Mohamed Mohamud’s defense attorneys have begun their attempt to depict their client as an innocent, young and devout Muslim who wouldn’t have attempted to blow up thousands of people at Portland’s Pioneer Square were it not for FBI talking him into it. The attorneys are trying to convinced the jury that the Oregon State University student was entrapped by the FBI. They claim their client did only what the FBI told him to do, including buying parts for the bombs, mapping escape routes and finding parking spots.
In cross examination of FBI undercover agents Thursday, defense attorney Steven Wax’s job was to wrest details from previous testimony and undercover tapes to establish the then 19 year old Mo Mo’s naivete and lack of sophistication.
Wax questioned the undercover FBI agent known as Hussein about the flattery he and his partner used on Mo Mo, such as fawning over suspect’s poetry and speaking in Arabic religious phrases. Wax claimed Hussein and the other agent Youssef planned their roles in advance, deciding Hussein would be the more religious bad guy,
Attorney: You were going to be the more religious one.
Hussein: I’m a Muslim
Attorney: Your partner is not.
Hussein: He is.
The attorney said, “He was talking about religion, not terrorism, wasn’t he?”
Mo Mo’s defense attorneys know better than that, of course. Mohamud himself is heard on tape talking about becoming a mujahid, how his parents didn’t like his radicalism, how he rejected the ‘peaceful’ faith of one of his mentors and instead wanted to join forces with Al Qaeda (Al Shabaab) in Somalia. For Mo Mo, his religion was being a jihadist. I don’t know if jurors will be made to understand that.
The defense wants to establish that most of the operational details of the bombing really came from the FBI,
Attorney: When he [Mo Mo] raised Pioneer Square he did so at the direction of your partner.
Hussein: No sir.
Wax claimed that the options the agents frequently claimed to give Mohamud were phony,
“There really were no options in these meetings, sir, were there?”
“There were options.”
In the cross examination of the other FBI undercover officer known as Youssef, defense attorney Lisa Hay continued the effort,
Attorney: He [Mo Mo] had planned to drive it [the van] into the crowd. That was your plan, the parking plan. The FBI decided what kind of truck would be used. The FBI decided the size bomb. When you told him it would take out two blocks,what was his reaction?
Attorney: Why was there an LCD TV in the back of the van when you decided you didn’t need it?
Youssef: (after stammering around trying to think of why) I don’t know.
Attorney: The FBI put the screen in the van.
Attorney: Who decided the bomb would have nails?
Youssef: I don’t know.
(Attorney plays snippet of taped conversation of Hussein saying the word “nails.”)
Attorney: It takes a pretty sick person who puts nails in a bomb.
Hay attempted at one point to call out the mistakes Youssef said on tape, but I think she misfired. She tried to depict a reference to Youssef saying, “as excited as a kid at Christmas.” The observation drew a laugh in the overflow court room when she said that was an odd thing to say to a Muslim. Except twice before his partner testified Youssef was in fact himself a Muslim. She didn’t bother to ask him about his religion as a follow up.
Most chilling for me was to hear the recitation of the tic toc the day of the planned bombing. I think I got most of the details, though I may have missed one.
Picked up Mohamud in Beaverton at the home of a friend.
Went to home depot to buy a reflective vest and helmet.
Went to our hotel, the Residence Inn.
Parked the van by the Comcast Building
Went back to our hotel.
I took them [Mo Mo and Hussein] to the van.
They parked the van.
I came to them.
I dropped myself off at Union Station.
Hussein went to over pass in van.
Prosecutor: What did Mohamud do the night before?
Youssef: Went to Woodburn Outlet Mall to shop at Black Friday sale with friends.
Prosecutor: How did he seem on November 26th?
Youssef: At peace.