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FBI stopped Portland bomb suspect from taking job before sting

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Though it’s a controversial assertion, observers often point to a link between acts of terrorism and poverty.

In the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the 19-year-old arrested Friday for allegedly trying to blow up an Oregon Christmas tree lighting ceremony, the FBI itself may have created that link.

According to the New York Times, the FBI placed Mohamud on a terror watch list, making it impossible for the young man to fly to Alaska to take a summer job. It was only after Mohamud was blocked from taking the job in June of this year that the FBI — which had been monitoring him since 2009 — made contact with the suspect.

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The Times reports:

The FBI’s surveillance started in August 2009 after agents intercepted his e-mails with a man he had met in Oregon who had returned to the Middle East, according to a law enforcement official who described the man as a recruiter for terrorism. According to the affidavit, the man had moved to Yemen and then northwest Pakistan, a center of terrorism activity.

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.

The revelation adds fuel to the fire of critics who argue the FBI’s sting operation manufactured — rather than stopped — a domestic terrorist.

“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?” writes Teddy Partridge at FireDogLake, who first flagged the Times report.

Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald writes:

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.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction.

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Federal agents noticed Mohamud in December 2009, after he allegedly communicated with someone in northwest Pakistan, “an area known to harbor terrorists,” according to the FBI affidavit.

Agents claimed that Mohamud revealed himself to be the author of a bizarre 2009 article for the English-language “Jihad Recollections” magazine. The story made headlines for its comical images of masked fighters helping each other exercise.

In the months following, agents ostensibly worked him up to the point where he was willing to flip the switch on a car bomb. Agents even took Mohamud to a secluded location to blow up a bomb they placed in a backpack, allegedly as a test run.

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Mohamud was arrested by FBI agents and Portland police around 5:40 pm Friday, after he attempted to remotely detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van.

With earlier reporting by Stephen C. Webster

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