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Opinion Toccoa ‘terrorists’ way too close to home

It was only a matter of time before the FBI would snag home-grown terrorists who didn’t “fit the usual profile” of Al- Qaeda wannabes. The alleged terrorists have been described by the government as right-wing extremists. Last week, four North Georgia men, ages 65-73 (three from Toccoa, and one from Cleveland) were charged with plotting to acquire explosives and manufacture toxins in order to target government facilities. Let’s see, we have to fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them in ... Toccoa?

A common thread in these FBI sting operations is that the conspirators always have the bad luck of inviting a government informant/ instigator into their group. One would think that somewhere along the line there would be masterminds who could properly vet their henchmen. There is no way of knowing how many aborted FBI manufactured terrorist plots there have been. If the FBI attempts to involve you in a crime – just who do you report that to?

Last month’s bizarre foiled “terrorist plot” involved an Iranian- American unemployed used car salesman. Supposedly, he was planning to enlist the services of the Mexican Mafia on behalf of the Iranian Government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador by blowing up a Washington DC restaurant. For good measure, the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington were also on the demolition list. And, the used car salesman’s drug cartel connection just happened to be working for the FBI.

The North Georgia “plot” slides further down the rabbit hole of the incredulous. Once again, an FBI agent manages to hook up with the group. A central piece of evidence against the men is their possession of a castor bean that was tested positive for traces of ricin – a deadly toxin. I’m not sure a lab test was necessary for that since the scientific name of the castor plant is Ricinus communis. Besides the extraction of ricin, the castor bean (seed) is also used to make laxatives. Don’t worry – I won’t go there. The use of botulinum toxin was also brought up during the taped conspiracy conversations. There is no record however of the Feds checking out-of-date canned goods for traces of the bacteria responsible for botulism.

According to government records, the four men called themselves the “Covert Group” and were inspired by an online novel depicting an uprising against a repressive American regime. That’s right - “Covert Group.” Nothing like having a conspicuous name for a secret organization. For cloak and dagger appeal, one of the members is nicknamed “Cobra.” For added secrecy, the “Covert Group” conducted their clandestine meetings in public restaurants. For all we know, these men were involved in elaborate role-playing exercises so they could write their own novel. It’s a good thing that Predator drones aren’t flying over North Georgia (yet) and that torture enhanced interrogation techniques weren’t used on these senior citizens. Though my guess is, with a little waterboarding, additional non-existent co-conspirators would be named.

The members of the Georgia group possibly garnered FBI attention for publicly stated political viewpoints. Patriotic fervor has an interesting paradox. It’s one thing to celebrate the spirit of the American Revolution as long as it’s kept in the past tense. Those who make statements of that spirit being relevant in a contemporary sense can find themselves on a government “list.” I adhere to the principle of non-violence, so I get to be on a different list.

I’m not sure if the government’s terrorist-plot-of-the-month-club is intended to frighten or make us more ambivalent. Of course, there is always the possibility that “The Toccoa Terrorist” plot and other FBI infused schemes could be the real deal. However, with the broadening of the terrorist “profile,” it looks like a lot more suspicion and less security is headed our way.

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