I see the CherryVale Terrorist of Northern Illinois is going to have a court appearance today. Derrick Shareef was arrested two weeks ago for allegedly “plotting” to explode hand grenades in Rockford’s CherryVale Mall. There was a brief media terror-gasm over the arrest but the story quickly disappeared. This Rockford Register-Star story, to the paper’s credit, does give voice to the concerns some of us have with this case:
Philip B. Heymann, the James Barr Ames professor of law at Harvard Law School, whose specialties include political violence and terrorism, said the Shareef case sounds similar to other recent cases of alleged plots by homegrown terrorists.Shareef is a total idiot who was led by the nose into this "plot". Read the ugly details here. Now, I’m not saying he’s “innocent” but there is little doubt in my mind that he never would have been plotting actual terrorism (much less capable of carrying it out) without the urging and assistance from the government.
In a recent Florida case, he said, a group of men were arrested after they attempted to buy explosives from an undercover government agent who said he could provide them with the means to blow up buildings. But the men really had no workable plan or connections to terrorist groups.
“These guys are kindling, they’re not the arsonists,” Heymann said.
For Heymann, it’s a question whether anything would have happened unless the government was not there to guide the would-be terrorists along, in essence turning a daydream of a plan to strike against Americans to something more serious.
Which brings me to the point of this post: I don’t like entrapment. Not just because it’s “unfair” but because it creates a moral dilemma I don’t like.
I’m not talking just about potential terrorism, but any sting-related bust, be it a bribe or solicitation of a prostitute. It sets up a situation that would not have existed (necessarily) had law enforcement not been actively cultivating the crime. Sure, the person caught in a sting displayed the potential for being a criminal and maybe it’s good they are caught before they commit a “real” crime, but it’s an artificial setting. I suspect a lot of people, if tempted at the right time and place or in a moment of weakness, might be shown to be potential criminals. I just don’t like the whole practice.
Update: Winter Patriot has more on the Derrick Shareef case.