“Let’s do it man, I don’t want to keep thinking about it too much,” 29-year-old Amine El-Khalifi said inside a hotel room in February 2012, just days before he planned to launch his attack with a suicide vest strapped to his chest and a MAC-10 automatic gun in one hand. “Let’s do it.”
McCabe said “recent developments around the world,” such as the deadly assault on a satirical magazine in Paris two weeks, further highlight the evolving threat from terrorists.
“It’s a significant problem,” he said. "There is a population of young folks, largely young men, who connect with that extremist message. They are inspired by it.”
After the bomb goes off, Khalifi can be heard on surveillance video saying: “Brother, this is not strong enough.”
In his interview with ABC News, McCabe said the FBI currently has dozens of such undercover investigations underway.
“We don’t even consider the use of these sorts of undercover strategies until we are convinced that the [suspect] clearly intends to do what they said they intend to do,” McCabe said, adding that suspects are always “many, many opportunities to back away from their plans.”
“And time and time again, the subjects we’re most concerned about say very clearly they intend to go forward,” according to McCabe.
McCabe rebuffed any suggestion that the FBI “entrapped” Khalifi, a Moroccan citizen who was in the United States illegally.
“Just watch that tape,” McCabe said. “I think it’s clear from the way he expresses himself what he’s committed to do and the actions that he took to get there.”
Even Khalifi’s attorney acknowledged in court filings that his client wasn’t entrapped.
In June 2012, Khalifi pleaded guilty to one count of trying to use of a weapon of mass destruction, admitting that over more than a year he hatched a plan to attack U.S. government sites, ultimately deciding to strike the U.S. Capitol.
In the surveillance video obtained by ABC News, Khalifi can be seen buying nails from a Home Depot outside Washington.
“I got thick ones, not thin ones. The one [that is] going to make damage,” he says in video from later that day.
In the video he also says of U.S. senators: “I want those people.”
ABC News was able to obtain only a small portion of the hours of surveillance video created during the investigation into Khalifi. ABC News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI for all of the surveillance video, but that request was denied. An appeal is pending.
Troccoli, Khalifi’s defense attorney, declined to comment beyond what he said in court filings in 2012. In those filings, he said Khalifi “bears no ill-will against the American people.”
Khalifi is currently serving a 30-year sentence.
On Wednesday, the FBI arrested Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, Ohio, for allegedly plotting an ISIS-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol, where he hoped to set off a series of bombs aimed at lawmakers, whom he allegedly considered enemies. He has been charged with attempting to kill a U.S. government official.
The FBI first noticed Cornell several months ago after an informant notified the agency that Cornell was allegedly voicing support for violent “jihad” on Twitter accounts. The informant then helped the FBI build a case against Cornell.