Oldspeak: “No one was hurt, and authorities say the public was never in real danger“. “detonate fake bombs”. “Provided by the “government agency here”. When you see these words in a story about a “foiled” terrorist operation, understand that it is not a real terrorist attack. It is usually one instigated by agents of the government posing as terrorists, who’ve targeted an isolated, distressed, poor, young, impressionable, usually Muslim man who they’ve “coached” to “lead” the “attack”. This time the man’s (well boys, as the FBI began tracking him at 15 years old) name was Mohamed Osman Mohamud. Peruse the related stories and you’ll see the script remains the same. Long term surveillance. Heavy FBI involvement in planning, financing and execution of the plot. Rather than steering potential terrorists away from committing crime, law enforcement is encouraging it, and participating in it , creating a crime to ‘solve it’. Here’s the thing about real terrorists: They don’t use fake bombs. If they are leading an operation, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be 3 times sure the bomb will go off when they press a button. They’re intimately involved in every aspect of the operation. They’ll make an effort to check the backgrounds and associations of those they conspire with. This boy, like the many others before him, has been used by U.S. government agencies to continue to instill perpetual fear in the populace of “the enemy” in this case “Islamic Terrorists”, and justify the perpetual prosecution of a phantom “War On Terror”. Left undiscussed in the coverage of this story, is the disturbing normality of ever-increasing prosecution/surveillance/criminalization of youth. We live in a society where 15 year olds are perceived as threats. And the only way these threats are to be dealt with is with prosecution, conviction, lifetime incarceration or execution. “Radicalization” is apparently an incurable infection. Little thought is given to improving the conditions, the structural, cultural and social inequality that make radicalization likely. Most resources are devoted to enforcement, incarceration and or assassination. This “War Is Peace” policy continues ironically under our Nobel Peace Prize winning Commander-In-Chief, President Obama.
By Teresa Carson @ Reuters:
A Somali-American man was found guilty on Thursday of trying to blow up a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Oregon using a fake bomb supplied to him by undercover agents posing as Islamist militants, the public defender’s office said.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Oregon State University student, faces a possible life prison term on his conviction on a single charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Sentencing is set for May 14.
Mohamud was arrested shortly after attempting to use his cell phone to remotely detonate an artificial car bomb planted near a Portland square crowded with thousands of people attending the ceremony the day after Thanksgiving in 2010.
No one was hurt, and authorities say the public was never in real danger.
During a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, defense attorneys argued that overzealous law enforcement officers posing as al Qaeda militants invented a crime and entrapped their client.
But the jury agreed with the prosecution’s argument that Mohamud, 19 years old at the time of the crime, was already radicalized and could have backed out of the bomb plot at any point.
On the morning of the planned bombing, Mohamud reportedly told a friend that it was “the greatest morning of my life.” Hours later, he dialed a cell phone that he thought would trigger the bomb and kill thousands of people.
“Mr. Mohamud made a series of choices over a period of several years – choices that were leading him down a path that would have ended in violence,” Greg Fowler, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Portland division, said in a statement.
“His actions showed little regard for the rights and responsibilities that come with being an American or respect for the lives that he was prepared to take,” he added.
LONELY WITH LITTLE MONEY
The case, closely watched by many in the nation’s Muslim American community, was one of several sting operations in recent years in which individuals were tracked by undercover FBI agents and later tried to detonate fake bombs in various locations.
“We are disappointed with the verdict,” federal public defender Steven Wax said, adding that he planned to appeal. “There are a number of issues that will be raised.”
Defense lawyers had tried to paint a picture of Mohamud, who spent months with the undercover agents, as a young man who was particularly vulnerable to entrapment, which legal experts had earlier said was always a tough case to prove.
At trial, one of the undercover agents testified that he and a fellow agent were aware that Mohamud was lonely, had little money and that his family was in distress. He said Mohamud wept during their first meeting and that he heard his partner tell Mohamud on many occasions, “I love you.”
The agent also acknowledged that he and his partner had coached Mohamud on what he should say in a videotaped “goodbye” message they filmed of him weeks before the planned attack.
In the video, shown to the jury by prosecutors, Mohamud is seen solemnly saying to the camera: “A dark day is coming your way … your people will not remain safe.”
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for The Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the case could alienate the Muslim community, but was quick to say that “nobody wants to see any possibility of any sort of violence by a lone wolf.”
“I think convictions in these kinds of cases are almost forgone conclusions based on the government’s actions. They are the same in each case,” he said.
