Mohamud Trial Day 3: Mo Mo’s Jihad Recollections

January 15, 2013

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Background: Mohamed Osman Mohamud is on trial for trying to detonate a bomb to vaporize thousands of Portlanders during “The Tree” lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland on November 26, 2010. Little did he know that the Al Qaeda terrorists he was working with were really FBI agents.

I saw about three hours of testimony today yesterday beginning with Special Agent Miltiadis Trousas, the co special agent in charge of the undercover op that captured Mo Mo who testified in the morning. In the afternoon I witnessed the testimony of the one of the undercover FBI agents known to  Mohamud as “Youssef.” A surveillance video was shown. 

Highlights of AM: 
Prosecutor asked him why FBI gave MoMo money for an apartment. Special Agent Trousas said it’s because of operational safety and that they wanted to keep Mo Mo away from OSU. Didnt say why. Wasn’t asked.

Quote,”he was helping us put together a bomb.”

Testified they became alarmed when Mo Mo reached out to a Saudi named Amro Alali, via email to discuss jihad. Alali is an Al Qaeda recruiter. It’s clear in testimony that the FBI wanted to intercept Mo Mo before he became too closely affiliated with Alali.

As Mo Mo, wearing a dark sweater over a crisp white shirt, 
looked on in the courtroom as Trousas testified that when MoMo was arrested in Portland he was there to see it and help. Testifies when Mo Mo was put into car to go to Portland Police Bureau, he kicked agents, twice kicking Trousas in the head, and started screaming, “Allahu Akbar!” (‘God is great’). 

On cross exam defense Attorney Stephen Sady tries to set a narrative that the FBI agent, Trousas, was inexperienced. He goes through classes Trousas took through college and the FBI academy to establish the FBI agent was targeting Muslims. 

He tried to establish that his client was “targeted,” which Sady knows is a law enforcement term of art that will look bad to a jury. Sady skillfully testifies inside of each of his questions, asking them multiple times, to embed his ideas in the jury’s minds.

Sady suggests via his line of questioning that Mohamud was a “conflicted” and “manipulable” kid. He tries to get out of FBI agent that they were investigating Mo Mo before he turned 18, but the agent spurns that notion several times. 

The jury sent a note to the judge asking him to give them a definition of the word “entrapment.”

This is an entrapment defense, after all. Both attorneys seemed to say it was OK, but the judge came back after recess and said no, the jury could have all instructions at the same time to get them in the full context. 

Trousas is asked by Sady about Mo Mo’s writing for the website run by Pakistani American Samir Khan. The website is “Jihad Recollections,” a magazine for radicals and jihadis to give them advice on life and tactics. Under the name Ibnul Mubarak, Mo Mo writes three or so articles. 

Sady testifies in his question that Mo Mo is trying to exaggerate about himself to Khan, telling him he wrote for magazines and was a college student when he really was a senior at Westview High School.

Trousas testifies that Khan “is a jihadi” who said, “I’m proud to be a traitor of America.” But Sady confirms he said that later, not before, he met Mo Mo.

It should be noted that Khan indeed was a very bad dude. His magazine was an effort to urge English speaking Brits and American Muslims to become terrorists and strike their homelands. 

The former high school cheerleader who believed 9/11 was an inside job, left his family and America in search of Jihad in Yemen. He was killed in 2011 in the same predator drone attack that killed Anwar Al Awlaki, the American born Imam who was a friend and mentor to some of the 9/11 hijackers, knew Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood Shooter, and was a writer for Inspire Magazine, another jihadi how-to guide.

Afternoon highlights:

The courtroom is sealed to protect the ID of an undercover agent who posed as an Al Qaeda recruiter named Yousef to assess how serious Mo Mo is about doing something violent.

The two swap emails through a newly established hushmail account and set up a face to face meeting in downtown Portland. Mo Mo says he wants to meet him to determine if he’s a spy. Mo Mo offers to meet him at his Mosque but Youssef demurs because “part of FBI policy doesn’t allow us to go in places of worship.” Youssef is wired. They take about a ten minute walk to the Embassy Suites Hotel where they meet in the lobby. 

This is the conversation that was never recorded. Youssef testifies he didn’t find out the meeting didn’t record until two weeks later but testifies that immediately after the meeting, he debriefed his boss and a written record of the conversation was established.

Youssef says his job was to assess Mo Mo. He concluded at this point in the meeting that he ‘was all talk’ but asked him what his current plans were. He said he told Mohamud he couldn’t tell him what to do but said there were five options:

1. Pray 5 times a day
2. Get education, continue with engineering program or become a doctor for ‘the brothers.’
3. Raise money for jihad.
4. Become operational.
5. Be a martyr.

Within a minute Mo Mo said he wanted to become operational. Youssef told him he could hook him up with someone who was an explosives expert.

They set up a meeting which was recorded. Some of the tape is played in court. It features the three eating and getting to know Mohamud. 

More to come.

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