December 7, 2010 | National Review Online

Mohamud Was Not Entrapped

What would someone have to offer to entice you into killing someone? Or to entice you into killing thousands of people?

The FBI has just caught Mohamed Osman Mohamud trying to kill 25,000 Americans at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland. That means the silly season is once again upon us. Not the holiday season — the entrapment season. It comes around, as surely as Cialis commercials follow NFL opening kickoffs, every time the FBI catches a jihadist trying to mass-murder Americans.

You may have noticed that jihadists try to mass-murder Americans with some frequency. One would think this stubborn fact would more than deserve the heightened attention it is reluctantly given by the FBI — the politically correct, anti-profiling, “every culture has its violent extremists” FBI. But it does not — at least not for CAIR’s pied pipers, dutifully trailed by defense lawyers, libertarian extremists, anti-American leftists, and the accommodating media. It seems no amount of Islamic outreach and sensitivity training will shield the bureau from caterwauling over its agents provocateurs. Again and again, these undercover operatives bamboozle some innocent “youth,” who just happens to be a Muslim, into an attempted slaughter whose selling point just happens to be the glorification of Allah through violent jihad.

The linchpin of this anti-enforcement campaign is always entrapment, which is the legal concept of being bamboozled into criminality. As a matter of law, the claim of entrapment in terrorism cases is nonsense. Still, regardless of how many times it fails, it is raised again — another example of common sense taking a backseat to legal processes when a society becomes so “progressive” it can’t let a citizen eat a cheeseburger without first hearing what the experts (inevitably meaning the lawyers) have to say about it.

The lawyers, naturally, are very troubled by government “sting” operations. Lawyers, after all, are paid to be troubled, and to see to it that you knit your brow and get troubled, too. So we hear that Mohamud is just 19. He is an American citizen — as American, one supposes, as apple pie . . . assuming that the pie is baked in Somalia, Mohamud’s birthplace, a no-man’s-land of Muslim fundamentalism and brutality (funny how the two seem to go together). Just a normal kid, we’re told: graduating from high school in Beaverton, Ore., attending the state university, drinking an occasional beer, etc. That’s no radical’s profile — and isn’t it interesting that Islamists and leftists think profiling is just fine as long as it’s used to claim someone couldn’t possibly be guilty of something?

They ask: Have you heard about this investigation? The FBI wormed their way into Mohamud. They read his e-mail. They gave him money. They bought the bomb components. They paid for the safe house. They built the test explosive. They pretended to detonate it. Then they built the bomb. They provided not only the cell phone that was supposed to trigger the bomb but also the number code that had to be punched in. Mohamud was obviously set up: just a puppet at the end of their strings.

It is a tired script, and there are easy legal answers to all of it — which is why the defense is batting exactly .000 despite many turns at bat over the last two decades. But the easiest answer has little to do with law, and you don’t need a juris doctor to grasp it. It is not about entrapment, but about us.

No rational human being can be enticed, against his beliefs, into murdering another person, much less murdering thousands of people, as Mohamud hoped and tried very hard to do at Pioneer Courthouse Square on November 26. No amount of money, cajoling, or appeals to anti-Americanism and cultural solidarity can get a person to take such an unspeakable action.

Terrorism is not an everyday crime, driven by mundane motivations. Maybe overzealous police can get some sap to commit a fraud he’d never have dreamt of on his own, lead him to think he can make a few bucks that no one ever has to find out about. Maybe they can lure a curious loner into buying child pornography. Mass homicide is quite something else. It is not the work of the greedy or the curious, but of the committed.

The entrapment defense is always trotted out, because a defendant who is tape-recorded planning to slaughter thousands of people — who enthuses over the prospect of killing infidel children toted along with their families to a celebration of Christmas, whose top recollection of 9/11 is how “awesome” it was to watch victims leaping to their deaths to escape the hellacious fires raging inside the skyscrapers, who actually tried to detonate the Portland bomb not once but twice as crowds gathered at the tree lighting — does not have a lot to work with. He can’t credibly deny what he has done, so it is best to have his lawyers razzle-dazzle the paranoid with the idea that the government made him do it.

No one ever seems to stand up and say, Well, the government could never make me do it.

Instead, we get Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of CAIR of Greater Los Angeles, decrying the FBI’s “targeting” of Muslims, complaining about how it pushed a young Muslim man who was provided “with fake explosives by its undercover agents,” and citing sympathetic leftists who argue that the “frightening” but “fake, FBI-manufactured” plots deflect our attention away from the real issues — like Guantanamo Bay. Why, it’s downright “immoral,” Ayloush asserts, for the FBI to lure “confused, socially alienated, and sometimes unstable individuals into becoming terrorists.” He is echoed, of course, by a spokesman for the Somali mission to the United Nations, which is concerned not about the fact that several Somali immigrants to the U.S. have aligned with al-Qaeda’s agenda but over the “tactics of federal agents” who are supposedly luring Somalis into illegality.

In fact, the FBI did not lure Mohamud into anything. They intervened while he was reaching out for terrorist training overseas.

The legal test of entrapment is straightforward. The defendant has to show both that the government instigated the crime and that it is a crime he would not otherwise have attempted — i.e., he was not “predisposed” towards it. In Mohamud’s case, the defense is laughable: He had for years been yearning to participate in jihadist violence (even writing for terrorist publications). The FBI happened onto him because of this. He told its undercover operatives he wanted to conduct a horrific bombing, that he wanted to kill as many Americans as possible, and that he understood violent jihad to be an obligation imposed by Islamic scripture. He chose the tree-lighting ceremony as a perfect opportunity, and even selected the optimal spot near the revelry for placement of the bomb, hoping to maximize casualties. And then, once the crowd was gathered and what he thought to be the explosive was in place, he tried to detonate the bomb — twice.

It is typical for FBI undercover agents to meet with jihadists in the thrall of Islamist ideology, which is preached in more mosques than we’d like to admit and easily available on the Internet. It is also a commonplace for the FBI, once such a jihadist has been identified, to provide him with the means to commit the atrocities he indicates he wants to commit. That way, federal agents — rather than like-minded jihadists — can maintain control over the plot, so innocent people are not harmed. If we want to have a counterterrorism approach that actually counters terrorism — preventing it from happening rather than prosecuting it only after Americans have been killed — then this is the way it has to work.

Necessarily, as long as things are working as they should, CAIR and its apologists will always be screaming, “Entrapment!” When they do, we should ask ourselves — and them — “Could you be entrapped into killing 25,000 people?”

– Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

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