By Eric Lichtblau, New York Times
WASHINGTON — The FBI has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases, employing agents and informants to pose as jihadis, bomb-makers, gun dealers or online “friends” in hundreds of investigations into Americans suspected of supporting the Islamic State, records and interviews show.
Undercover operations, once seen as a last resort, are now used in about two of every three prosecutions involving people suspected of supporting the Islamic State, a sharp rise in the span of just two years, according to a New York Times analysis. Charges have been brought against nearly 90 Americans believed to be linked to the group.
The increase in the number of these secret operations, which put operatives in the middle of purported plots, has come with little public or congressional scrutiny, and the stings rely on FBI guidelines that predate the rise of the Islamic State.
While FBI officials say they are careful to avoid illegally entrapping suspects, their undercover operatives are far from bystanders. In recent investigations from Florida to California, agents have helped people suspected of being extremists acquire weapons, scope out bombing targets and find the best routes to Syria to join the Islamic State, records show.
Officials said in interviews that because social media had given extremists a cloak of anonymity, these undercover stings — online and in person — had become increasingly vital to gathering evidence and deterring possible attacks in the United States.
“We’re not going to wait for the person…