Reexamining the War on Terror

Investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson discusses his book on FBI sting operations.

Trevor Aaronson

by Alejandro Heredia '16

Dickinson recently hosted a lecture by award-winning investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.

In his presentation, which was sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, Aaronson analyzed the FBI’s involvement in fighting the war on terror through the use of sting operations—a tactic used to infiltrate terror cells, which Aaronson warned makes it more possible for potentially dangerous people to commit acts of terror.

He outlined various differences between an “actual terrorist” and the “fictional terrorist” used by the FBI in stings. A real terrorist is trained, funded and connected to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. In contrast, fictional terrorists are individuals on the fringes of their communities that struggle economically or from mental illness.

Aaronson’s research focuses on the methods used by the FBI to find fictional terrorists. He discussed how the FBI created a network of informants around the country—particularly in Muslim communities—who provide information about anyone in their communities who voice or present terroristic antagonism toward the U.S. Currently, there are about 15,000 informants in the U.S.

Aaronson is a two-time finalist for the Livingston Awards, and he has won more than two dozen national and regional awards, including the Molly National Journalism Prize, the international Data Journalism Award and the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award.

Watch a video of Aaronson's presentation.

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Published October 22, 2014