Mohamed Osman Mohamud

Just before meeting with him to radicalize him and ‘operationalize’ his terror plans, the FBI claims it blocked Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized United States citizen, from traveling within the country to accept employment.

Mr. Mohamud was then placed on a watch list and stopped at the Portland airport in June 2010 when he tried to fly to Alaska for a summer job.

Later in June, aware of Mr. Mohamud’s frustrated attempts to receive training as a jihadist overseas, an undercover agent first made contact with him, posing as an associate of the man in Pakistan. On the morning of July 30, the F.B.I. first met with Mr. Mohamud in person to initiate the sting operation.

So, after blocking his domestic travel to accept work in Alaska, the FBI began their aggressive contacts with this ‘terrorist’ who’d seen his employment prospects dashed. Certainly, a newly unemployable youngster would be more amenable to their entreaties, right?

And certainly such a youngster would attempt to impress a more senior jihadist, as he was led to believe his FBI contact was, with his terrifying articles about, um, physical fitness?

In his initial meetings with the undercover agents, Mr. Mohamud described his dreams of joining the jihadist cause, and mentioned articles he had written on the subject.

Mr. Mohamud told the agents that in 2009 he had published three articles on the Web site Jihad Recollections, which was edited by a Saudi-born American, Samir Khan, from a home in North Carolina. Mr. Khan moved to Yemen, where he runs Inspire, an English-language Web site, on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

One of Mr. Mohamud’s articles was titled “Getting in Shape Without Weights” and described the need to “exercise the body and prepare it for war.”

Reading the FBI’s description to the New York Times of what happened and how the plot ‘developed’ it’s almost impossible not to wonder how much this single young man, with no overseas or domestic terror contacts whatsoever, could have possibly accomplished in operationalizing his ‘plan’ without FBI assistance, encouragement, resources, and aggrandizement:

For the next several weeks the F.B.I. let the plot play out, assisting Mr. Mohamud with the details, providing him with cash, scoping out a parking spot near the square, sketching out the plan on paper. At the end of September, Mr. Mohamud mailed bomb components to agents he thought were fellow operatives who would assemble the device.

Planning to leave the country afterward, he sent passport pictures to the undercover agent. On Nov. 4, Mr. Mohamud went with undercover agents to a remote spot where they exploded a bomb in a backpack.

They then drove to his apartment, where he made a video full of apocalyptic phrases. “Explode on these infidels,” he said, in mixed English and Arabic.

On Tuesday, according to the affidavit, Mr. Mohamud and the undercover agents met again for final preparations, loading what seemed like parts of a bomb into a vehicle, planning details of the operation. He even told the agents the pseudonym he had chosen for the passport to be used in his escape: Beau Coleman.

On Friday, Mr. Mohamud and the undercover agents drove to the square, where the police had made sure a parking space had been held open. Mr. Mohamud then dialed the number that he thought would set off the bomb. Nothing happened. He was told that to get better reception, he should step out of the car to dial again.

Finally, the authorities describe the suspect as having ‘acted alone’ which is quite ludicrous given the serious operational and state-sponsored assistance the United States government applied to Mahamud’s plan, having seen to it that he wasn’t employed in Alaska:

Although Mr. Mohamud’s arrest marks another episode in which a Somali-American has been accused of radical attempts at violence, there was no evidence that Mr. Mohamud had any current link to Somalia or was a sympathizer of the Shabab, a militant Islamic group in Somalia. And despite Mr. Mohamud’s contacts with militants abroad, officials said he appeared to have acted alone in his pursuit of the bombing here.

His case resembles several others in which American residents, inspired by militant Web sites, have tried to carry out attacks in the name of the militant Islamic movement only to be captured in a sting operation.

The question remains: what scares Americans more, actual terror or state-sponsored ‘terror’ in the guise of a sting?

Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge