FBI follies or real threat stopped?

As with anything that has to do with terrorism and the internet, controversy is bound to pop up. Thus is the case of the terror plot last week that was foiled with two women arrested and many asking whether or not the FBI is cooking up stories to promote fear.

The women in question, Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, were getting help in building a bomb for unknown reasons. The help they were getting, though, was being delivered by an undercover FBI agent. Both are United States citizens and both apparently espoused jihadist rhetoric. Where it gets weird is in the response from both the government as well as the internet.

On one side, you have Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that the websites that they were using to cook their bomb ingredients should be banned from the internet.

I am particularly struck that the alleged bombers made use of online bombmaking guides like the Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire Magazine. These documents are not, in my view, protected by the First Amendment and should be removed from the Internet.

As expected, this type of statement sent the internet, in particular popular websites Reddit and Techdirt, into an uproar.

The questions that need to be asked are whether or not people are being coerced into going through with their terrorist plans or if the efforts of law enforcement are only getting involved when the plans are set into motion. As the Huffington Post puts it:

During regular meetings between the two women and the undercover agent, both women espoused jihadist beliefs and praised past terrorist attacks in the United States. Velentzas allegedly showed the officer her cell phone, which had a background image of Osama bin Laden holding an AK-47. Siddiqui once said that Velentzas had been obsessed with pressure cookers since the Boston Marathon bombings, and Velentzas joked about how she planned to cook “food” in a pressure cooker she had recently purchased.

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