When I first considered the thought of being a journalist, it was always this sort of adversarial ideal: checking the power of those who hold it. It’s the sort of journalism that I’ve always admired. So, getting a chance to dive into a story like this one, about a local man who was arrested and is accused of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization by undercover FBI agents who provided him with ideas and funding, was exciting (for both selfish and not selfish reasons).
Everything else was less exciting and more exacting though. And rightfully so. Wading through the complaint was sort of like learning a new language for me: The first few pages made little sense, but as I read more and more I was able to learn to read it. Which helped me to understand the importance of doing just this: the important tasks that the average individual doesn’t have time to do, to help synthesize important information and hold accountable law enforcement agencies.
This time, of course, the law stands on the side of the FBI (not that the law is infallible), but I’m happy to have dug to that point. An article from The Intercept, in conjunction with our own reporting, gave me the inclination to look into what happened and I think in doing so — in talking to an expert and reading the complaint myself — I was able to find a middle ground that neither previous piece had: that while seemingly egregious on the surface, it was “by the book” — for better or worse.