Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The informants: Manufacturing terror

On the surface, the scene unfolds without any hint of intrigue. A young Muslim convert named Darren Griffin meets fellow congregants at a local mosque in northwest Ohio. In addition to sharing the same faith as his new friends, they enjoy similar interests: watching sports, playing video games, working out at the local gym, and discussing international affairs. Except the scene ends tragically with a string of arrests, a national media frenzy, and self-congratulation among federal officials claiming to have foiled yet another terrorist plot.

The only problem is that Griffin was an FBI plant and the terror plot he supposedly helped thwart was entirely manufactured by the United States government. Purely on the strength of Griffin's aggressive recruitment tactics, three young American Muslims received prison sentences ranging from eight to 20 years.

Similar scenarios have played out in many cities across the US during the past decade. "Informants", the new documentary film from Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit, explores a phenomenon that has been far more pervasive than the media, government officials, or community leaders have acknowledged. In addition to sharing the heart-wrenching stories of the victims of these entrapment tactics, the film is unique because it shines a light on the informants themselves, highlighting the crucial role that they played in actively enlisting young men who never demonstrated any inclinations toward engaging in violence.