Informers have by now become our first line of defense in our battles with the evildoers, the go-to guys in the never-ending domestic war on terror. They regularly do the dirty work—suggesting and encouraging the plots, laboring as bag men to move the money, fashioning the bombs and eliciting the flamboyant dialogue, even while following the scripts of their handlers to the letter. They have attended to all the little details that make for the successful and now familiar arrests, criminal complaints, trials and (for the most part) convictions in the ever-distracting war against… what? Al Qaeda? Terror? Muslims? The inept? The poor?
The Liberty City Seven, the Fort Dix Six, the Detroit Ummah Conspiracy, the Newburgh Four—each has had their fear-filled day in the sun. None of these plots ever came close to happening. How could they? All were bogus from the get-go: money to buy missiles or cell phones or shoes and fancy duds—provided by the authorities; plans for how to use the missiles and bombs and cell phones—provided by authorities; cars for transport and demolition—issued by the authorities; facilities for carrying out the transactions—leased by those same authorities. Played out on landscapes manufactured by federal imagineers, the climax of each drama was foreordained. The failure of the plots would then be touted as the success of the investigations and prosecutions.
A band of virtually homeless and penniless men in Florida, we were told, were planning to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. They just needed the right combat boots to pull it off, and a little free money.
A cell of New Jersey roofers, handymen and cab drivers was scheming to use a laminated pizza delivery map to guide them through a devastating attack on Fort Dix, the enormous military base in Burlington County, south of Trenton.