[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
Well, we learn that there was an attempted terrorist attack in Portland yesterday, at that city’s Christmas Tree lighting:
The FBI thwarted an attempted terrorist bombing in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square before the city’s annual tree-lighting Friday night, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon.
A Corvallis man, thinking he was going to ignite a bomb, drove a van to the corner of the square at Southwest Yamhill Street and Sixth Avenue and attempted to detonate it.
However, the supposed explosive was a dummy that FBI operatives supplied to him, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint signed Friday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta.
And this version of the story makes it clear how far they let this guy go:
They left the van near the downtown ceremony site and went to a train station where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the vehicle, according to the complaint. There was no detonation when he dialed, and when he tried again federal agents and police made their move.
Other chilling details include how the man was told repeatedly that lots of children would be there, and he said he wanted to carry the attack out, anyway.
I want to say I am glad that the FBI stopped this, but I am disturbed that we felt the need to take it this far. Perhaps the situation was sufficiently controlled to prevent this, but I wonder if it would have been possible to dupe the dupers, and set up a real bomb in place of the fake?
And you have to suspect that the purpose in letting it go so far—to the point of letting the man try to detonate it twice is to convince someone that this guy was serious. At the very least, you have to think this detail was for public consumption, especially the people who continually argue that these guys we arrest in these bomb plots are just morons with a dream who could never pose a real threat. But you also have to suspect the intended audience would be a civil jury which might be tempted to find the man was entrapped—something we wouldn’t have to worry about if we locked him up in line with the law of war as it was understood prior to this one.
Like I said, I am glad this man was stopped. But I am disturbed by how far we let it go.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I guess we double-posted on this. My take is here. I am not at all disturbed by how far it was allowed to go. I just hope they caught anyone else this guy may have been communicating with.