If the FBI both planned and thwarted a terrorist attack, who's the hero?

A New York City Police Department vehicle is parked near the New York Stock Exchange the morning of the attempted attack. A New York City Police Department vehicle is parked near the New York Stock Exchange the morning of the attempted attack. Richard Drew/AP

A 21-year-old Bangladeshi man tried and failed to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, largely thanks to the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That "thanks" ought to be attached both to the "tried" and the "failed" parts of that sentence, since it was the FBI that not only coaxed the suspect, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, into moving forward with the bombing but also supplied him with the means to do so. Don't worry. The Feds know what they're doing. They do this all the time.

Nafis is just another terrorist. He arrived in the United States in January ambitious like a lot of immigrants. Except his ambition wasn't to open a small business or work his way up the ladder of an American company. He wanted to "destroy America," according to a statement he wrote to claim responsibility for the terrorist attack he would inevitably attempt to carry out. However, it's unclear if he would've gotten as far as he did without help from undercover FBI agents.

After arriving in the United States and settling into his new home in Jamaica, Queens, Nafis got to know a person whom he believed was connected to Al Qaeda. This contact talked him through the process of identifying a target. First it was a high ranking government official, and then it was the New York Stock Exchange. Nafis and his accomplice finally settled on the Federal Reserve Building in downtown Manhattan, since they thought it could reap the most damage on the American economy. Said accomplice helped Nafis acquire "20 50-pound bags of purported explosives," according to the U.S. Attorney's office, and even rode in the van with Nafis as he went to deliver the payload on Wednesday, arming the bomb on the way. They parked the fan in front of the Fed and retreated to a hotel room, where Nafis recorded a video explaining the attack. The only problem was that this accomplice was an undercover FBI agent, the bomb materials were fake and as soon as Nafis flipped the switch to finalize his attack on America, the Feds swooped in and arrested him.

Let's try to process all that. Our first reaction was a simple one: "Yea, we caught a terrorist!" And then we started thinking, "Wait a second -- it seems like the FBI had a lot to do with planning this fake attack." Which leads to, "Would this terrorist have actually built this bomb and delivered it to the Fed's doorstep if the FBI hadn't walked him through the process?" This question inevitably leads to one thinking, "What they hell am I thinking? This guy wanted to 'destroy America,' " and he didn't thanks to the FBI." Then, maybe your mind might wander into patriotic territory, "Maybe I should join the FBI and fight terrorists, too."

Read more at The Atlantic Wire

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