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They hate us for our Christmas trees

I’m always leery of these kinds of cases:

Somali-American accused of plotting to bomb Oregon tree-lighting event

A 19-year-old has been arrested in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on Friday evening, the Justice Department announced.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He is a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, and a student at Oregon State University, according to the FBI.

Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau 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 Justice Department said in a written statement. However, “the materials were not explosive,” said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd, who called the device a “mock bomb.”

“The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack.”

The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation during which Mohamud had been monitored closely as his alleged bomb plot developed, the Justice Department said. Officials said the public was never in danger from the device.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by an FBI special agent, Mohamud was in e-mail communication in August 2009 with a person believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December, that person was “located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan,” the affidavit states.

The two communicated regularly, the affidavit states, and “using coded language, they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to prepare for violent jihad.”


An undercover FBI employee contacted Mohamud in June under the guise of being affiliated with the associate who was in Pakistan, according to the affidavit. Mohamud met with the undercover operative on July 30 in Portland.


“Mohamud also indicated that he wanted to become ‘operational,'” the Justice Department said. “Asked what he meant by ‘operational,’ Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an ‘explosion’ together, but needed help.”

At a meeting in August, the Justice Department said, Mohamud allegedly told undercover FBI operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15. According to the affidavit, Mohamud then told undercover operatives that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Authorities said an FBI operative pointed out that lots of children would be at such an event, but Mohamud said he was looking for a “huge mass that will … be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.” Officials said Mohamud also stated, “… it’s in Oregon; and Oregon like you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”

According to the affidavit, Mohamud and the undercover FBI operatives traveled to a remote area in Lincoln County, Oregon, on November 4 and detonated a bomb hidden in a backpack as a test. During the drive back to Corvallis, the agents asked Mohamud about whether he could look at the bodies of those who would be killed in the upcoming attack in Portland, the Justice Department said.

Mohamud replied, “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured,” according to the affidavit.

On Friday, Mohamud met one of the FBI operatives at a predetermined location, the affidavit states. Mohamud dialed a number “in an unsuccessful attempt to detonate the device.” Mohamud allegedly dialed the number again before he was taken custody.

Here is yet another case where an aspirational terrorist wannabe needs the help of government agents to become operational. He never was operational, he just thought he was. It may not be entrapment but it’s damn close.

Rather than nip his ambitions in the bud the feds lead him on until they can arrange a more serious offense to charge him with. Does this really make us any safer?

Look at it another way – let’s say you had someone who wanted to make crystal meth but couldn’t because they were unable to obtain the necessary materials. They have the intent, but not the ability.

If things stayed that way they couldn’t commit a crime. But along come the cops who sell the person the necessary manufacturing chemicals. Now that they can commit a crime they are arrested.

What if Mohamud had been arrested for a minor offense of simply questioned and warned by federal agents when he first started making inquiries. Might that have deterred him?

102 Responses

  1. The wingnut blogs are predictably excited about this.

    • They salivate over anything that in their minds leads to war with “the enemy.”

      Everything is simple in wingnutopia.

  2. I just read that article on AOL. First thought – d@mn – all the scanners are at the airports!

  3. We must be very naive because the FBI wouldn’t do something stupid, would they? /snark co-intel pro

    Seems to me that this was an entirely preventable situation, and it should have been nipped in the bud. Anything else is ridiculous.

  4. Cue Bill O Reilly and the War Against Christmas chorus. He’s so self absorbed that you can almost guarantee that he’ll make this into some referendum on Muslims vs. Judeo Christians.

    I’m sure this 19 year old couldn’t possibly have hate in his heart because of the conditions in Somalia.

    • And of course the West is responsible for all conditions everywhere and should be attacked and punished accordingly. If we could just get rid of the US – anger and violence in other country’s would cease.

      • Spare me your hyperbole.

