Yesterday, June 22, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested William Keebler in Nephi, Utah, after he allegedly attempted to detonate a fake bomb they had provided him with. Keebler was present in Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014, at the Bundy ranch and apparently at the stand off between Bundy supporters and the BLM on April 12, 2014. He is described as the leader of a citizen militia group, the Patriots Defense Force.
The felony complaint document states that Keebler was an associate of Lavoy Finicum, the Arizona rancher killed by law enforcement at a roadblock in Oregon during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.
According to the felony complaint, the FBI had had undercover officers inside the Patriots Defense Force, acting as members and participating in various training exercises with the militia group, for several months. The felony complaint describes several meetings over that time period in which Keebler discussed “going on the offensive” and “gathering intelligence on potential targets.” One such meeting is described as follows:
On March 19, 2016, Keebler organized and led an FTX [field training exercise] for the PDF militia group. Keebler described the direction the PDF was going to focus on. Keebler said the government had been allowed to harass people, but the repercussions were going to start. Keebler had previously said the BLM was overreaching their authority to implement grazing restrictions on ranchers. Keebler had opined the land belonged to “the people” and could be used responsibly at the American people’s discretion. Keebler said the PDF was going to target BLM facilities in the “middle of nowhere.” Keebler stated the PDF was going to sneak in and severely damage vehicles or buildings. Keebler requested a PDF member/UCE [FBI undercover employees] who has explosive materials expertise, to build an explosive device that could disable a BLM vehicle or damage a building. Keebler made it clear he didn’t plan on blowing people up for now, but he wanted his group to be prepared to escalate things, and take people out if necessary.
On May 14, 2016, Keebler announced to the group that they would target a BLM facility at Mount Trumbull, Arizona and requested two bombs be built by the UCE, one to place at the facility to be remotely detonated, and the other for use in case they were stopped by law enforcement on the way to or from the BLM facility.
According to the felony complaint, Keebler had previously scouted the Mount Trumbull facility in October, 2015, with Lavoy Finicum, accompanied by an FBI undercover employee who took pictures of the facility.
On June 21, 2016, one of these devices was “placed against the door of one of the BLM cabins in Mount Trumbull [Arizona]. After the device was placed against the door, Keebler was handed a remote detonation device. Keebler then pushed the detonator button multiple times in order to remotely detonate the inert explosive.” Keebler was arrested the following morning after he had returned to Utah.
This calls several things into question for me. First of all, who placed the bomb next to the door of the BLM cabin? Who handed the detonator to Keebler? Was it entirely Keebler’s idea and decision to bomb a BLM facility? It wouldn’t be the first time the FBI has stopped a crime that they helped to plan.
One example that most of my fellow Oregonians probably remember is the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud who was arrested in Portland, Oregon, in 2010 for attempting to detonate a fake car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The FBI had provided him the bomb after encouraging the plot.
In a September 18, 2011 Los Angeles Times Op ed, Petra Bartosiewicz writes:
The government’s marquee post-9/11 terrorism investigations, including cases such as the Miami Seven, the Ft. Dix Six and last year’s Portland Christmas Tree Bomber, have not involved real attacks but, rather, have been sting operations involving plots invented by law enforcement. New York University’s Center on Law and Security, which tracks federal terrorism prosecutions, reports that since 2009, the FBI has escalated its use of stings in which a confidential informant or undercover officer approaches a suspect and “assists him in the planning of an attempted terror crime.”
The defendants in these plots, most of them male Muslim immigrants with no history of terrorism or violence, have become unwitting actors in a disturbing theatrical performance: The FBI scripts the plot and provides the weapons, along with money, cars and any other logistical support needed to carry out the “attack.”
She goes on to discuss the argument that only the “true bad guys will take the bait” in such sting operations by stating, “terrorism stings go much further than presenting a likely bad guy with a passing criminal opportunity. The operations last for months and sometimes years, with suspects offered all manner of enticements to participate in a plot they probably would never have come up with on their own.”
I suppose that we should all feel so much safer as the FBI is so effective at stopping their own plots. Even though they were unable to stop Omar Mateen from killing 49 people in Orlando, Florida in spite of the fact that the gun dealership where Mateen requested a thousand rounds of ammunition and body armor reported concern about him to the FBI weeks before the shooting. And this after Mateen had previously been on the terrorist watch list and under intense investigation in 2013-2014.
Even though they seem unable to stop armed wildlife refuge “take overs” in spite of their success, as demonstrated in this case with Keebler, at infiltrating groups associated with those who did occupy the Malheur refuge. Clearly all the surveillance and infiltrating works wonders.
UPDATE, June 29th, 2016: According to this Salt Lake Tribune article published today, “Lavoy Finicum did not accompany Keebler when he scouted the BLM cabins in October 2015, as was alleged in the charging documents.” The article also states that Keebler’s federal defender said in court:
“…undercover agents proposed the explosive types, drove Keebler to the location, placed the bomb, handed Keebler a remote trigger and told him to press the button three times.”