Thom's blog - Monday November 29th, 2010

You need to know this about the foiled terror plot in Oregon last week. FBI agents claim they prevented a potential terrorist attack in downtown Portland on Friday. A Somali-born teenager – Mohamad Osman Mohamud – parked a van packed with explosives near a large crowd gathering to watch a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony. When he then tried to detonate the explosives with a cell phone – FBI agents swooped in and arrested him. Job well done, right? Well- not exactly. In reality – the FBI had been monitoring Mohamud for years when they discovered he had been emailing a friend in Northwest Pakistan – a known terrorist safe haven – back in 2008...when his concerned father provided the FBI with the tip about the people his son was visiting in cyberspace. Instead of talking to or helping Mohamud, the FBI agents decided to conduct a sting mission on him – reaching out to him – proposing the terrorist attack – assembling a fake bomb – providing the van – and setting Mohamud up to carry out the task. When he did – he was arrested. So is this really a success story? Or did Federal agents find a lonely, disaffected teenager – successfully radicalize him - and then arrest him to tout the Federal government’s counter-terrorism expertise. There are still a lot of questions left to be answered in this case. One in particular – in order for the sting to not be considered entrapment – it must be proven that the individual - "was independently predisposed to commit the crime for which he was arrested." In other words – agents must have presented Mohamud with choices that did not involve violent crimes and see if he would choose to commit terrorism. However – of the multitude of recorded meetings and documents the FBI has released – the crucial meeting in which Mohamud is given these choices was not documented – apparently due to a technical error with the recording device. Seems pretty convenient. So what has been the result of the FBI saving the lives of hundreds of people in downtown Portland who were never in danger and also arresting a teenager trying to commit a crime that they completely set up? More terrorism. In a backlash against Mohamud and Islam – the mosque he frequently attended in Oregon was a victimized by arson. On top of that – DC metro police announced a new policy to start randomly searching metro riders’ bags. So a religious building is actually burned down – and an important civil liberty is struck down by police here in DC. Is this really a responsible approach to stopping terrorism?

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