The Portland Bomber

Last night the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, a non-partisan group cosponsored by the local chapter of the Pacific Green Party — my party — held its usual Friday night peace demonstration in Pioneer Courthouse Square, in the center of the downtown area of our city. My two young (aged 12 and 10) boys and I were there, with party banner and anti-Afghan-War poster, from 5 to 6 pm. The demo coincided with the Day After Thanksgiving lighting of the municipal Christmas tree, a celebration of shopping that brought several thousand onlookers to the Square.

This morning’s newspaper announced on the front page that the FBI arrested a 19-year-old Somali-American for attempting to bomb the Square with enough explosives to kill everyone there. Federal authorities were not above using the occasion to spread fear of Islamic fanatics among our citizenry.

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.

At first sight this news puts the efforts of our half dozen of sign-wavers even more into the margin of public discourse. After all, while we deplore the attacks on Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani soil, our own national police force has just foiled an attempt to kill thousands of innocent shoppers; we appear to be dupes, even foolish. It was certainly the case that few of the thousands who saw us evinced any sympathy, if they paid any attention to us at all.

Late this morning I walked down to a pleasant Italian espresso cafe in my neighborhood, Caffé d’Arte, which counts a large group of local Somali men among its regular customers (I don’t think they come for the authentic Italian coffee, since they were patrons before the place improved its coffee; I think it’s the sidewalk-friendly architecture of the cafe). Half an hour after my arrival the first of the group came in, followed by others. They were all aware of the arrest, and in answer to my question, whether they knew the guy, told me several things that were not in the Oregonian article. These are well-known among local fellow nationals.

1.) The suspect’s father two years ago notified federal authorities that his son was in sympathy with Islamicist terrorists, and even turned over to them his passport, so that he was unable to leave the country.

2.) The young man entered the United States at 3 years of age and had been at odds with his parents for quite some time, since they appreciated the opportunities here much more than he did.

3.) So assimilated are his parents that his mother was present among the crowd celebrating the beginning of the Christmas shopping season while he was engaged in attempting to kill everyone in it.

I have every reason to believe these assertions to be valid. One man after another started to tell them to me, right after joining the conversation at the table, without having spoken to the others about it. Taking them as credible, then, means that the effort to characterize this case as one of entrapment is both weak and superficial.

The real reason for the safe outcome of this incident of a disaffected Islamic man has little to do with the vigilance of our national police. We are no safer today as a result of the efforts of the National Security State. Rather, the potential for violence was averted, fundamentally, due to the unusual openness of American society, which made the parents of the young terrorist wannabee feel welcome enough in the U.S. to sacrifice their own child to the protection of the community of which they felt themselves to be a part.

The lesson we can draw from this has little to do either with increasing the suspicion in which we already hold East Africans or with restraining the willingness of prosecutors to maximize the charges against mentally unstable individuals. We ought to learn from this to have the same attitude on an international scene that we have, as citizens of the United States, towards our new arrivals, that they are our valued neighbors. Once we in the United States decide to behave as one country among a community of nations instead of a world policeman, the dangers of continued terrorist activities will decline. Other countries will join our country in an international effort to protect the peaceful world community, since they will no longer have to handle the dangers of an aggressive, murderous United States military.

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  • “We are no safer today as a result of the efforts of the National Security State.” Is that ever true. We’re at greater danger.

    I knew there was more to this story than the superficial coverage I saw earlier today. Amazing.

  • Teen held in alleged Portland bomb plot

    “You know, the streets are packed,” said Mohamud, at the time a student at Oregon State University in Corvallis. When one of the men responded that “a lot of children” would attend, according to an FBI affidavit, he replied, “Yeah, I mean, that’s what I’m looking for.”

    Pioneer Courthouse Square bomb plot: a timeline
    Affidavit in support of arrest warrant of Mohamed Osman Mohamud

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • It’s sad, the parents notify the government their kid is a loose cannon and the feds just try double-hard to stage a patsy incident for months. Glad no one was hurt – good work in the neighborhood.

  • So if the authorities target someone who is consumed by hate, invent and propose a violent act, and then furnish the supplies to carry it out, it is they who have committed the crime.

    At best, the targeted person becomes an accessory. And before they are prosecuted as such, the real perps should be prosecuted and convicted first.


