about something else?
Morrissey said he was going to try to get some answers from the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald about why local law enforcement was kept out of the loop.
The Mayor will no doubt get "some answers from the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald" but whether they will be reasonable ones, who can predict what answers he will get?

Well, OK, I was lying; I can predict this one: the answers will be some variation of "Hands Off, Mouth Shut!". The answers from Fitzgerald's office may be phrased more delicately, of course.

If Larry Morrissey isn't happy with the answers he gets from Patrick Fitzgerald, please somebody send him a link to this article, or give him my email address. I'd be thrilled -- chilled! -- to explain all this and much much more to Mr. Morrissey, and indeed to anyone else -- mayor, congressman, private citizen -- who is curious enough to ask. In fact, they don't even have to ask; all they have to do is click against my wishes when I say "please don't read my blog."
It’s difficult to be too mad at the FBI, which identified and monitored a potentially dangerous person and kept a lid on leaks until an arrest could be made.
Is it? I agree that the FBI "kept a lid on leaks until an arrest could be made". But is it really "difficult to be too mad at the FBI"? And is it really true that the FBI "identified and monitored a potentially dangerous person"?

Aside from the fact that we're all dangerous, how dangerous was Derrick Shareef, anyway?

He had no car; that's why he and the informant rode around in the informant's car.

He had no money; he couldn't even come up with a few hundred bucks for some grenades -- he had to trade in his speakers.

He was so ignorant about grenades that he wanted to have them detonate in garbage cans!

Never mind that the grenades would produce much more harmful effects if they were detonated in the open.

Never mind that Derrick Shareef couldn't afford to buy real grenades, wouldn't know where to get real grenades, didn't know the difference between functional deadly hand-grenades and the phonies he bought -- or obtained in a trade for a pair of stereo speakers -- in a store parking lot crawling with federal agents.
Shareef might not be the brightest bulb in the jihad marquee, but he seemed bent on destruction and he had little to lose.
The conclusion that Derrick Shareef was "bent on destruction" seems questionable at best. A careful reading of the affidavit reveals that -- especially on the topics of CherryVale and grenades -- Derrick Shareef was saying whatever the FBI-connected confidential informant was telling him to say, doing whatever the informant was telling him to do.

It's entirely possible that Derrick Shareef was intent on destruction even before the confidential informant convinced him to say enough to get his sorry young ass arrested. And I don't mean to imply in any way that Derrick Shareef may have been a good guy, or a harmless one. All I'm saying is:

Can we please keep this in perspective?

If not for the FBI, Derrick Shareef would still be a dim-witted unknown with a bad attitude and a pair of speakers. And he may not have much to lose, unless you count his personal freedom. But in my view, this is not about Derrick Shareef.

This is about America. This about the world. How many people have heard the news that made its way around the world so fast, about the terror plot that was foiled near Chicago, just in time for Christmas?

What is the message?

The message is:

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Give up all your civil liberties in the name of greater security. Support a bogus war against bogus terrorism and allow the lifeblood to be sucked out of your society. Remember that too, will you?
We’re relieved they got him.
I'm sure you are. But are you relieved you've read this?

I'm not relieved at all, to tell you the truth, and here's what alarms me: the reactions of the sheep! Innocent as always, they bleat out their praise for the ghastly machine that's herding them into the wrong pen, as perfectly illustrated by the following Letter to the Editor:
To informant: Thanks

I would just like to say thank you to the person who notified the proper authorities leading to the arrest of Derrick Shareef.

You may always be unknown to all of us, but I feel that you are the true hero.

Thank you for stepping up to the plate and for saving so many people from being hurt and killed. Life is always so busy and we sometimes forget to recognize the truly wonderful things that people do for each other.

I walk at CherryVale Mall and my family thanks you for helping to keep me safe, as well as our entire city.

God bless you always. You are a gift to all of us.

— Kim Einhorn, Rockford
Does Kim Einhorn have any idea of the deception and provocation that was required -- and provided -- to create this "gift to all of us"? It's hard to imagine.

It's hard to imagine that she has much of a clue about anything. None of these things, anyway.

And here's the saddest part: she probably represents the community much better than the editorial.

In other words: baaah, baaah, baaah, baaah....


What were we supposed to remember? Do you remember?

"Just Luck"

Whenever a news story starts with an disclaimer about how is was "just luck" that a certain thing happenened, be very suspicious.

"To Kill The Most People"

We're always told the terrorists are trying to kill as many people as possible, because they want us all dead.

If that were the case, wouldn't they "plot" to "explode" their "grenades" in the open? Why would they contain the blasts in garbage cans?

And why would they choose such an off-the-beaten-track place to do it? Why wouldn't they attack downtown Chicago?

In my view this is not about killing the most people at all. It's not about killing anybody. It's about scaring us all senseless.

Why CherryVale?

Perhaps it was chosen because it's small. The informant brought Derrick Shareef to CherryVale twice and paraded him around, making sure some of the merchants (and probably some of the other shoppers as well) noticed them. In a big city it's a lot harder to get noticed.

Or maybe it was chosen because it's out-of-the-way. Just to enhance the "Shock-And-Awe" factor for the worldwide audience.

CherryVale in particular? I don't know. But any out-of-the-way place would do as well. People who don't live in big cities don't worry about terrorism very much. It's entirely possible that the main point of this exercise was to remind them to Be Very Frightened.

The Lifeblood of Society

One budget after the next has robbed from everybody except the richest one or two percent, and given to the War On Terror, and people are getting tired of seeing everything around them breaking down except the security police.

The bloom has come off the rose, so to speak, and therefore there needs to be some bogus terror news every so often. Otherwise the rose would vanish completely. So to speak. But that's another story.

What else? There was one more thing we were supposed to remember ...

When did we lose the ability to think clearly?

Right about here, I'd say, for most people.


Therefore, the readers' response, so far, has been favorable to the FBI. But the level of understanding does appear somewhat limited.

Many readers appear to see the "informant" as somebody who happened to have a suspicion and called the FBI, as exemplified in this comment from Bob Ham:
Think about what if that one person had turned the other way and said, it's none of my business or what if I'm wrong and nothing is planned.

We were very lucky someone was not afraid to point the finger at a potential killer. I'd rather be wrong than right and say nothing.
As usual in these cases, nobody asked me what I'd rather do, but I'll tell you anyway.

I'd rather see the FBI investigating actual crime, rather than fabricating bogus terror events like this one.

Not because I hold any truck with Derrick Shareef. But because this case fits a familiar pattern.

Because all these terror scares are being used for political purposes, to keep us frightened, frightened to the point where we happily give away our constitutional rights, our inalienable gift from God and/or the great American patriots of the past, gifts which, were we in our right minds, we would certainly fight to preserve.


Further reading:

The Affidavit from Smoking Gun:
Shopping Mall Terror Plot Foiled

The Polemicist:
(En)trapping a Potential Terrorist: The Ghettoest Terror Plot in History

Winter Patriot:
Rockford, Illinois: Terrorist Plot Foiled? Or Just Another Knucklehead Stung?
More on Derrick Shareef, the "Air Grenadist" of Rockford, Illinois


third in a series