        The bad man we got rid of in Iraq- was our guy.
        The awful guy in Cuba-also our guy.
        Osama bin Laden -we trained him.
        The Shah of Iran- a guy we decided to install along with the brits when we disliked their democratic choice.

        Oh and perhaps you missed our recently declassified apology where we admitted to using another country’s inhabitants as guinea pigs.

        Grow up! The world has a reason to mistrust us and question our intentions. The idea we are being picked on is absurd.

        Another intertesting tidbit you might want to absorb is who ranks #1 in arms sales. Care to take a guess?

        • And that doesn’t even begin to address the US’ disastrous interventions in Latin America:

          Rios Montt—Reagan loved him

          Pinochet–Washington’s man


          Salvadoran and Nicaraguan death squads–trained in the US

          Learn some actual history while you’re growing up.

  5. On scanners, Roger Cohen had a lucid moment in the NYT. Hope not to OT for this post.

    The Real Threat to America

    LONDON — The full-body scanners and intrusive pat-downs that are fast becoming the norm at U.S. airports — just in time for Thanksgiving! — do at least provide the answer to what should be done with Osama bin Laden if he’s ever captured: Rotate him in perpetuity through this security hell, “groin checks” and all.

    Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s notorious secret police chief, once said, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.” The T.S.A. seems to operate on the basis of an adapted maxim: “Show me the security check and I’ll find you the excuse.”

    Anyone who has watched T.S.A. agents spending 10 minutes patting down 80-year-old grandmothers, or seen dismayed youths being ordered back into the scanner booth by agents connected wirelessly to other invisible agents gazing at images of these people in a state of near-nakedness, has to ask: What form of group madness is it that forsakes judgment and discernment for process run amok?

    I don’t doubt the patriotism of the Americans involved in keeping the country safe, nor do I discount the threat, but I am sure of this: The unfettered growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the T.S.A. represent a greater long-term threat to the prosperity, character and wellbeing of the United States than a few madmen in the valleys of Waziristan or the voids of Yemen.

    America is a nation of openness, boldness and risk-taking. Close this nation, cow it, constrict it and you unravel its magic.

  6. FDL:

    Clearly, the Pacific Northwest has been too complacent about terror brewing in our midst. Thank goodness for the heroic FBI that allowed one silly young man trying to impress older, more senior “terrorists” with an operational plan. And thank goodness they saved us from this attack, moments before it didn’t occur.

    How long are we going to let the cowboys shoot up our country with their false terror plots and operations that would go nowhere without their instigation, planning, and coercion? How long will we allow our own federal constabulary to justify its own recklessly inflated budget by permitting actions like this to develop, fester, and grow operational in our midst?

    This is terror, pure and simple. State-sponsored terror. Big-splash terror designed to make people compliant and fearful, and grateful to their federal government — in a city which has not yet installed the Rapiscan porno-scanners at our airport.

    Someone needs to put an end to it.

  7. Steve Benen praises Obama and the Democrats:

    Congratulations are, of course, in order for all the officials involved. Success stories like these are heartening. I’d also note similar successes, which played in nearly identical ways.

    As for the larger context, stories like these are yet another reminder about the nature of effective counter-terrorism. For years, Republicans insisted that combating terrorism was a matter of military might, and any suggestions to the contrary were evidence of weakness. Democrats have countered that keeping Americans safe also meant relying on intelligence gathering and law enforcement — because the White House isn’t exactly going to send a marine battalion into Portland.

    Yeah, let’s make it partisan.

    • So in simpler terms….

      Republicans want us to go out into the world and tear up other countries seeking “the enemy.”

      Democrats want us to tear up our own country(and the underlying principles like the right to privacy) seeking “the enemy.


      Can I have a third option where I don’t have to cower in the corner because of some “enemy” that might or might not be lurking around every corner?

    • This is the same damn thing the FBI did during the Bush II years. Benen is a total hack.

