In the real world, Joshua Ryne Goldberg was a 20-year-old internet addict living in his parents’ house in Orange Park, Florida, not far from Jacksonville. He apparently never left the house. Neighbors didn’t even know who he was. But online, Goldberg was a number of high profile people, including anyone from a prominent Australian lawyer Josh Bornstein to terrorist masterminds working with ISIS.
When he posed as a terrorist mastermind living in Perth, Australia, he’d find events in Western countries to target, and he’d post in online forums, encouraging others to attack the event. In the days leading up to the Garland, Texas “Draw Muhammad” event, he had tweeted about it, calling for others to attack it with “weapons, bombs, or with knives.”
International authorities assumed that this guy was actually a mastermind working with ISIS. As it turned out, it was just some Jewish American kid with nothing else to do.
When Australian Federal Police discovered that he wasn’t a terrorist with any real world ties to terrorism, and that he wasn’t even Australian, they referred the case to the FBI. The two law enforcement agencies worked in tandem to take the kid down.
An FBI informant posed as an aspiring terrorist online and established a relationship with Goldberg. The informant said that he wanted to carry out a big terrorist attack and asked Goldberg for advice. The informant claimed that he was near Kansas City, Missouri. Goldberg suggested to him that he attack a 9/11 Memorial celebration being held there. When Goldberg gave him advice about how to build an explosive device and where to place it, FBI obtained a search warrant for the Goldbergs’ house and they took him into custody, charging him with “distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction.”
His family was well known in the neighborhood, but neighbors assumed that when investigators had arrested Joshua, that he must have been an intruder. They didn’t realize that he lived there.
This is generally the way “thwarted” terrorist attacks go. If the media is celebrating the FBI or Homeland Security for stopping a terrorist attack, you can bet that undercover agents had a hand in planning the fake attack. In many cases, federal agencies even provide inert explosives, transportation, and money to lead the vulnerable and aspiring “terrorist” on. Right when the stupid kid tries to detonate the explosive, agents rush in to make the arrest. Then the federal agencies get all the glory for stopping the terrorist attack from happening.