Oakland ‘Bomb Plot’ Raises Questions of Entrapment

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A foiled “bomb plot” in Oakland announced today by the FBI turned out to be not a real plot at all. That’s because the supposed “bomb” was a fake device that could not have exploded. According to federal court documents, the inert device was made by an undercover FBI agent and was supplied to a man who is now facing charges for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — even though the weapon never posed a threat to anyone. The court documents also raise questions as to whether that man, Matthew Adam Llaneza, 28, of San Jose had the wherewithal to plan and carry out a bomb attack were it not for help from the FBI.

The Bank of America location on Hegenberger Road in Oakland.
  • The Bank of America location on Hegenberger Road in Oakland.

The revelations about the supposed bomb plot also raises questions as to whether the Oakland case was yet another example of FBI entrapment in supposed “terrorism” cases. Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has come under heavy criticism for running similar operations to snare suspected terrorists. Academics and activists allege that the FBI is essentially entrapping susceptible individuals into committing alleged terrorist acts by initiating contact with such people and materially facilitating a fake plot that never endangers anyone.

Like the other entrapment cases, the FBI announced the Oakland plot today with much fanfare. The agency, along with United States Attorney of Northern California, said it had thwarted a “bomb plot” targeted at the Hegenberger Road branch of the Bank of America. According to the complaint, Llaneza was working hand in glove with a person he believed to be an agent of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In reality, his contact was an undercover FBI agent with the South Bay Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The San Jose Mercury News also is reporting that the Llaneza has a history of mental illness. And it seems clear that the FBI would have known that fact, since it's readily available in public records.

This morning, Llaneza drove an SUV loaded with a chemical mixture to the Hegenberger Road bank and parked the vehicle under an overhang of the building. He then walked away from the car, met the undercover agent at a “safe distance from the bank” and tried twice to detonate the bomb by calling the cellphone attached to the explosive device. Unbeknownst to Llaneza, the chemicals were inert and the device was incapable of exploding. Federal agents then swooped in and took him into custody.

The sworn affidavit by FBI Special Agent Christopher Monika detailing Llaneza's activities indicates the FBI played a hand in formulating the plot from start to finish, not only furnishing the inert chemicals used in the car bomb, but also renting the storage facility Llaneza and the undercover agent used to prepare the attack.

Llaneza, who spent time behind bars for transporting an AK-47 assault rifle, was initially contacted by the undercover agent on November 30, 2012. The court documents, however, do not make clear how the feds got wind of Llaneza's political temperament. In conversations with the undercover agent, Llaneza proposed carrying out a car-bomb attack against a bank in the Bay Area. According to Special Agent Monika's affidavit, Llaneza believes recent protests in Oakland made the area an ideal target for an attack if the attempt was made to seem like the work of an “umbrella organization for a loose collection of anti-government militias and their sympathizers.” His hope, the FBI claimed, was to trigger a civil war by prompting a government crackdown after the bombing, which would in turn prompt a right-wing uprising.

After forgoing the San Francisco Federal Reserve as a target because of tight security, Llaneza allegedly proposed attacking the Bank of America branch at 303 Hegenberger Road. From December through February, Llaneza and the undercover agent conducted electronic and physical surveillance of the bank branch. Following a suggestion by Llaneza, the FBI rented a storage unit in Hayward as a preparation space and also provided a sport utility vehicle to be used in the attack. Llaneza genuinely believed the agent was a Taliban emissary, and made plans to escape to Pakistan and then Afghanistan by sea following the attack.

On January 26, the two men prepared the purported car bomb, which could not have been put together without the expertise of FBI agents. The affidavit reads as follows: “Llaneza and the undercover agent loaded twelve five-gallon buckets into the SUV. Each bucket contained chemicals that had been obtained and prepared by the FBI to simulate an explosive mixture...After completing their work in the storage unit, the men drove to Milpitas, where Llaneza purchased the two cellphones for the trigger device and gave them to the undercover agent. The FBI subsequently constructed the trigger device using one of the cellphones.”

Llaneza's next court appearance will be on February 13 in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu at the Federal Courthouse in Oakland. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

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