FBI arrests of “terror suspects” on extremely flimsy pretexts, with charges stemming almost entirely from allegations by “informants” and the provision, by the FBI, of fake weapons to the suspects, have become something of a running joke. Attempts to prosecute these people are often extremely difficult, as the allegations are vague, and the evidence to support them is usually non-existent. Cases collapse, and the FBI has to roll the dice by charging them with something else, hoping something eventually sticks.
Yet officials are defending “speedy detentions” of people under surveillance, even when there’s no real evidence of wrongdoing, insisting that they are surveilling so many people at this point that it’s getting kind of unwieldy, and that ISIS suspects are considered so unpredictable that they just can’t afford to wait until those guys do something wrong that they can build an actual case around.
One top official rejected the idea that not being able to prosecute detainees for lack of evidence was a problem, saying that’s “the price you have to pay to prevent violence.” The arrest first and ask questions later strategy is drawing some criticism for being an inefficient way to gather intelligence.
Bizarrely, there seems to be a lot less criticism of the obvious corollary, that the FBI is in many cases arresting people on vague suspicion of unspecified wrongdoing, and can’t prove anything. Prosecutions may be struggling, but it never seems to even dawn on the FBI that the people they are choosing to railroad might in fact not be guilty in the first place.