When the FBI announces that they have foiled a terrorist plot, many of us heave a huge sigh of relief and feel thankful that they are working so hard to keep all of us safe. However, some people are concerned that entrapment plays a role in some of these arrests, and a recent case involving a mentally ill man is raising a lot of questions.
Jerry Drake Varnell is a 23-year-old schizophrenic who was accused of plotting to bomb a bank. FBI documents show that he subscribed to a type of right-wing ideology known as “Three Percenter,” which is devoted to exposing injustice and corruption. According to journalist Matt Agorist, federal documents show that the young man drove what he thought was a stolen van that was carrying a 1,000-pound bomb of ammonium nitrate to blow up a bank in Oklahoma City.
While no sane person would ever condone bombing a bank for any reason or defend someone for doing so, Varnell’s parents have called out the FBI for continuing to groom him despite knowing he was a paranoid schizophrenic. According to his family, he had been declared unfit mentally to live on his own. They feel that the FBI’s mind game tactics led him to commit an act that he otherwise would not have.
They say their son did not have a job, a car, or money; he didn’t even have a driver’s license. They report that he has been in and out of mental hospitals since the age of 16 and has had several “serious full-blown schizophrenic delusional episodes.” Had the FBI not picked him up from his home and given him a vehicle and a fake bomb, they feel there is no way he would have had the means to commit such an act.
Moreover, they allege that they suspected something was amiss with the informant who had been contacting their son and asked him to leave their son alone, but he continued sneaking into their home. They suspect the informant persisted in hopes of having his criminal record cleared.
They feel the FBI should have noticed how mentally ill their son was and sought hospitalization and conspiracy charges rather than pushing to see if he would go through with the plot. They say there are other facts about the case they do not wish to publicize that support their son.
According to former CIA case officer and Marine Corps intelligence officer David Steele, such actions are not uncommon. He is quoted by the Activist Post as saying that many terrorists are actually “false flag terrorists” who are created by our security services.
A report from Business Insider last year outlined how the FBI had been ramping up its usage of sting operations for terrorism cases using tactics like having undercover agents pose as jihadists in order to ensnare people who they suspect support the Islamic State. They said that agents often sought out people who had shown radical views and encouraged them to plot terrorist acts, giving them money and the weapons needed to pull it off and then arresting them before they can see it through.
We all want potential terrorists to be stopped in their tracks, but critics of the approach feel that this only entraps people who would not have committed such an act had the government not instigated it. Project Salam Attorney Stephen Downs told Business Insider that the FBI often targets people with mental disabilities, particularly those who are psychotic and on medication.
This was also the case with Sami Osmakac, a mentally ill 25-year-old who was given a car bomb and taxi money in an FBI sting.
In another famous case, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon raised concerns about the “Newburgh Four” men who were arrested for trying to launch a missile at two synagogues and an air base, saying: “I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here, except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition.” One of the men, Laguerre Payen, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had a past riddled with psychiatric problems.
In light of all this, it is not surprising that Varnell’s parents believe he is simply the latest mentally ill young man to get caught up in the FBI’s quest to justify its budget and existence.