J. Edgar is back, and I'm glad.
We're hearing more of the usual agonizing on the difficulty of dealing with 'home-grown' terrorism. We're hearing from the mothers and friends of these Miami 'construction workers'. Even allowing for lies and ignorance, it does appear that the Seas of David was just barely Mohammedan. Perhaps a blend of voodoo and Farrakhanism.
The intellectuals on both sides have been focusing heavily on the question of beliefs and creeds. Enemy intellectuals have been using our natural fear of discrimination to confuse us, weakening our ability to prosecute for anything. In reaction, pro-Western intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals (the latter including me) have over-emphasized the connection between Jihad and the principles of the Koran.
It turns out this is the wrong question. The Canadian police and the FBI have been asking the RIGHT question, a nice simple empirical masculine-minded question.
Not "What do you believe?" or "Do you know all the Suras of the Koran?" but "Who are you working for?" By giving the terrorists an opportunity to swear allegiance to the enemy, and by selling them [fake] explosives, the authorities have been able to stop two genuinely dangerous plots.
Penetration isn't new, of course; it's the same method that J. Edgar Hoover used with tremendous success against Communists and related groups in the '50s and '60s. Hoover didn't know the details of Marxist ideology, and didn't check to see if the Reds he pursued were experts in Marxist ideology. He just asked if a group was working on behalf of Russia.
Having been among those Reds (in a marginal way), I can guarantee that J. Edgar's method worked. When you strongly suspect that any member of your group could be an informant, you don't accomplish much. You waste time with tricky and pointless narc-spotting, or you just fall apart.
But the post-Watergate crackdown by the Soviet side of Congress, followed by the even tighter restrictions by the Clinton administration, made it very difficult for FBI to use penetration methods. They may have tried it a few times (e.g. OKC), but in law enforcement as in surgery or any other complex task, you need constant practice to develop skills and maintain structures. Failure (e.g. OKC) made them even more reluctant to use the method.
This Miami raid tells me that J. Edgar is back in business. And I'm absolutely happy, even if I have to eat some intellectual crow.