The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But are they busting terrorist plots—or leading them?
How the FBI's Network of Informants Actually Created Most of the Terrorist Plots "Foiled" in the US Since 9/11
- Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations. (For more on the details of those 508 cases, see our charts page  and searchable database .)
- Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.
- With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings. (The exceptions are Najibullah Zazi, who came close to bombing  the New York City subway system in September 2009; Hesham Mohamed Hadayet , an Egyptian who opened fire on the El-Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport; and failed Times Square bomberFaisal Shahzad .)
- In many sting cases, key encounters between the informant and the target were not recorded—making it hard for defendants claiming entrapment to prove their case.
- Terrorism-related charges are so difficult to beat in court, even when the evidence is thin, that defendants often don't risk a trial.