Somali-American convicted of terrorism in Oregon Christmas tree bomb plot; was 17 at time
By NIGEL DUARA @ The Associated Press:
Three hours before they handed down a sentence that could put an Oregon man in prison for life, deliberating jurors sent a note to a trial judge with a question.
Did the man whose fate they were deciding need to have envisioned the specific crime for which he was accused? Or did he merely need to be inclined toward some kind of terroristic act?
Their question more broadly reflects the central debate at the heart of the trial of Mohamed Mohamud, a 21-year-old Somali-American found guilty on Thursday of attempting to bomb a Portland Christmas tree-lighting in November 2010.
Prosecutors were met by a claim of entrapment by Mohamud’s defense team, and needed to convince jurors that he was predisposed to terrorism by the time an FBI informant began discussing radical jihad with him over emails.
The judge, Garr King, told jurors Thursday that Mohamud only had to be likely to commit the offense or one like it, and he did not specifically have to be thinking about a bomb at the specific time and place at which he and two undercover FBI agents decided to plant one.
The bomb was a fake, supplied by the agents posing as jihadis.
Jurors were given starkly different portraits of the man who was 17 when the FBI began to focus on him. In the prosecution’s description, Mohamud was a powder keg in search of a spark, an angry teenager with the right combination of anti-Western sentiment and a plausible cover story as an Oregon college student.
In the defense’s telling, he was confused, broke and suffering under the weight of parental expectations. Gullible and eager to please, he fell into a plot entirely of the FBI’s making, following along with men he imagined were like family, Mohamud’s attorneys said.
Mohamud sat still as King read the verdict in a slow, deliberate cadence. His parents, who attended every day of the trial, were absent, leaving the seating reserved for family entirely empty throughout the announcement of the verdict.
After the verdict, the FBI asserted again that Mohamud would indeed have found a way to commit a violent act had agents not intervened.
“Mr. Mohamud made a series of choices over a period of several years — choices that were leading him down a path that would have ended in violence,” said Greg Fowler, who leads the FBI office in Portland. “His actions showed little regard for the rights and responsibilities that come with being an American or respect for the lives that he was prepared to take.”
Mohamud’s attorney, Steve Sady, later said an appeal was being planned after the scheduled May 14 sentencing.
“We are disappointed with the verdict,” Sady said. “We, obviously, thought he was entrapped.”
Prosecutors argued that Mohamud was predisposed to terrorism as early as 15 years old. Mohamud traded emails with an al-Qaida lieutenant later killed in a drone strike. He also told undercover agents he would pose as a college student while preparing for violent jihad.
Mohamud was never called to testify. Instead, the jurors saw thousands of exhibits and heard hours of testimony from friends, parents, undercover FBI agents and experts in counterterrorism, teenage brain development and the psychology of the Muslim world.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight told the jury earlier this week that the decision would be easy. Mohamud pressed a keypad button on a black Nokia cellphone and intended to kill people. Whatever else they might think about the methods of undercover agents or the government’s decision to investigate a teenager, the underlying decision was Mohamud’s and the motivation was hatred of the West.
Sady had argued that Mohamud wasn’t radicalized by online recruiters or friends with jihadist leanings, but rather by a Justice Department hungry for convictions that ignored every caution sign along the way. Sady said undercover agents manipulated Mohamud’s faith and plied him with praise and the promise of a life leading other jihadis.
“This case has been a difficult case for the city of Portland. It’s been a particularly difficult case for Mohamed Mohamud’s community, for his family, for the Somali community,” said Amanda Marshall, U.S. attorney for Oregon. “We are hopeful that this will bring closure and healing to all of us here in Portland.”
Somali-American On Trial Over Christmas Tree Bomb Plot
By Stephanie Rice @ Agence France-Presse:
A Somali-American accused of trying to blow up a crowded US Christmas-tree lighting ceremony went on trial, more than two years after being arrested in an FBI sting operation.
Arguing in court just blocks from the site of the tree lighting in the US state of Oregon, lawyers presented rival pictures of Mohamed Mohamud, either as a troubled youth tricked by undercover agents or a hardened Islamist terrorist.
The 21-year-old’s defense lawyer claimed Mohamud never would have attempted to detonate the “bomb” — a harmless fake supplied by FBI agents — on November 26, 2010 if agents posing as terrorists hadn’t coerced the confused then-teenager into it.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation “created a crime that never would have happened without them,” attorney Stephen Sady told the 16-strong jury which will decide Mohamud’s fate, in the long-awaited trial.
“He wasn’t a perfect human being,” added. “But he wasn’t someone who was sitting around thinking about blowing up his hometown.”
