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The arrest of a Rochester man for planning an ISIS attack on New Year’s Eve is troubling on several levels.

The evidence against Emanuel Lutchman seems to indicate he posed a credible threat to patrons at a Rochester restaurant. Fox News reported, “Lutchman claimed to have been directed by a member of the terror group to attack the restaurant.” The Guardian reported Lutchman said, “I will take a life. I don’t have a problem with that.” Scary stuff. He’s not exactly the kind of guy you’d invite over for a New Year’s Eve drink.

However, there are reasons to question the FBI’s role in the case.
USA Today reported, “In late December, authorities began monitoring Lutchman and connecting him with three informants that Lutchman was led to believe would help him carry out a New Year's Eve attack in Rochester. (italics mine). The New York Times said the government paid some of the informants. Maybe some of them weren’t entirely truthful in dealing with the feds; after all, if they couldn’t bring home the goods, what were their chances of landing another paying gig?

The Times reported Lutchman initially planned to attack with a pressure cooker bomb, but “In part because he had no money … Mr. Lutchman scaled back his plan.” In fact, USA Today reported, “Lutchman, who served prison time for a robbery, at first was hesitant, saying he did not want to go back to prison.”

The Times also reports that after one of the informants pulled out, Lutchman said in text messages that he “was thinking about stopping the operation.” But another informer encouraged him not to be discouraged. The two bought supplies to use in the attack, including two knives and a machete. The Guardian reports, “He had no money and the informant paid about $40 for the supplies” (italics mine).

This raises the question of whether Lutchman was a legitimate danger or simply a windbag wannabe talking about terror who lacked the nerve and the means to act. The question of windbaggery is complicated. The Guardian reported Lutchman had expressed support for ISIS in telephone conversations with a paid informant. The Times reports he is alleged to have shown an informant screen shots with an ISIS member with whom he discussed going to Syria. He is alleged to have claimed to have started organizing ISIS supporters. Those are damning charges. On the other hand, he may have been weak-willed and found it difficult to abort his plan because others—including an informant—were urging him on.

In defense of the FBI, an aggressive investigation in a case like this is the only way to proceed. Police can’t afford to do otherwise. And if Lutchman actually had terrorist ties, the informants were putting their lives in danger had Lutchman or any ISIS accomplices identified them as such. They have more guts than I do.

The involvement of paid FBI informants, though, is troubling. New Year’s Eve was coming up. Concerns about terror threats were elevated. Was Lutchman’s arrest a matter of timing to raise the FBI’s profile? The FBI informant’s prodding him to carry on, and the informant’s paying for supplies to carry out the attacks, raises those questions.

I hope I’m being overly skeptical. I hope the police thwarted an attack and saved lives. I prefer to believe this. But I still have questions. I hope I’m wrong about them.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:37 am (UTC)
If he was going to make a pressure cooker bomb, why bother with Tinker Toys like a machete and knives?

Edited at 2016-01-02 12:37 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:58 am (UTC)
The Times reported he didn't "hav[e] enough money to buy basic weapons or much apparent expertise in carrying out an attack." I think the "expertise" suggests he lacked bomb-making skills.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:04 am (UTC)
Well, that would qualify most of us, wouldn't it?
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:39 am (UTC)
Yeah—unless three FBI informants are telling their bosses otherwise.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:46 am (UTC)
I have a shop on Etsy where I sell vintage and handmade items. This week I sold a vintage Henckels skinning knife to someone in Florida with a Muslim name and an address of one of those mailbox storefronts. My husband now thinks I may be implicated if anything untoward occurs with that knife.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:50 am (UTC)
In our age, I can't tell whether he's joking.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:30 am (UTC)
He isn't joking. But then he overloads on news.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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