According to court documents, the surveillance began in August 2009. Federal agents had apparently identified Mohamud as a potential Al Qaeda recruit by monitoring e-mail between Mohamud and an unidentified individual in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province, previously known as the Northwest Frontier Province.
The contact in Pakistan suggested that Mohamud get in touch with a second militant. Mohamud used the wrong e-mail address when trying to contact the second militant but was apparently unaware of his mistake. That allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to contact Mohamud, posing as that second Al Qaeda operative – pretending the failed e-mail had reached its recipient.
Between July 2010 and Nov. 26, the undercover agents met eight times with Mohamud to plan a car bomb attack in downtown Portland.
In an apparent effort to address potential concerns about entrapment, an undercover agent asked Mohamud what he was willing to do for the Islamic cause. According to court documents, the agent offered five options from praying five times a day, to raising money, to carrying out a suicide mission.
Mohamud told the undercover agent that he wanted to become “operational.” But he added that he did not know how and would need training.
All eight of the undercover meetings were recorded and/or videotaped. But, according to court documents, the audio recorder malfunctioned during that first meeting.
To defeat an entrapment claim, prosecutors must be able to show that Mohamud was willing to engage in the illegal conduct without the support and encouragement of the undercover agents.
An agent repeatedly asked Mohamud what he thought about the unfolding bomb plot and what was in his heart. The agent stressed that there would be children at the bomb site.
“That’s what I’m looking for,” Mohamud is quoted in court documents as telling the agent.
“For kids?” the agent asked.
“Just a huge mass … to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays,” he answered.