The “entrapment” argument is crucial to Mohamud’s defense and likely his only shot at avoiding life in prison on the charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Under US law, authorities cannot trick someone into committing a crime. That means the government must prove Mohamud was predisposed to violence before undercover agents ever approached him.
The government counters that Mohamud wasn’t tricked and willingly chose to press the button on a cell phone that he believed would kill thousands gathered in downtown Pioneer Square.
“He said he would push the button because it would make him happy to have bodies torn everywhere,” Assistant US Attorney Pamala Holsinger told jurors.
“By the time he met FBI agents he had already decided that violence against civilians, in or out of the US, was justified,” she said.
Mohamud watched the proceedings from a table with his attorneys, taking notes on a legal pad. At one point he seemed to become emotional, and an attorney put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
About 10 family members sat on the other side of the packed courtroom, occasionally coming and going from the courtroom with what appeared to be a prayer rug.
The high-profile trial, expected to last at least several weeks, has all the makings of a cloak-and-dagger spy drama.
Undercover agents testifying in disguise will give a rare glimpse into the world of FBI sting operations. Jurors will tour the van the government packed with phony explosives and gave to Mohamud, telling him it was the real thing.
The terror case is highly unusual for this West Coast city known for its laid back, quirky culture — the informal city motto is “Keep Portland weird” – and not on anyone’s list of top terror targets.
It has raised questions not only about where an attack can happen, but also about how authorities pursue potential threats while protecting the civil liberties of US citizens.
Undercover FBI Agents Recount Christmas Bomb Plot
By Stephanie Rice @ Agence France-Presse:
FBI tactics in investigating a Somali-American accused of plotting to blow up a US Christmas tree lighting ceremony took center stage, as undercover agents began testifying.
Giving evidence in disguise and visible only to jurors, one agent maintained that Mohamed Mohamud was prone to violence from the beginning and spoke of plans to “wage war” on the United States.
To test Mohamud’s resolve, the agent — who was posing as an Al-Qaeda recruiter named “Youssef” — said that in his first meeting with Mohamud, he gave the then-teenager five examples of how he could be “a good Muslim.”
According to Youssef — whose real name was withheld in court — Mohamud stopped short of the most extreme option, martyrdom, but chose violence over praying five times a day or raising money for extremists.
“He said he would like to become operational,” Youssef testified.
Mohamud, now 21, faces life in prison for allegedly attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction — a harmless fake supplied by FBI agents — near the crowded 2010 pre-Christmas ceremony in Portland, Oregon.
But in many ways, the FBI is also on trial as the defense argues agents coerced a gullible kid into a violent act.
Under US law, it is illegal for authorities to trick someone into a crime.
The defense has argued that sophisticated FBI agents such as Youssef used powerful psychological tools to brainwash a confused teenager, giving him specific instructions on how to plan an attack he wasn’t capable of on his own.
But Youssef said he was simply trying to assess whether Mohamud was truly capable of acting on his violent rhetoric.
In his early meetings with Mohamud, Youssef said he was not sure the young man would go forward with his plans. “I thought it was all talk,” he added.
Ultimately, Youssef and another agent gave Mohamud a fake bomb and a cell-phone detonator, telling him it would kill thousands gathered at a Christmas tree lighting in downtown Portland once he pressed the button.
After Mohamud tried twice to detonate the bomb on November 26, 2010, the FBI arrested him.
The undercover agents’ initial interactions with Mohamud are crucial to the case.
The young man’s fate hinges on whether jurors believe he was already predisposed to violence when agents posing as terrorists approached him and offered help in plotting an attack.
Also testifying in court, the FBI official in charge of the sting operation said authorities were alarmed by Mohamud’s previous interactions with Al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan.
US-born Khan was later reportedly killed in the same CIA drone strike that felled radical Yemeni-US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, previously linked to a US Army major who killed 13 people at a Texas military base, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25, 2009.
In 2009, Mohamud wrote four articles for a magazine run by Khan called Jihad Recollections, ranging from workout tips for violen extremists to why Europe would be an ideal place for an attack.
At one point, Special Agent Miltiadis Trousas said, Mohamud wanted to include a photo of the burning towers on 9/11 with a story. Khan said it was too violent.
Trousas noted that Mohamud also sought advice from Khan on relationships and faith.
In one instance, according to Trousas, Mohamud asked Khan: “If my family are not following the Islamic law, how am I supposed to obey them?”
Khan advised Mohamud not to live with his family if he could not “persuade them,” Trousas said.
The trial continues this week with more testimony from undercover agents.