Terrorism sting begs the question: would Gale Nettles, with his history of mental illness, have gone as far as he did without the assistance of the FBI? Probably not, which is why sting operations are a bit troubling. I mean, nobody wants buildings to blow up, but when you enable mentally ill people to accumulate information and materials in pursuit of terrorist acts or violence, you run the risk of letting events escape from your control. Luckily, that didn't happen in this particular instance. FBI aids suspect in catching himself
An ex-con is accused of plotting to blow up the Dirksen building, but U.S. agents were clued in from the start
Following a federal counterfeiting conviction in Chicago, Gale Nettles was serving time in a Mississippi prison last fall when he confided to another inmate his plot to blow up the federal courthouse in the city, authorities say.
The other inmate tipped off the FBI, and over the next several months after his release, Nettles, using the nickname of "Ben Laden," pursued his alleged plot to level the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse with a fertilizer truck bomb, even reaching out for help from someone he believed to be a terrorist affiliated with a Middle Eastern group, charges allege.
But in the end, all the people who helped Nettles in his months-long quest were undercover federal agents or government informants, authorities said.
Nettles, 66, a troubled man with a long history of criminal convictions and mental problems, acted alone and had no connections to any terrorist organizations, authorities said.
Agents from the FBI-led Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested the Tennessee native early Thursday shortly after he was paid $10,000 in cash for delivering about 1,500 pounds of fertilizer to an undercover FBI agent posing as a terrorist.
A day earlier, Nettles had filled a rented storage facility on the North Side with about 500 pounds of fertilizer that he planned to use to destroy the Dirksen Courthouse, authorities said.
Nettles planned to blow up the high-rise downtown courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn St. with ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the same substance used in the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, charges allege. But as part of the undercover operation, a non-dangerous type of fertilizer was delivered to Nettles, authorities said.
Through the use of undercover officers, confidential sources, physical surveillance and wiretapping Nettles' cell phone, Kneir said, authorities were able to continuously monitor Nettles' activities and were prepared to intervene before he could carry out his plot.
Nettles was still on parole from the armed-robbery conviction when he was indicted in 2001 on the counterfeiting charge, the records show.