CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

FBI Sting Operation in St. Louis: Preemptive Policing Ahead of Announcement of Grand Jury Decision

not actually true

Days before a grand jury announcement is expected on whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for killing an unarmed black teenager, Mike Brown, the FBI has reportedly targeted and caught two men with alleged connections to the New Black Panthers who allegedly planned to purchase guns to hurt police officers.

Multiple news media organizations also initially reported, based of anonymous law enforcement sources, that these same two individuals “purchased explosives to use in pipe bombs they intended to use in protests in Ferguson.” But the two men, Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis, have yet to be indicted on any charges related to buying explosive materials.

The arrests, searches by federal agents and arraignment in federal court is timed particularly to set a tone ahead of the decision, that the government has everything under control. But it also effectively reinforces the dynamic of fearing protesters and not questioning whatever the police may claim they need to do in the coming days to “restore” the quiet.

These arrests justify the massive and overblown response by the security state in St. Louis, Missouri, before and after the grand jury decision is made public—the deployment of National Guard, federal agents and thousands of police officers from all over the area, many who will don riot gear and stand at protests brandishing some kind of weapons.

News media are especially vulnerable to spreading propaganda from law enforcement officials at the moment. This story affirms a narrative that media have been advancing for weeks, that there will be chaos in the streets once an announcement is made. So, it is worth documenting how this story developed into a sensational story of two men who the FBI arrested for planning a bomb plot at protests where they would hurt police officers. [cont’d.]

CommunityThe Dissenter

FBI Sting Operation in St. Louis: Preemptive Policing Ahead of Announcement of Grand Jury Decision

Days before a grand jury announcement is expected on whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for killing an unarmed black teenager, Mike Brown, the FBI has reportedly targeted and caught two men with alleged connections to the New Black Panthers who allegedly planned to purchase guns to hurt police officers.

Multiple news media organizations also initially reported, based of anonymous law enforcement sources, that these same two individuals “purchased explosives to use in pipe bombs they intended to use in protests in Ferguson.” But the two men, Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis, have yet to be indicted on any charges related to buying explosive materials.

The arrests, searches by federal agents and arraignment in federal court is timed particularly to set a tone ahead of the decision, that the government has everything under control. But it also effectively reinforces the dynamic of fearing protesters and not questioning whatever the police may claim they need to do in the coming days to “restore” the quiet.

These arrests justify the massive and overblown response by the security state in St. Louis, Missouri, before and after the grand jury decision is made public—the deployment of National Guard, federal agents and thousands of police officers from all over the area, many who will don riot gear and stand at protests brandishing some kind of weapons.

News media are especially vulnerable to spreading propaganda from law enforcement officials at the moment. This story affirms a narrative that media have been advancing for weeks, that there will be chaos in the streets once an announcement is made. So, it is worth documenting how this story developed into a sensational story of two men who the FBI arrested for planning a bomb plot at protests where they would hurt police officers.

CBS News Runs With Story from Anonymous Law Enforcement Officials Then Changes Headline

CBS News first reported that a “law enforcement source” told CBS News, “The FBI arrested two men Thursday night accused of purchasing explosives they apparently planned to use during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.”

Mosheh Oinounou, an executive producer for CBS News, reported through his Twitter feed just after 8:30 PM EST that the men are “allegedly members of the new Black Panthers and arrested as part of an FBI undercover operation.” He also said they planned to “buy explosives to be used in pipe bombs.” The two men were arraigned in federal court on Friday and “had intended to use the pipe bombs during protests.”

KMOV, a local Fox affiliate, also went with this explosives-for-pipe-bombs-to-blow-up-during-protests story, according to anonymous “law enforcement sources.”

Yet, while CBS News still kept what the “law enforcement source” had told the news organization in their report, the media organization eventually changed the headline:

By the time the headline had changed, the story of New Black Panthers plotting to bomb protests was already going viral.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Responsibly Reports Story Without Relying Solely on Law Enforcement Propaganda

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s story was notable because it contained no mention or allusion to purchases of explosives to make pipe bombs.

At 9:50 pm EST, the Post Dispatch’s story story, based off a copy of the federal indictment against the two men, reported that they were “indicted on weapons charges in federal court here for allegedly making straw purchases of two handguns at the Cabela’s sporting goods store in Hazelwood.”

The “police source” told the Post-Dispatch that they were “affiliated with the New Black Panther Party” and taken into custody Friday morning.

“The indictment was handed up Wednesday and unsealed today accusing Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis of making false statements to obtain firearms. The defendants’ ages and addresses were not made public,” the Post-Dispatch noted. “According to the indictment, between Nov. 1 and 13, Baldwin, also known as Brandon Muhammad, and Olajuwon, also known as Olajuwon Ali and Brother Ali, acquired two Hi-Point .45 ACP pistols at the store, claiming that Baldwin was the buyer when, in fact, the weapons were intended for someone else.”

Also, the Post-Dispatch reported that there were “sealed search warrants,” which suggested that federal agents had searched three locations. These warrants were kept concealed and who the guns were being purchased for exactly was not disclosed. This was part of an “ongoing investigation” that had “spanned several months.”

