Mohamed Osman Mohamud, Accused Portland Bomber, had a Little Help from His FBI Friends

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It's called a sting, not entrapment, that led to the arrest of accused would-be bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, in Portland Friday. As he pressed cellphone buttons that he thought would detonate a car bomb during a crowded tree-lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation swooped in and collared the suspect they had aided, abetted and provided materials to so he could carry out the scheme. He was "predisposed" to commit the crime, therefore not entrapped, the FBI says. But would this headline-making terrorist takedown have happened without the assistance and encouragement of the FBI?

In his own sworn statement, FBI agent Ryan Dwyer indicates the agency had Somali-born U.S. citizen Mohamud under surveillance for 15 months, during which "undercover employees" helped guide the teenager from novice jihadist to button-pushing bomber. A person the FBI calls "unindicted associate No. 1" brought Mohamud to their attention apparently in 2009; at the time, young Mohamud had written e-mails about "the possibility" of him traveling to Pakistan "to prepare for violent jihad."

That never happened. But in June this year, an FBI undercover employee contacted Mohamud, claiming to be a friend of associate No. 1. At a meeting in July, the undercover asked the Corvallis teen, who took classes at Oregon State University, what he wanted to do for "the cause." Well, said Mohamud, he could become a martyr. Or he could just pray five times a day.

It's not clear from Dwyer's account just how much the undercover encouraged Mohamud to choose the former. But the agency was clearly helpful, according to its own account, in guiding Mohamud towards Pioneer Courthouse Square. When Mohamud said he wanted to become "operational," he was "asked to elaborate," Dwyer says. Mohamud said he could set off an explosion, for example, but he'd need help.

He got it. At a second meeting, in August, the undercover brought along a second undercover employee. Mohamud told them he'd been thinking of jihad since he was 15. He also said, according to the FBI, he had a jihad target in mind - the Portland square on tree-lighting night. He was looking for "a huge mass" of people, children included, to make a statement. The undercovers "continued to confront Mohamud about his proposal, but he was undeterred." The undercovers then turned to discussing "the logistics" of such a bombing, and later e-mailed Mohamud to make sure he was serious. He was.

The trio met again in September, and one undercover told Mohamud he should do "what's in your heart." His heart told him to bomb, the FBI claims he indicated. The undercovers signaled the plan was a go: They asked Mohamud to buy bomb components and to figure out where to place the bomb. He agreed.

They met another half dozen times, the three of them working together to advance the plot and construct what was actually an inert, or fake, bomb. They drove to an isolated spot, dropped the bomb and then drove a distance away to set it off. Unbeknown to Mohamud, FBI agents crept in and exchanged the fake bomb for a real one; when Mohumad pressed his cell phone buttons to call a number, an FBI agent remotely detonated the replacement bomb.

That scenario was partially repeated on Friday, except for the bomb switch. Mohamud was arrested pressing useless buttons, trying to detonate a fake bomb in a parked van. He's now accused of "attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction," and is to be arraigned today. "This defendant's chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people - even here in Oregon - who are determined to kill Americans," said Oregon U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton.

Why was Mohamud so "determined" - if in fact he was? It was about his parents, according to court records, the Oregonian reports today. They didn't want him to do violent jihad. He was a teenager angry at mom and dad. Now he's a teen facing life in prison. He chose the course. But whose map was it?

 
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