    “In the netherlands most of us do not ware a helmet. Also most of us do not have a gun. Still we get very old.” – jojo

  • It shows several things:

    Although a potential terrorist, Mohamud was not in Al-qaeda. He did not have ties to Al-qaeda. He was not trained by Al-qaeda. So if you read anything that links Al-qaeda to the attempted attack, it’s wrong.

    The cops built the fake bomb. Apparently Mohamud didn’t have the know-how. Although Mohamud purchased the materials, it was from a list given to him by the FBI agents.

    What this actually proves about Mohamud is that he is a terrorist-sympathizer, who apparently could have been recruited as a bomber if he was in actual contact with an organization that could furnish him the materials.

    The case proves nothing with respect as to whether such an organization actually exists in the Portland area.

    It would be interesting to see what happened if the FBI posed someone as a willing recruit, whether such an organization would be revealed.

    To me personally, the presence of a terrorist sympathizer is a little disturbing, but not as disturbing as finding out that an organization exists locally which is capable of modelling Al-qaeda style attacks.

    And it is also important to understand here, that it was not the FBI, or Homeland Security, or the Portland police who identified the suspect.

    It was other Muslims. And that is a fact I think you will not hear much about in the national news coverage, because it doesn’t play well when the motive is to whip up Islamophobia.

    I think it’s important that CNN, MSNBC, and all the major news networks report that it was the suspect’s own Islamic parents who identified him to the authorities, and that the sting operation never made contact with an actual organization of terrorists.

    But I’m willing to bet they won’t do that. And that’s a shame.

  • Read the affidavit – it sounds like the kid was a person of interest (parents as prime mover?) who attempted to travel (to Alaska – I would guess that he popped on the no-fly list because he would have transited Canadian airspace), on questioning they realize that he was in contact with a person of interest in FATA and had wanted to travel to Yemen. I suspect that on that basis they got a warrant to peek at this guy’s emails, realize that he was wanting to go operational and then provided him with sufficient rope to hang himself but good (as I read it he is blued, screwed and tattooed – they’ve built a pretty methodical case).

    The kid didn’t have the ability to assemble a device, but the thing about technical ignorance is that for someone who’s motivated it isn’t a permanent state. When someone who has the desire to pull an op like this and has taken concrete steps in furtherance of that aim is bounced (seeking training abroad in this case), as a practical matter you pretty much have to move to take them out of play.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  •, By Glenn Greenwald, November 28

    The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who — with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI’s own undercover agents — allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon. Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it. Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

    What’s missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism. All of the information about this episode — all of it — comes exclusively from an FBI affidavit filed in connection with a Criminal Complaint against Mohamud. As shocking and upsetting as this may be to some, FBI claims are sometimes one-sided, unreliable and even untrue, especially when such claims — as here — are uncorroborated and unexamined. That’s why we have what we call “trials” before assuming guilt or even before believing that we know what happened: because the government doesn’t always tell the complete truth, because they often skew reality, because things often look much different once the accused is permitted to present his own facts and subject the government’s claims to scrutiny. The FBI affidavit — as well as whatever its agents are whispering into the ears of reporters — contains only those facts the FBI chose to include, but omits the ones it chose to exclude. And even the “facts” that are included are merely assertions at this point and thus may not be facts at all.

    It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise. Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • If the concern were genuine, why didn’t the national constabulary devote all that cash, time and energy to successfully showing that impressionable kid the errors in his thinking, rather than setting him up for a lifetime in the slammer at public expense. Oh wait. Problem. They wouldn’t have jobs if there were no evil doers.

    “”If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?” – Will Rogers (1879-1935)

  • On the one hand, this sounds like entrapment. On the other, the article I read said that the agents kept reminding him of how many women and children would die and all that. But he went ahead anyway. I assume there are records of all this. I want to see if the agents fomented his hatred.

  • with Dick Cheney, a belt sander, and a jug of bleach, I would doubtless make a nasty mess that would land me in legal trouble. But you see I have not done anything to arrange those conditions for myself. The preponderance of the responsibility for what resulted would lie with the person who did make those arrangements knowing what would be the likely result.

    I think this is analogous to what happened between the FBI and that Somali-American kid.


    “In the netherlands most of us do not ware a helmet. Also most of us do not have a gun. Still we get very old.” – jojo

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