Do Sting Operations Cultivate Crime?

The headline in Friday’s issue of the daily Hamodia was both intriguing and frightening: “FBI: Man Wanted to Attack White House With Anti-Tank Rocket.”

Yet a closer read of the story indicated, that while the headline was accurate — this is what the 21-year-old man from Georgia, Hasher Jallal Taheb, wanted to do — there is no indication that he had any way to get a hold of an anti-tank rocket or other types of explosives.

Taheb was arrested in a sting operation, in which he “traded his car for guns and explosives,” – after a series of meetings with someone who actually was an undercover FBI agent.

One has to wonder whether such sting operations, in which it is the feds who give the dangerous materials to the bad guys – really make us safer. While I don’t know the details of this particular case, and harbor no sympathy for Taheb, in general, sting operations are hardly a method of fighting crime. Those terrorists really capable of getting a hold of explosives don’t need the help of undercover FBI agents, and, conversely, those who do would probably never undertake the crime if not for the encouragement they are receiving from the undercover agent.

There is another aspect to consider: Perhaps an argument can be made that when it comes to fighting terror, every tool in the arsenal should be used. But in general, there is something rather immoral about sting operations, in which people are quite literally set up and goaded into committing a crime.

There must be fairer and more effective ways to fight crime in general, and terrorism in particular. It is possible that by simply following Taheb and tracing his efforts, a real cell of terrorists would have been exposed.

Sting operations like this one make great headlines, but not necessarily good policy.

Shimon Brooks