  8. I think it comes closer than “damn close” to entrapment. Real terrorists–or “terrorists”– apparently thought this guy was a nutjob and blew him off. So the FBI steps in and turns his fantasy into a real crime with a rescue by noble agents who make sure his bomb is a dud. We have become a police state.

  9. They’ve found an elaborate way to arrest you for thought crimes. Find out about the bad guys thoughts. Then hold his hand and do some of the work and supply all the know-how so he can execute on the thought. Voila!, you’ve nailed him.

    The thought police are coming for you next.

  10. Good looking kid. Close to entrapment or not, it is too bad he ruined his life.

  11. Yeay! The War on Christmas started with an almost-bang!
    I am buying popcorn for the next acts (which will be mouthing only)

  12. OT from Politico:

    For President Obama, glass is half full

    Unfortunately for Barack, it’s half full of tea.

  13. The police do the same stuff with guys who plot to kill their wives. I do wonder how long it will take foreign terrorists to learn how the FBI provides all these materials so they can start doing it themselves.

    We are very lucky that al-Quaeda is obsessed with conventional forms of attack. They like bombs and they like to kill in NYC (or a big city as a fallback). That makes it relatively easy for the FBI. I just worry about the person who figures out that an attack like the DC sniper could cause just as much fear and paralysis.

    • They know all that but don’t have to do it. We are doing it to ourselves.

      • KInd of like “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”

      • 9-11 has apparently turned us all into a bunch of victims. The trauma has people looking for monsters everywhere and we are apparently willing to violate our neighbors and their kinfolk in order to root out those monsters. It’s a sad, sad commentary that the land of the free and the home of the brave has sunk to the land of the scanners and the home of the “please keep me safe from all the scary people I may not know personally.”

        • Ben Franklin did say it best “A people who will give up a little freedom for a little security deserve neither and will lose both”.

          We are well on our way to being a police state due to irrational fears.

  14. From what I’ve been able to find on this story, it was not entrapment. Entrapment means the police/feds induced him to commit a crime he wasn’t likely to commit. It isn’t entrapment if he was ready and willing to break the law and the police/feds only provided an opportunity for him to commit the crime. He was looking for a way to make the bomb — the police/feds were not looking for him to induce him to bomb the tree lighting ceremony.
    You might not like the fact that the police played along with him to give him the opportunity to bomb the tree lighting ceremony, but it isn’t entrapment.

    • Played along with him is putting it mildly. This supposedly started quite some time ago so we don’t know whose idea it was originally to bomb the tree lighting. Could have been the boy, could have been an undercover FBI agent pushing him.

      I still think he could have been brought in for some questioning initially and this whole thing been avoided. It’s just too much like those poor jokers in Miami who were busted for wanting to blow up the Sears Tower, even though they didn’t know where it was located.

      • They didn’t even know where Chicago was. They needed weapons, transportation, directions, even SHOES.

      • But he had already made contact with one operative abroad, and had attempted to make contact with his referral. Is there any doubt he would have used their resources and support to do the same thing if they had provided it? He seemed rather determined and clear thinking about detailed strategy. He was not a disorganized fantasist. He gave them detailed plans and followed through.

      • I still think he could have been brought in for some questioning initially and this whole thing been avoided.
        A friendly chat with the cops hasn’t stopped anyone from committing a crime since Wally and the Beave were set on knocking off liquor stores.

        • Who said it had to be friendly or be over after one pass. There is surveillance. But that’s not cute enough for you huh?

          You give up your freedom if you want, but others may now like living in irrational fear.

          • The part that amuses me are that many of these people will tell us about how they “support the troops.” Apparently they aren’t even familiar with the document the troops are sworn to uphold and defend. Nothing like shredding rights like the 4th amendment . Nothing like supporting a police state type environment where you call a fishing expedition a sting. Even in the face of evidence that the FBI has abused the Patriot Act these people will go to the floor decrying citizens and insisting there is nothing wrong with the Police playing charades or drumming up excuses to peep into regular citizens lives. It’s astounding.

