On Friday, police and federal agents arrested a man in Portland whom they accused of plotting a terrorist attack. From a US Department of Justice press release:
PORTLAND, OR—Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia and resident of Corvallis, Ore., has been arrested on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony earlier this evening in Portland, Ore., the Justice Department announced.Initially, when reports about the arrest hit the news, I didn't know what to think. A terror attack right here in my home city?
According to a criminal complaint signed in the District of Oregon, Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau at approximately 5:40 p.m. (PST) Nov. 26, 2010 after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud had been monitored closely for months as his alleged bomb plot developed. The device was in fact inert; and the public was never in danger from the device.
Hmm... Apparently, an heroic save by the FBI... Let's read a little further, shall we?
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in August 2009, Mohamud was in e-mail contact with an unindicted associate (UA1) overseas who is believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December 2009, while UA1 was located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, Mohamud and UA1 discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to engage in violent jihad. UAI allegedly referred Mohamud to a second unindicted associate (UA2) overseas and provided Mohamud with a name and email address to facilitate the process.So, the kid actually went so far as to send email to an address in Pakistan which the FBI "believe[s] to be involved in terrorist activities." What do you suppose that means? What are the "terrorist activities" and how is UA1 "involved?"
In the months that followed, Mohamud allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to contact UA2. Ultimately, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via e-mail in June 2010 under the guise of being an associate of UA1. Mohamud and the FBI undercover operative then agreed to meet in Portland in July 2010. At this meeting, Mohamud allegedly told the FBI undercover operative that he had written articles that were published in Jihad Recollections, an online magazine that advocated violent jihad. Mohamud also indicated that he wanted to become “operational.” Asked what he meant by “operational,” Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an “explosion” together, but needed help.So, let's see... an angry American teenager (who happens to be Muslim) entertains fantasies about killing people and attracts the attention of the FBI. Then, the FBI pretends to help the kid carry out his macabre fantasy so that they can throw the book at him.
The more I learn about the case, the more I'm inclined to view the entire FBI investigation with suspicion.
We'll see how this plays out as the facts come to light. But it seems to me, at this moment, that the FBI spent a lot of time and money luring a misguided youth into a series of fateful mistakes. I grant that a person expressing an interest in mass murder warrants careful observation. But if the FBI had not been there to encourage the kid, who clearly had no real connections to any terrorist organization, is it possible he might have wised up, like so many other angry American boys? (Ask yourself how many times you've heard rednecks expressing a desire to murder President Obama or Nancy Pelosi or "liberals.")
Expect the usual and inevitable anti-Muslim demagoguery and fear-mongering to kick into high gear in the wake of the arrest. But, regardless of his intentions, Mohamed Osman Mohamud never hurt a soul. In that sense, at least, he is less culpable than natural born Americans Kip Kinkel, Eric Rudolf, James Adkisson, or Scott Roeder. In the long chronicle of American terrorists, he barely merits a footnote. But he is Muslim and he is a naturalized citizen from Somalia. That's two strikes against him in the eyes of the American public.
Update: Just to clarify, I am suggesting that, although Mohamud certainly had motive, he had neither means nor opportunity to commit the crime of which he is accused until the FBI got involved. That seems to be revealed in the US Justice Department press release, in which it states:
In the months that followed, Mohamud allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to contact UA2. Ultimately, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via e-mail in June 2010 under the guise of being an associate of UA1.