It looks like the FBI has secured another anti-terrorism "win." Once again, the agency controlled the terrorism sting from beginning to end, ensuring the suspect communicated with no one but confidential informants and undercover agents. And, once again, the FBI has utilized the sort of person who probably poses more harm to themselves than others.
The FBI has arrested an Oklahoma man on charges that he tried to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb, acting out of a hatred for the U.S. government and an admiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, according to court papers.
Jerry Drake Varnell was arrested shortly after an attempt early Saturday morning to detonate a fake bomb packed into what he believed was a stolen cargo van outside a bank in Oklahoma City, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. He was charged with attempted destruction of a building by means of an explosive.
This is taken from the FBI's statements and criminal complaint [PDF]. There's another side to the story -- some of which can be sussed out from the complaint itself. Varnell's family, however, has stepped up to offer their side of the story -- one that involves Varnell's paranoid schizophrenia, which goes unmentioned in the government's filings.
We as a family are extremely distraught about this situation with our son Jerry Drake Varnell, but what the public must understand is that he is a paranoid schizophrenic and is extremely susceptible to different types of ideology that normal people would deem immoral. Underneath his condition, he is a sweet-hearted person and we are extremely shocked that this event has happened. However, what truly has us flabbergasted is the fact that the FBI knew he was schizophrenic. The State of Oklahoma found him mentally incompetent and we, his parents have legal guardianship over him by the Court. These documents are sealed from the public, which is why no news media outlet has been able to obtain them. The FBI clearly knew that he was schizophrenic because they have gathered every ounce of information on him.
If true, this prosecution will make the FBI's counterterrorist operations look even worse. This isn't the first time the FBI has exploited the weakest of humans to rack up terrorist busts. This includes the prosecution of a man agents referred to as a "retarded fool" and the dumping of an 18-year-old with a 51 IQ into the lap of local prosecutors. Now we have the FBI steering a paranoid schizophrenic into a self-destructive path, utilizing a confidential informant who apparently made several misrepresentations during his work with the FBI.
The CI claimed to have seen a "bunker" at Varnell's home (where he lived with his parents because he is mentally unable to live on his own). The Varnells claim the "bunker" is nothing more than a partially-buried storage container, meant to be used as a storm shelter. Adding to its un-bunkerlike aspects are the fact that it locks from the outside and contains no food, water, or source of electricity.
From the criminal complaint, other facts emerge. Varnell lived with his parents and only had access to the full residence occasionally. Varnell talked about bombing US government buildings but was unable to secure a vehicle to house the explosives. (He told the undercover agent he might be able to "borrow" a vehicle from some relatives.) The affidavit says the undercover agent supplied everything needed to build the explosive device -- not a single element came from the alleged terrorist. The undercover agent also supplied the vehicle.
So, in the end, the FBI got its man: Jerry Drake Varnell, lifelong schizophrenic with the inability to obtain a vehicle, much less build his own bomb. Varnell talked a lot about sending a message to the government using violent means, but it's unclear how much he actually would have done if he hadn't been nudged towards self-destruction by an overly-helpful CI and FBI undercover agent.
According to the Varnells, this may never have gone this far if the FBI's informant had simply done what he'd been told. The Varnells claim Jerry Varnell's father kicked the CI off the property and told him he'd be arrested for trespassing if he came back. This was due to apparent drug abuse by the CI. And yet, the CI returned, presumably at the behest of the FBI, which was willing to overlook the CI's drug use if it could keep its terrorism sting on track.
Varnell's lawyer has asked for a hearing [PDF] to determine whether Varnell is competent to stand trial. Based on Varnell's long history of mental illness, it would seem apparent the man can't be expected to stand trial, much less carry out an attack on a federal building… at least not without a lot of outside help from the feds themselves.
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