Prosecuting the War on Terror February 1, 2013Posted by Sobek in News.
Some of you may remember that over two years ago, the unfortunately named Mohamed Mohamud was arrested by the FBI while trying to detonate what he thought was a van full of explosives, outside of a Portland Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Well the trial ended yesterday, and today the jury found his sorry ass guilty.
Maybe that’s not such a shock – the feds had him on tape talking about how much he wanted to see body parts lying in the streets and whatnot. The fact that it took a Oregon jury seven hours to make a decision (in Texas, they would have taken less than seven minutes) is, well, it’s Oregon, you know?
So why did he go to trial at all? When this story first broke, it broke along with a chorus of the usual gang of idiots claiming the kid was entrapped. The two main arguments his lawyers made at trial, near as I can tell, were 1) he was just a confused kid and the FBI tricked/coerced him into the plot, 2) the first meeting between the kid and the undercover operative he though belonged to al-Qaeda wasn’t recorded, so there could have been something exculpatory said, and 3) the agents who arrested him were apparently caught on tape afterwards congratulating one another, and saying some disparaging things about M2 up there.
The third one is just silly: you’re trying to prove what, that the agents were biased against him? Frankly, I hope that our law enforcement officers are biased against terrorists. And the kid who just tried to detonate a massive explosion in an attempted mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil is, indeed, a terrorist. And besides, no amount of bias on the part of the agents changes the observed behavior of the convicted terrorist. As to the second point, yeah, I’d prefer to have all conversations on tape, but no one’s stopping the kid from claiming on the stand (to the best of my knowledge, he did not) that he was coerced during that first meeting, and if he did say any such thing, he would have to explain his later enthusiasm for the plot:
On that day, agents presented Mohamud with a fake but realistic looking fertilizer bomb secretly built by an FBI bomb tech. The massive explosive choked the cargo area of the van. Mohamud grinned and declared the device “beautiful.”
Now to the first point: entrapment. It turns out, the Department of Justice has never lost a case on entrapment grounds in a terrorism case. Not once. That seven-hour deliberation might have had some government lawyers biting their fingernails, but the winning streak still holds. I think a huge part of the reason is that to prove an entrapment case, one thing you have to argue is that the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime. When the crime in question is cold-blooded mass murder, it’s pretty hard to argue that you did it on a lark.
Actually, to expand on that last point, from what I hear from my lawyer friends, the Justice Department has never lost any terrorism case. That’s quite reassuring. I suppose a critic might argue that it’s because juries are prejudiced against people who are accused of terrorism. My counter-argument is that juries are prejudiced against people who are caught on tape trying to murder lots and lots of people. Once it’s proven that the defendant did just that (and in this case, he did just that), yeah, I hope the jury is predisposed against the guy.
The follow-up criticism is that the FBI (or the government in general) is targeting people based on race or religion. I’d say the FBI targeted this guy for more substantial reasons:
Trial testimony showed that Mohamud had written for an online jihadi magazine, traded emails with two accused terrorists and was in contact with another man who left the Northwest to fight against coalition troops in Afghanistan.
He was under watch by the FBI for nearly a year when agents got the “green light” to target him for investigation.
So, instead of rushing forward based on his name, skin color or (presumed) religion, they waited an entire year after they knew he was communicating with jihadis? That’s some pretty admirable restraint.
I just want to reiterate two points: the Department of Justice has never lost to an entrapment defense in a terrorism case, and has never lost any terrorism trial at all. I have some negative thoughts about the dildo who runs that organization, but the street level lawyers apparently know what they’re doing, and I tip my hat to them.
But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the FBI really is targeting radical jihadis based on their race and religion. That still makes them less of an embarrassment than, say, the ATF.