  15. Any time the police become participants in a crime that could not have been committed without their participation, I think a case can be made for entrapment.

    • Yeah, well that isn’t the legal standard for entrapment.

      • I think the legal standard for entrapment needs to be changed.

        Cops (especially the feds) spend too much time on stings and not enough on investigation. They induce lawbreaking even though they say they don’t.

        • Paid informants are a whole other mess where crimes can be induced. The incentives are all wrong.

        • You might be right about that — I don’t think the RICO statutes are constitutional, but who asks me? I will not however paint sting operations with a broadbrush, however, because those operations have brought down a lot of organized crime syndicates.

      • In that case, I’m fine with charging them as co-conspirators.

        • 🙂

        • You really don’t know the meaning of intent, do you? It isn’t worth discussing.

        • The cops’ intent was pretty clear: gin up a terraist scare and collect a scalp.

          Don’t know what kind of legal eagles you’ve got in NC, but I know a couple Texas attorney’s I’d bet money on for (a) getting this kid out on his own recognizance; (b) obtaining a not guilty verdict; and (c) sucessfully suing the feds within an inch of their lives.

  16. Gee, I wonder why, with all of the resources, the FBI only manages to ‘catch’ some poor wanna be’s – not so much any real terrorists.

    • Under your definition of “wanna-be’s” no one could ever be arrested & charged with attempted murder or conspirary either.

      • angie – I am not attempting to provide a legal definition. I just feel that we spend huge sums of money, grope people at airports, etc. and this kid is what we come up with? as a threat to our entire country?

        • A kid puts a bo-mb in a van in Time Square. A group gets arrested in the Bronx. Maybe we should only consider them serious threats if they occur in NYC. DHS can stand down in the rest of the country and remobilize to the five boroughs.

          • Not my point at all. They may even all be guilty. I am looking at ROI. A lot more people die from lack of medical care, lack of insurance, every year than died in the WTC. Not to minimize that tragedy.

            Our country and the world are gong to become more and more unstable due to the economic collapse, not because we failed to spend more money on DHS.

            Hate and terrorism go hand in hand, feeding off of each other.

            I’d like to see the same resources expended to stop the deaths and tragedies caused by large corporations.

            ‘Nuf said. I’ll take the chance here that this makes sense to anyone. Maybe I can’t explain myself very well – or maybe I am just stupid.

          • It’s like the argument that enhanced screening / sexual harassment leads more people to drive. Since flying is safer than driving, more people will die because of the presence of security screenings.

        • Nineteen-year-old “kids” can and do kill. He may not have been a threat to the entire country but he sure could have put a hurt on the kids who attended the tree-lighting ceremony with something as simple as a pipe bomb.

          • So can five-year-olds. That doesn’t justify a cop’s approaching a kid squirting his water pistol and whispering, “Psst, Sonny, I got a real gun here for ya if ya wanna blow yer pesky brother away.”

          • That’s a strawman argument. I’ve read your comments for a long time and I know that you can do better than that.

          • It’s a reductio ad absurdum, actually.

            Cheer up. The kid’s an American citizen. Obama can just order him killed. No mess, no fuss.

          • Well, it was certainly absurd as have been your comments throughout this “discussion”.

          • You’re fine with police procedures at least bordering on entrapment but you’re planning to donate to the ACLU? Why does it seem these two things don’t go together?

            I’m a founding member of my local chapter, by the way.

          • Where does ACLU stand on the naked scanning and groping. Yay or nay. They’ve been so quiet.

  17. I had that thought too when I read the news today, but this guy was actively seeking contacts to support his violent tendencies. If he had made the right connection, wouldn’t he have proceeded in the same way–only it would not have been an FBI agent? It’s borderline IMO.

    • I don’t think it’s even borderline. Sting operations, when conducted properly, are an invaluable tool in law enforcement. There’s no indication that this sting was conducted inappropriately.

      • what was gained? Any names of actual terrorists?Any information that was on any use? Why spend 18 months just to egg a kid into crime? The measure of “appropriate” is in the result. It was idiotic -like the groping of genitals instead of, say, conducting interviews with the travelers.

        • He was an actual terrorist as evidenced by his actions.

          Why do I think that you would be complaining about racial profiling if the TSA conducted interviews?
          By the way, I’m opposed to the more invasive pat-down procedures.

          • Actually we know he was a vindictive kid and the “terrorists” didn’t want anything to do with him for some reason or another. As for profiling, it’d be an idiotic idea considering terrorism isn’t limited to scary brown people.

          • Who said anything about racially profiling “scary brown people”?
            Maybe we’ll just profile the eighty-year-old Asian ladies headed for their granddaughter’s graduation.
            It doesn’t matter who we interview, people like you will complain about racial profiling because it gives people with authority the responsibility to make decisions that will affect you.

          • Then who are you suggesting they’d profile? You’re the one who brought profiling up. Are you suggesting you brought something up and said people here would complain

          • Affect me? Hah you’d be hard pressed to get me on an airplane. My husband interviewed for a position with the TSA back when they were transitioning. They couldn’t even figure out who their applicants were let alone find a “terrorist.”

          • Not Your Sweetie brought up profiling. That’s what those cozy little interviews done by law enforcement personnel are all about.

            Btw, thanks for your concern. I do get on a plane once in a great while.

  18. If we took that kid, and instead of surrounding him with undercover agents who aided and abetted , we surrounded him with positive honest and caring teachers and community and friends of peace and freedom, could he have perhaps become a peaceful advocate instead?

    • There has always been crime and there always will be crime. Even children who grow up in loving families with caring communities and excellent teachers commit crimes upon occasion.
      I’m not suggesting that we don’t work for a better world but it won’t do us much good if we let people blow it up before we get there.

      • This almost falls in the realm of Rudy Guiliani’s plan of stopping street crime instead of ignoring it and only going after the major crimes.

        • That’s the “Broken Windows” theory and it works. It wasn’t Giuliani’s idea. He just took credit for it when it worked.

      • He is a kid.
        I wonder how many thousands $$$ were spent trying to egg this kid on and aid and abet his juvenile fantasys. Mul;tiply that by hundreds or thousands.
        And how come if our undercover investigating is so great, we are catching 15 yr olds and not the more sophisticated deeper terrorists.

        Oh and hey, are all the wars over?
        I haven’t really heard any news on that.

        WE are putting all our treasure and blood in more killing and we have nothing left to actually help ourselves.

        • And how come if our undercover investigating is so great, we are catching 15 yr olds and not the more sophisticated deeper terrorist.
          He’s not 15, he’s 19. As a taxpayer, I’m pretty well satisfied that one whacko who wants to blow up Americans is in jail.

          Oh and hey, are all the wars over?
          I haven’t really heard any news on that.
          More strawman bs. Nowhere in my response to you did I indicate any support for any war. I stated my support for an arrest that was made inside the United States by law enforcement officers.

    • You forgot the /sarc tag…

    • Barf!! This isn’t a playground bully looking for attention, love and healing. This is an adult man, with a specific goal. I’d sure like to see you on some battlefield offering hugs – how many takers do you think you’d get before you aren’t capable of hugging? Some people when they see open arms see someone open to use or abuse.

      • Aww, somebody needs a hug


        • That’s all the kid needed…some warm understanding hugs. We should have hugging training in the FBI, maybe the Marines, the diplomatic corps. Give people like al-Bashir a big bear hug and let him get back to his genocide…what’s he up to now, over two million.

  19. Umm…if the FBI hadn’t intercepted his reaching out to other muslims, then the real terrorists might have supplied him with materials and help. The crystal meth analogy doesn’t work. If the person with intent reached out to someone with ability – voila – another meth lab. Don’t be so simple and naive just to hate on America.

