Web-addled: Mohamed Osman Mohamud plotted to bomb Portland's
Christmas-tree lighting after watching YouTube videos.
Catching self-radicalized jihadis
When groups like the Mus lim Public Affairs Council criticize such counterter rorism policies as the use of confidential informants, monitoring of e-mail and Internet sites or sting operations, they display a willful ignorance as to what works. In particular, they refuse to see how the process of self-radicalization works and the need for law enforcement's intervention. Consider the two most recent cases.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, plotted to bomb the annual Christmas-tree-lighting festival in downtown Portland, Ore. Antonio Martinez (a k a Muhammad Hussain), 21, conspired to set off a car bomb outside a military recruitment center in Catonsville, Md. In each case, law-enforcement authorities allowed them to "buy enough rope to hang themselves," while ensuring that the plot would be a dud.
These and other similar cases have raised cries of "entrapment," yet this is one of the best ways we have to stop someone who's decided to become a terrorist, while still respecting the freedom of thought that's at the core of our society. Understanding the mind of the homegrown terrorist -- and distinguishing him from a mere radical -- is often more like making sense out of nonsense.
Mohamud is a Somali immigrant and US citizen; Martinez, the son of a Nicaraguan father and African-American mother. Authorities described both as having been "self-radicalized" after having watched radical Islamic speakers like Anwar al-Awlaki on Web sites such as YouTube. And both published their thoughts about jihad online.
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