Other Media Publish Sensational Story CBS News First Published 

Around 10 pm EST, NBC News correspondent Pete Williams reported a more subdued version of CBS News’ story that was based off anonymous “federal law enforcement officials.” The men were “suspected of trying to acquire pipe bombs with the intent of using them during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.”

The men were allegedly affiliated with the New Black Panther Party. According to Williams, “When investigators heard about their plans, they placed the men under surveillance. ‘We wanted to see where this might go,’ one official said.”

“Another federal official said the two did not appear to constitute a very serious threat and that there was no indication they were part of a larger operation,” Williams additionally reported.

At 11:46 pm EST, the Chicago Tribune repeated the CBS News story without any skepticism whatsoever and sourced it to an anonymous “law enforcement official.”

The Chicago Tribune also added a layer of fear of anarchy to their report by sharing it on Twitter with a picture of an individual in a Guy Fawkes mask, which may or may not have actually been taken in Ferguson, Missouri.

UPI went with the headline, “Feds bust two men linked to Ferguson bomb plot,” and published a story relying on anonymous “federal law enforcement authorities” around 5:30 am ET on Saturday. They alleged the bombs would be used at protests.

The report contained these details, “The men weren’t arrested immediately after the gun purchases, but were watched by FBI agents, and they purchased the explosives as part of a sting operation, according to investigative sources.”

“The two are being held on gun charges, but officials say other charges are pending,” UPI further reported.

Reuters published a report at 9:25 am ET on Saturday morning with mostly no new information. It labeled the two men arrested as “would-be Ferguson bomb suspects,” suggesting the men planned to “detonate” explosives during protests and were charged with “federal firearms offenses.”

This report also explicitly labeled the arrests as a product of an “FBI sting operation” in the St. Louis area. However, Reuters’ report said nothing about a pending indictment related to the alleged purchase of explosives for pipe bombs.

Multiple news organizations mentioned there are about 100 FBI agents currently deployed in the St. Louis area.

FBI Sting Operation Arrests a Product of Preemptive Policing

These arrests are clearly a product of preemptive policing. They take place in a continuum that can be extended as far back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO in the 1960s and even before that era when dissidents were targeted by federal agents.

It is unclear whether the men were FBI targets prior to purchasing handguns at Cabela’s, but let’s presume for the moment that the purchases were what sent a signal to the FBI to watch these men (as “law enforcement sources” apparently claim).

What would have happened is an undercover agent or agents or an informant monitored these men. An agent might attempt to figure out whether the men might have any plans for when the grand jury decision was announced. An agent might induce one or both of the men to plan something big for when the announcement was made by constantly asking about plans. The plans would not have to exist or ever be made. If either of the men showed even a hint of propensity for committing the plans, the FBI would have the men where they wanted them.

It is very peculiar that the men, if they were trying to buy explosives for pipe bombs, are not indicted on charges related to that alleged criminal activity in the current federal indictment. This may signal: (1) the men are very unsophisticated or not smart and the FBI could not get them to figure out how to obtain explosive materials for pipe bombs or (2) the men never did make any attempts to purchase explosive materials for pipe bombs, although they talked about getting such materials.

In fact, if they were under surveillance, an undercover agent or informant had a wire and there will probably be recordings of a lot of talking by the two men. Those recordings probably contain a lot of boasting and bragging about what the men planned to do, however, they never acted on it and the job of federal prosecutors will later be to fear monger to a jury that they were justified in targeting them.

Another important detail is that the New Black Panther Party’s statement on the arrests says these men are “allegedly members of the St. Louis chapter of the New Black Panther Party.”

This video is circulating. This allegedly is Olajuwon Ali, one of the two men arrested. He explains his political belief that people can (and should) declare their “nationality” and become a sovereign person independent of the corporate structure of government who does not have to pay taxes, even when shopping at convenience stores in gas stations. He claims he was unlawfully arrested after being tasered when he refused to pay taxes while making a purchase in St. Louis in 2013. He planned to fight the charges in a municipal court in St. Louis.

The FBI probably got Ali to say some pretty stupid and incriminating stuff while they were targeting him during their sting operation. It also seems likely that this man has never been to a New Black Panther Party meeting anywhere in and around St. Louis, even after Mike Brown was killed, and he turned to black nationalism on his own. The FBI manipulated this and found a way to link him to the New Black Panther Party to make what he allegedly planned even more scary to citizens.

Even though the New Black Panthers have yet to do anything violent in St. Louis and their members merely believe they have a right to defend themselves with guns if personally attacked by police, this will now justify using vast resources to contain and suppress dissent.

Anyone law enforcement has linked to the New Black Panthers who goes out to protest is likely to be monitored out of a fear that they may have some independent plan to commit violence. These people may even find themselves being preemptively singled out and arrested because St. Louis County police are being abundantly cautious.

And why not? All levels of government have provided resources to maintain and enforce order so one can count on those resources being used.

Previous post

The Inevitability of Democratic Dry-Doperism

Next post

FDL Book Salon Welcomes James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."