WASHINGTON (RNS) Attorney General Eric Holder defended the FBI’s recent undercover investigation of an Oregon Muslim terror suspect, saying Friday (Dec. 10) that critics who think it was “entrapment” are wrong.
“Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as `entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight—or do not have a full understanding of the law,” Holder said at the annual dinner of Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group.
Holder was referring to the Nov. 26 arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who is charged with plotting to blow up a van full of explosives outside a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland.
“I make no apologies for how the FBI agents handled their work in executing the operation that led to Mr. Mohamud’s arrest,” he said. “Their efforts helped to identify a person who repeatedly expressed his desire and intention to kill innocent Americans.”
He said the affidavit in Mohamud’s case alleges that the suspect chose the location he was targeting months ahead of time and refused to change his plans even when reminded children would be among a large crowd that could be harmed.
Holder said he hears from Muslims that they think there is an “us versus them” mentality in law enforcement.
“That is unacceptable,” he said, adding that cooperation with Muslim and Arab-American communities is “absolutely essential” in preventing threats of terrorism.
In a separate but related development, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund announced Friday it had received a Nov. 15 letter from the FBI apologizing for remarks made by FBI Director Robert Mueller that were reported by The Washington Times and appeared to link Sikhs and terrorism.
At an October conference, Mueller had said American Sikhs, along with Arab-Americans and Muslims, might be among individuals investigated for possibly supporting terrorism.
“I would like to apologize for, and clarify, any misunderstanding that the account in this newspaper story may have caused,” wrote FBI spokesman Michael Kortan. “I can assure you it was not meant to single out any specific community, including Sikh-Americans.”