The enthusiastic republishing of the FBI's narrative does little more than rewrite the DOJ's press release. Very few have dug into the charging documents. If they had, they might not have depicted a terrorist attack that was never going to happen as somehow being "thwarted" by the arrest of a 26-year-old man reeling from the recent loss of his children in a custody battle.
According to the criminal complaint [PDF], Everitt Jameson was planning to detonate explosives at Pier 39 in San Francisco, a popular destination for tourists. The lead-up to Jameson's arrest (and supposed "thwarting") was filled with FBI informants and undercover agents, but not a single actual member of a terrorist group.
The investigation began with a paid informant passing on Jameson's Facebook activity to the FBI.
On September 19, 2017, a credible FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS) who has accurately reported to the FBI on national security matters in the past, reported a suspicious Facebook account. The Facebook persona was Everitt Aaron Jameson, vanity everittj. The Facebook id # was hidden. The CHS reported Jameson was "Liking" and "Loving" posts that were pro-ISIS and pro-terrorism. To provide an example of the types of posts Jameson was "Liking" and "Loving" during this time period, the CHS reported to the FBI that Jameson "loved" a post on November 29, 2017 that is an image of Santa Claus standing in New York with a box of dynamite. The text of the post reads, "ISIS post image of Santa with dynamite threatening attack on New York." The Propaganda poster shows Santa Claus standing on a roof next to a box of dynamite looking out over a crowd of shoppers with the words "We meet at Christmas in New York… soon." Under this post, Jameson selected the "Like" option and then selected the "Heart" option to signify that he "Loved" the post.
As we've noted before, "liking" social media posts is not the same thing as endorsing the content. Jameson may have liked the sentiments expressed, but it doesn't immediately follow he would be willing to engage in violent acts of terrorism. That's not what the FBI thought, though. Rather than monitor the account and open a preliminary investigation, the FBI decided to get involved. Undercover agents began communicating with Jameson pretending to be ISIS members. Over the next couple of months, agents frequently exchanged messages and met with Jameson, nudging him towards committing an act of terrorism.
Jameson pledged his limited utility to the cause, fulfilling the expected "material support" charges by offering use of his tow truck and his (very brief) background as a US Marine. (Jameson was discharged shortly after basic training for failing to disclose his asthma.) He also said he could kick in about $400 a month.
Jameson did state he was considering something along the lines of the San Bernardino shootings or the New York attack in which a vehicle was driven into a crowd. But the FBI was more interested in getting Jameson to build bombs. Jameson was compliant, but seemingly unable to actually acquire the supplies to build them.
UCE2 asked Jameson what assistance the UCE2 could provide. Jameson stated that he needed ammunition, powder, tubing, and nails. When asked what kind of a weapon he would need, Jameson noted that he would prefer an assault rifle. He also explained that he was trained in both the M-16 and an AK-47 rifle. Jameson also stated that he needed timers and remote detonators (presumably for the explosive charges Jameson previously described to the UCE2). Jameson said that he could get the PVC pipe, nails, and powder (presumably, black powder used for commercial explosives and ammunition).
That conversation happened on December 16th. On December 18th, no further preparation for the attack had been done by Jameson. The undercover agent tried to arrange another meeting about the attack plans, but was rebuffed by Jameson.
Later during the evening, the UCE2 contacted Jameson to discuss arranging a follow-up meeting. Jameson responded by indicating that he had been "very busy tonight." Moreover, Jameson told the UCE2, "I also don't think I can do this after all. I've reconsidered." The UCE2 stated, "We only can do Allahs will," and Jameson replied "In Sha Allah one day I can. But I can't."
Rather than keep tabs on the little terrorist that couldn't, the FBI decided to call in its markers. It acquired a search warrant for Jameson's residence one day later. The search uncovered some handguns, a rifle, 13 rounds of ammunition, and four fireworks. The feds also found his handwritten note pledging allegiance to ISIS and Jameson's will, signed and executed on November 11th.
As far as the complaint states, Jameson was never in contact with any suspected ISIS members. All discussions about a terrorist attack involved at least one FBI undercover agent. Jameson himself took himself out of play by stating he couldn't go through with the planned attack. This statement was made before supplies were gathered or a storage area obtained to assemble and store the bombs. The "terrorist" who "thwarted" his own attack sounds very much like a person looking for some sort of direction in his life after a traumatic divorce and chose exactly the wrong sort of people to identify with. That his closest contacts during this period were FBI agents interested in securing a terrorism bust does little to further the narrative of ticking terrorist time bomb disarmed at the last minute by heroic G-men.
One wonders how many discussions about attacking America Jameson would have engaged in if simply left alone. Or if he would have come up with plans to blow up part of San Francisco if he hadn't found supposedly like-minded ISIS supporters to talk to. It's impossible to say Jameson never would have engaged in violence, but the criminal complaint shows Jameson did nothing more than click Facebook buttons before the FBI got involved. And for that, he's probably going to go to prison for a long time. It seems Jameson would have benefited from a few more positive role models. But steering confused and depressed people away from sympathizing with ISIS doesn't make headlines. And it certainly doesn't help keep the lights on at the FBI.
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