    • Hmm. Your use of the m-word instead of the more accurate “other terrorists” or “genuine terrorists” tells us exactly where you’re coming from–in more senses than one.

      Don’t be so simple and naive just to hate on M—–s.

      • “genuine terrorists”
        How does attempting to blow up a bunch of people at a public gathering get one excused from the group of “genuine terrorists”?

        • Genuine terrorists as opposed to fake FBI terrorists.

          But wait. You’re right. What the FBI did was terrorism–an attempt to create terror–among all Americans, not just the folks in Portland. Raise the fear so that Americans give up our freedom and our Constitution “not with a bang but a whimper.”

          • He was a genuine terrorist. The FBI did its job. You’re living in lala land if you think that there is no such thing as a home-grown terrorist.

            If you want to stay away from tree-lighting ceremonies based on what happened, that’s on you.

            If you don’t like the scanners, protest against them. Donate some money to the ACLU in an effort to get them stopped. That’s what I plan to do about the invasive pat-downs.

          • Home grown?

            Which part of naturalized citizen from Somalia didn’t you get?

            Perhaps you don’t care about the Constitution or the 4th amendment however the rest of us actually feel strongly that we shouldn’t ask soldiers to protect our rights and then shred them in the very same breath because there are people out in the world who may not care for us.

          • As far as the folks in Portland, they currently have serious problems within the police Department.
            One officier shot a young black man dead in the back, several are on paid leave pending investigations into their criminal behavior, including one officer who had a Nazi poster placed on his property.

            Something ain’t right in Portland, sounds like another Oakland in the works.

          • Sounds like racism…in such a lefty town too. Don’t want to think about how bad it must be everywhere else in the country. Racist pigs all of em.

          • A small sampling of our home-grown terrorists–

            KKK in its various configurations
            Aryan Nations Revival
            Army of God
            Natrional Socialist groups
            gay bashers

            Strangely, most of our home-grown terrorists seem to be white Christians. Somehow nobody seems be concerned about that demographic getting on planes.

          • Home-grown terrorist(s) at work, no assistance from FBI:

            CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Arson caused a fire on Sunday at an Islamic center that was the occasional place of worship for a Somali-born teen who two days ago was arrested on charges of plotting a terror attack in Portland, authorities said.
            Carla Pusateri, a fire prevention officer for the Corvallis Fire Department.. . . said “quite a bit of evidence” was left at the scene, which led her to believe the fire was intentionally set. No injuries have been reported.
            Yosof Wanly, imam at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, said Mohamud was a normal student who went to athletic events, drank the occasional beer and was into rap music and culture.

            Wanly has been advised by friends to take his family out of their home, and to “another person’s house due to the possibility of hate crimes,” he said. “I’m going to look into it, especially because my face has been on the news a lot.”

            Wanly said the local populace has always been accepting of Muslims.

            “The common scene here is to be very friendly, accepting various cultures and religions,” Wanly said. “The Islamic center has been here for 40 years, it’s more American than most Americans with regards to age.”

            © 2010 The Associated Press.

    • Why do you hate our freedoms? Or is plain cowardice?

      • I’m waiting for the “the founders didn’t put a constitutional right to flying argument any minute now?”

        Some of these people are absurd.

        • What point are you trying to argue, cwaltz? Mohamed was not born here but is a citizen. That makes him home-grown in my opinion. If you want to call him something else, go for it.

          If you think that law enforcement should have ignored his attempt to hook-up with foreign terrorists, we simply disagree but he brought himself to the attention of the feds. They didn’t pass him on the street, see a brown face and say, “Let’s turn this one into a terrorist”.

    • Oh, by the way–

      Thousands of Sufis stage protest against Taliban in Lahore:


      Also by the way–the Imam of the dread non-Ground Zero non-mosque in NYC is a Sufi.

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