Mohamed Osman Mohamud bust wasn't entrapment by any legal definition

Categories: Crime, Somalis
Christmas Tree at Pioneer Square.jpg
Image by Jenny Cestnik on Flickr
Bomb Target: the Christmas Tree at Pioneer Square in Portland
There's plenty of hot air online right now about this weekend's arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the 19-year-old kid who got caught trying to detonate what he thought was a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon.

Mohamud, an American citizen who was born in Somalia, has local connections: His stepmother reportedly hails from Minnesota. There have been plenty of news stories about the foiled bomb plan now. And those have quickly been followed by hand-wringing over whether the FBI was right to supply this kid with a fake bomb.


Did the government turn a wannabe, otherwise harmless ideologue into a terrorist? There are plenty of people--like Glenn Greenwald of Salon--saying that just may be the case:

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.
It's a legitimate question, and one that fairly puts the spotlight on how the government is spending its resources. Writers and watchdogs are worried about entrapment.

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Mohamed Osman Mohamud said he always wanted to blow people up. The FBI just gave him a fake bomb.

The thing is, that's not the case here. This kid wanted to blow a bunch of people up.

Mohamud had repeatedly e-mailed a friend in Pakistan looking to join jihad, according to the FBI. The agents who fooled him repeatedly told him that he was going to harm women and children, and that he could back out. But Mohamud was unrepentant.

"Since I was 15 I thought about all this," he told agents, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. "It's gonna be a fireworks show ... a spectacular show."

If authorities simply provide a fake way for a would-be criminal to get the crime done, that's not entrapment. To legally qualify for an entrapment defense, there's a three-part test:

* The idea for committing the crime came from the government agents and not from the person accused of the crime.

* Government agents then persuaded or talked the person into committing the crime. Simply giving him the opportunity to commit the crime is not the same as persuading him to commit the crime.

* The person was not ready and willing to commit the crime before the government agents spoke with him.

In this case, Mohamud brags about having the idea for the crime since he was a kid. Far from being talked into the crime, he refused to be talked out of committing the crime. And the act of driving the van to the location and calling the cell phone that he thought would detonate it pretty much proves he was more than willing to commit the crime--he was eager.

Let's just be glad that no one was killed and that the bomb was fake.


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