Monday, November 29, 2010

The Alternate Life of Muhamed Osmond Muhamud

MeanMesa must assume that, by now, most visitors are familiar with the news reporting on the latest FBI sting in Portland, Oregon (a NW US state for our foreign visitors).  The "cash flash" part of the story (if it bleeds, it leads...) has already been successfully marketed by the national "media fraud;"  the Christian troglodytes have already ejaculated their ultra-compassionate demands for rapacious, blood drenched revenge and the TSA groping committee is already in a chorus of "We told you so!" 

Still, MeanMesa has no problem with a quick, abbreviated recap of events.  Right here, we have to thank Thom Hartmann (The Thom Hartmann Show, 1350AM, KABQ, Albuquerque, 10 AM - 1PM weekdays) for the "heads up."

Muhamed Muhamud is currently 19 years old.  Two years ago, his father, a respected engineer employed by Intel, found his son "interfacing" with extremist Islamic sorts via the internet.  Most likely there were some "father to son" talks in the home, but anyone who has had direct experience "talking" to a seventeen year old can correctly estimate the results.

As Muhamed Muhamud became more and more involved with the extremist ideas of Jihad, his father became more and more concerned.  Finally, when the prospects of setting the young man on a better course continued to dim, the father had to take action.  He called the FBI and "asked for their help" with his son.

What followed, although some Americans would consider it to be nothing less than good security policy, amounted to FBI undercover agents moving in close to the boy with offers to assist his plan to make a bomb.  To establish credibility, they provided a sample of explosives and helped Muhamed Muhamud detonate them in a parking lot somewhere.  After that, these FBI's went on to provide Muhamed Muhamud with fake explosives, some blasting caps and other "necessities" for making his "big bomb."

(image source The Hindu )
Not surprisingly, after all this "prep," the bomb plot was stopped and 19 year old Muhamed Muhamud was arrested before any damage was done.  

Hartmann makes two important points, both worth noting here.

Hartmann's first pointEntrapment

The idea of an entrapment defense in a trial arises from an especially critical, pivotal question.  That question is "Was the 'entrapped' defendant offered a legal alternative to the criminal action."  In other words, did this defendant volitionally choose to commit the crime when a legal alternative was clearly also made possible by the "entrapping" lawmen?

FBI attorneys, being no slouches themselves, were already sensitive about where this question could go as they reviewed their case against Muhamed Muhamud after his arrest.  What emerged was that the FBI "entrappers" had, in fact, offered up such an alternative, thus making their participation legal and valid.

However, although the FBI had its thorough, traditional video tapes of everything criminal that their suspect had committed, they seemed to be missing the critically important video tapes of the part where they offered the teenager the legal alternative.

To make up for the missing video evidence, the FBI promised that they had it, but that it was permanently lost.

Hartmann's second pointThe "Help" Sought by the Father

We don't even need to ask ourselves if this concerned father had in mind no other outcome than life in prison when he asked for help for his son.  The father had in mind some form of far more positive intervention.  Granted, his efforts to persuade his son to "switch tracks" away from the extremists had clearly led to a state of monumental frustration, but he was hoping that, well, "something could be done."

This story has an unsettling similarity to the tale of the "underwear bomber."  In that case the bomber's father had also reported his son, most likely in hopes of intervening before tragic consequences ensued.  In that case of course, the "tragic consequences" did ensue.

In the matter of Muhamed Muhamud  the "help" provided by the FBI led directly to this latest version of "tragic consequences."  It was as if an out of control locomotive was careening down the tracks to an inevitable destiny.

The MeanMesa "third point:" Was There An Alternative?

For this, we will offer a short fiction.

One afternoon when school was out, Muhamed Muhamud  was on his way home with a few of his friends.  A black Suburban stopped suddenly, and a man in a suit emerged.  Walking purposefully toward the teenager, he asks,  "Muhamed Muhamud?"

The surprised boy nods, "Yes?" 

The agent identifies himself, showing the teenager his badge.  "You need to come with me.  Get into the Suburban."
Muhamed Muhamud  asks "Where are we going?  Am I under arrest?"

The agent replies with predictable soul searing calm, "Not yet, but we have to talk."

After an endless, wordless cross town trip, the pair walk into the district FBI headquarters.  After another moment, Muhamed Muhamud  finds himself in an interrogation room facing the FBI agent across the table.

The agent begins.  "Just listen.  We know all about you.  Your father told us what you are doing.  You haven't broken the law yet, but we have been watching you.  We will be watching you every day from now on.  We know all about your emails.  We know where they went.  We know what came back."

"You can either quit this nonsense or you can spend the rest of your life in prison if you're lucky enough not to get killed before you even get there.  If you understand what I am telling you, say 'Yes.'  We aren't interested in messing around with you.  If we have to stop you, we will."

Thirty minutes later, the Suburban dropped Muhamed Muhamud  off in front of his house.

Does anyone agree that this might have been a better outcome?  At the very least, a far more cost-effective outcome?

MeanMesa's conclusion?  We are missing an important piece of solving this puzzle.

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