We are used to liberals trying to take away the tools FBI agents need to uncover terrorist plots. But when conservatives — who generally support strong national security — do the same thing, it is particularly dismaying.
Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano and a few other conservatives have been hammering the FBI for conducting stings that roll up terrorist plots.
A former New Jersey Superior Court judge, Napolitano made the case on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show “The Factor” concerning the arrest last month of 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Oregon. According to the FBI, the native of Somalia plotted to blow up crowds gathered for a Christmas tree lighting in Portland.
“The FBI talked him into doing this,” Napolitano said, claiming such stings will lead to the U.S. becoming like East Germany when it was under Soviet domination. “And then [the FBI] got him to say well, I was thinking about doing it before I met you guys. And then the FBI charges him with attempting to explode a device — a weapon of mass destruction? It was a truck filled with sawdust. It couldn’t have exploded.”
The trouble with Napolitano’s scenario is that he made up the facts out of whole cloth. While Mohamud, who has pleaded not guilty, could well make such claims as part of his defense, there is no evidence that the FBI lured him into committing a crime and therefore was guilty of entrapping him.
To the contrary, according to an FBI affidavit, which is presumably based on audio and video recordings, the case began in August 2009, when Mohamud was in e-mail contact with an overseas associate who is believed to be involved in terrorist activities.
In December 2009, Mohamud and the contact discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to engage in violent jihad.
As Mohamud tried to follow up, the FBI introduced an undercover operative who met with him in Portland. At a second meeting, Mohamud told additional FBI undercover operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15.
Mohamud then told them that he had identified a potential target for a bombing: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square to be held on Nov. 26.
Several times, an undercover FBI operative cautioned Mohamud about the implications of his plan, noting there would be many people at the event, including children.
According to the affidavit, Mohamud responded that he was looking for a “huge mass that will . . . be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.”
In subsequent months, Mohamud mailed bomb components to the operatives, whom he believed were assembling an explosive device. He then tried to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van parked near the tree-lighting ceremony.
“If the criminal conduct is originated by the suspect, and an FBI undercover operative is introduced into the case, and the suspect explains his criminal activity in detail and seeks assistance from the informant or source, the government did not originate the criminal conduct,” John L. Martin, who was in charge of espionage prosecutions at the Justice Department for 25 years, tells me.
“Under Supreme Court rulings, it does not constitute entrapment,” Martin says. “It is lawful, it is constitutional, and it is part of law enforcement strategies at every level,” says Martin, who prosecuted 76 spies including those arrested as part of stings. Only one of the cases he prosecuted resulted in an acquittal.
Martin notes that pundits and talking heads do not have access to the recordings that would back up the government’s claims about what took place and would be introduced at trial.
“The FBI uses stings in investigating every type of crime,” Martin says. “They are most important in the investigation of national security offenses such as espionage and terrorism, where you are trying to prevent terrorist or spying activities, as well as to punish the defendants and prosecute them successfully.”
If the FBI had ignored Mohamud’s efforts to commit jihad, he could well have killed thousands. As Bill O’Reilly declared to Napolitano, “So . . . even if the government’s tape shows he wasn’t coerced, he wanted to do it, you still would vote to acquit. I say that’s irresponsible.”
Giving no specifics, Napolitano claimed he had seen “evidence of the coercion” in the FBI’s affidavit.
Despite our differing opinions, Napolitano has personally invited me on to his Fox News radio show “Brian and the Judge” with Brian Kilmeade. He is a gracious and smart man.
But by concocting a fictitious scenario in order to question the FBI’s efforts to protect us, Napolitano is fueling the arguments of Muslims who claim the FBI is unfairly targeting their community and of liberals who would love to gut the tools the FBI needs to pinpoint plots. That poses a risk to all Americans.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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