NYT Already Pushing 'Entrapment' Defense in Case of Islamic Would-Be Christmas Tree Bomber

The Times is already pushing the "entrapment" defense in the case of the Portland Christmas-tree bomber, sympathizing with local Muslims in opposition to the anti-terror investigation. And after months of carefully separating "Islamic community center" from "mosque" when it came to a controversial project at Ground Zero, an "Islamic Center" in Portland suddenly becomes a "mosque" after an apparent arson attack.

That didn't take long. The Times is already forwarding left-wing and Muslim arguments alleging "entrapment" in the terror-plot case in Portland against Mohamed Osman Mohamud, caught in a sting operation planning to kill people at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.

On Tuesday, Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage reported "In U.S. Sting Operation, Questions of Entrapment."

The arrest on Friday of a Somali-born teenager who is accused of trying to detonate a car bomb at a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore., has again thrown a spotlight on the government's use of sting operations to capture terrorism suspects.

Some defense lawyers and civil rights advocates said the government's tactics, particularly since the Sept. 11 attacks, have raised questions about the possible entrapment of people who pose no real danger but are enticed into pretend plots at the government's urging.

But law enforcement officials said on Monday that agents and prosecutors had carefully planned the tactics used in the undercover operation that led to the arrest of the Somali-born teenager, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized United States citizen. They said that Mr. Mohamud was given several opportunities to vent his anger in ways that would not be deadly, but that he refused each time.

The Times failed to acknowledge the left-wing bent of a group who compiled a report on informers and the "entrapment" defense:

A study this year by the Center on Law and Security at New York University, which tracks terrorism cases, found that of 156 prosecutions in what it identified as the most significant 50 cases since 2001, informers were relied on in 97 of them, or 62 percent. The entrapment defense has often been raised, but as of September, it had never been successful in producing an acquittal in a post-Sept. 11 terrorism trial, the study found.

The Portland case resembles several others in which American residents, inspired by militant Web sites, have tried to carry out attacks in the name of the militant Islamic movement only to be captured in a sting operation, with undercover F.B.I. agents or informers playing the role of terrorists and, as in this case, supplying a fake bomb.

On Wednesday, William Yardley and Jesse McKinley sympathized with Muslims against the authorities in Portland in a "News Analysis," "Terror Cases Strain Ties With Some Who Can Help." The text box read: "Complaints from some that the police are going too far."

The arrest in a plot to bomb a popular Christmas tree-lighting ceremony here has renewed focus on the crucial but often fragile relationship that many Muslim communities have with federal law enforcement agencies.

Many Muslim leaders nationwide say they are committed to working with the authorities to fight terrorist threats and applauded the work in Portland. But some say cases like the one in Oregon, in which undercover agents said they helped a teenager plan the attack, risk undermining the trust of Muslim communities that federal agents say is essential to doing their jobs.

The failed Portland plot is one of several recent cases, from California to Washington, D.C., in which undercover agents helped suspects pursue terrorist plans. Some Muslims say the government appears to be enabling and even sensationalizing threats that can lead to backlashes against Muslim communities.

On Sunday, a mosque in Corvallis, Ore., was firebombed. It had been attended by the Portland suspect, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized American citizen from Somalia.

"Unlike the so-called plot at Pioneer Square, that was a real terrorist attack, against a house of worship," said a man who attends the Islamic Center of Portland and Masjed As-Saber, another mosque where Mr. Mohamud worshiped.


Amid the tension, Muslim leaders say their communities are doing more than ever to help in investigations - a fact they say is overlooked by many Americans.

A local TV station provides a little more information: "Investigators say an arsonist broke a window to the mosque's office and used some sort of flammable liquid to start the fire. Though no one was hurt and only one room at the mosque was destroyed, the arson left Corvallis on edge and last night was a step forward in easing fear, many said."

It's revealing that the Times describes the arson incident at the Salman Al-farisi Islamic Center as an attack on a mosque. After all, the Times took great pains to separate the terms "Islamic community center" and "mosque" when discussing Park51 (ne Cordoba House) the Muslim structure being proposed near Ground Zero. The Times claimed that to call the Ground Zero project a mosque was misleading because a Muslim prayer space is only one aspect of the design plan for the 13-story project.

Yet when an office room inside the "Salman Al-farisi Islamic Center" is apparently hit by arson, suddenly it's suddenly fine to call it an attack on a mosque.