by Austin Bay
November 30, 2010
He repeatedly insisted he wanted to kill Americans. Bloodycarnage was his explicit goal, and a crowd of 12,000 Oregonians in downtownPortland provided the human targets.
His targets -- men, women and children -- gathered in thecity's Pioneer Courthouse Square last Friday to light a public Christmas tree.Attacking this infidel ceremony, with its hint of pagan tree worship, wouldgive his murderous act iconic stature. Militant Islamists around the globewould appreciate the religious symbolism.
He positioned the bomb for maximum casualties, slipped away,then called a cell phone rigged as a detonator.
He waited. No blast. No dead Americans. Moments later,19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, nominally of Corvallis, Ore., was arrestedby the FBI. The bomb was a fake, supplied by FBI agents who had been trackingthe Wannabe Terrorist for months.
Of course, Mohamud's attorney now suggests he was"entrapped" by diabolically clever G-men. However, based on the FBIaffidavit filed in federal court, entrapment will be tough to prove. Mohamudbragged to agents that he had been "thinking of committing some form ofviolent jihad since the age of 15." Like an experienced al-Qaida plotter,he saw his mass murder as global information warfare. The Portland bloodbathwas "gonna be a fireworks show," and The "New York Times willgive it two thumbs up."
Portland, with its oh-so-left-wing politics, and theWillamette Valley, with it wonderful wineries, do not look like battlefields,but for al-Qaida terrorists they definitely are. Unfortunately, they willcontinue to be for four or five decades, as the global struggle betweenmilitant Islamists and practically everyone else on the planet continues.
I realize Global War on Terror (GWOT) is no longer theofficial name of this multi-dimensional struggle. One of the first thingsPresident Barack Obama did after he became president was dispense with the nameGWOT, in favor of his preferred name, OCO -- overseas contingency operation.Since Obama declared OCO, the Christmas Terrorist tried to bring down ajetliner over Detroit, Maj. Nidal Hasan murdered fellow soldiers at Ft. Hoodand a would-be terrorist tried to bomb New York's Times Square. Like Portland,none of these places is overseas.
America's terrorist enemies, despite our preferences anddruthers, target American soil just as they target Americans wherever they maylive or travel on the planet. These killers attempt to wage war Over There andBack Here and in between, and there is nothing contingent about it. The fightis global -- and local.
Which is why this particular FBI operation is not simply anexample of outstanding police work, but an example of the FBI at war. Inidentifying and tracking the Wannabe Terrorist, the FBI ran a classiccounter-intelligence and counter-terror operation.
Moreover, on the Willamette Valley battlefield, the FBI haswon a psychological victory that will help blunt al-Qaida's attempts toencourage "self-organizing" terrorists.
Understand that al-Qaida is first and foremost a propagandapower. Its dark genius has been to connect the Muslim world's angry young men(including those living in Corvallis) with a utopian fantasy preaching thevirtue of violence.
Al-Qaida wants the world to believe its psychological andideological appeals are unstoppable. There will be a thousand self-organizingHasans, there will be 10,000 Mahmouds, so go ahead and give up now, America.
But in the real world, putting together an attack leaves atrail. Personal behavior is also a marker. The Foundation for Defense ofDemocracy's "Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and U.K." examines thebehavioral changes that occur during the radicalization process. Yes, this isprofiling, based on experience with young men who decided to kill fellowcitizens en masse.
In its Willamette Valley campaign, the FBI demonstrated itcan detect the behavior, track it and co-opt it. Now domestic would-beterrorists cannot be certain that their angry compatriot isn't an agent runninga sting operation. Doubt replaces theological certitude.
Let's hope the trial court produces a legal victory thatreinforces the FBI's success. But the bureau's psychological victory stands.