PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — At a darkened train station, the teenager and the purported jihadi pulled into a quiet lot where months of planning were to culminate in this: a plot to kill thousands at a Portland Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
"You know what to do," the man said to the teenager, breathing heavily. "O Lord, O Lord, O Lord."
"Ready," the teenager said. "Alhamdulillah." Praise be to God.
They were 14 blocks northeast of this city's busy tree-lighting ceremony two years ago on Nov. 26, 2010. On Friday, they found themselves across a federal courtroom from each other where the man — who Mohamed Mohamud would learn was an undercover FBI agent — testified against the now 21-year-old and a jury listened to a recording of the moments leading up to his arrest.
The recording crackles as the FBI agent reads out numbers and the teenager punches them into his black disposable Nokia cellphone. He then apparently encounters an error.
"Dial it again," the man said, words that were in fact the cue for his fellow agents. Mohamud dialed again and waited for the explosion.
Instead: "FBI, FBI, FBI! Get down!"
The agent, whose cover name was "Hussein," had told Mohamud the number he dialed was connected to a cell phone that would set off six 55-gallon drums filled with diesel fuel in a van parked next to the tree-lighting. The explosion, "Hussein" told him, would destroy two blocks in any direction.
Mohamud's defense team doesn't dispute the sequence of events, nor that their client intended to kill thousands of people at the tree-lighting ceremony.
But the path by which he reached that point is the substance of the defense's claim that Mohamud was entrapped. The entrapment defense has been launched, unsuccessfully, in several post-9/11 terrorism sting operations like the one that targeted Mohamud.
He came to the FBI's attention, agents testified, when he kept up email contact with a Saudi Arabian man suspected by Interpol of terrorism.
Without the bureau's intervention, prosecutors say, the already-radicalized Mohamud would almost certainly have found a way to reach al-Qaida or one of its affiliates and commit an act of terror in the U.S.
Nonsense, Mohamud's attorneys said in opening statements and cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses. He was a 17-year-old when his emails were identified by the FBI, a teenager with grand but muddled ambitions of achieving some sort of fame in the Islamic world.
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