During an interview on Tuesday, the father of New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami revealed that he reported his son’s suspicious activities to authorities in 2014.
"Two years ago I go to the FBI because my son was doing really bad, ok?" he told reporters, according to the Independent. "But they check almost two months, they say, ‘He’s ok, he’s clean, he’s not a terrorist.’ I say Ok."
"Now they say he is a terrorist. I say ok."
The father, Mohammad Rahami, alerted New Jersey police after his son stabbed his brother. The details were passed to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Given that Rahami was arrested on Monday in connection with a Chelsea blast that wounded 29 people over the weekend, the FBI’s counterterrorism methods are facing renewed scrutiny.
The agency faced similar questions after it was revealed that the Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, brother of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was also questioned by the FBI prior to the 2013 attack, after getting a tip from the Russian government.
"His name had come up in two other cases," former FBI Director Robert Mueller said in Congressional testimony at the time, according to Politico.
"I do believe that when we got the lead on Tamerlan from the Russians, that the agent did an excellent job in investigating, utilizing the tools that are available to him in that kind of investigation."
The FBI’s refusal to take tips seriously is especially vexing given the length that the agency goes in setting up convoluted low-yield sting operations against minor operators. Critics allege that these methods are only intended to boost arrest statistics and fail to prevent terrorist attacks, instead targeting mentally ill people who are easily coerced into radicalization.
“All of the high-profile domestic terrorism plots of the last decade, with four exceptions, were actually FBI sting operations – plots conducted with the direct involvement of law enforcement informants or agents, including plots that were exposed or led by informants,” reads a 2014 report from Human Rights Watch.
"In a traditional sting operation, law enforcement officials, through an informant or undercover agent, give their target an opportunity to commit a crime he or she might not have committed otherwise."
As the Intercept notes, a high percentage of federal terror cases involve operations similar to these, and essentially have no chance of catching suspects like Rahami.
"Of 508 defendants prosecuted in federal terrorism-related cases in the decade after 9/11, 243 were involved with an FBI informant, while 158 were the targets of sting operations," Trevor Aaronson writes for The Intercept.
"Of those cases, an informant or FBI undercover operative led 49 defendants in their terrorism plots…"
As the recent bombing in New York illustrates, the FBI could save itself the trouble of complex entrapment operations if it would listen to those who clearly point them toward terrorists.