More Details Emerge in Terror Sting Trial
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A federal jury heard and saw recordings of the day the alleged "Christmas tree bomber" was arrested in an FBI sting.
Mohamed Mohamud's public defenders claim their client was entrapped by FBI agents who helped set up a truck full of fake explosives to "detonate" at a tree-lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving 2010.
In the months before his arrest on a charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, Mohamud, then 19, met several times with undercover FBI agents who posed as al-Qaeda affiliates.
During the first week of his trial, undercover agents "Youssef" and "Hussein" testified under their pseudonyms, shielded from public view in a closed courtroom.
Youssef posed as an al-Qaeda "spotter," or recruiter, while Hussein played the role of an "explosives expert."
Evidence at the first week of trial established that Mohamud cooperated in the terrorist attack, and ultimately dialed a cell phone number that he thought would detonate a van full of explosives near Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.
But Mohamud's attorneys say it is less clear how much influence Youssef and Hussein had over Mohamud, and how much of the plan was actually devised by the teen-ager.
Mohamud's attorneys last week elicited testimony from the undercover agents that the FBI supplied a number of items for the "attack," including a van for the fake bomb, a storage unit for it, and money for Mohamud's rent.
Mohamud's attorneys say the FBI agents induced him into a terror plot which he could not have carried out on his own.
The jury on Friday heard and saw for the first time some recordings of the day of the "attack."
Mohamud met with Youssef and Hussein at a downtown Portland hotel that day, Nov. 26, 2010. They ordered pizza, watched local news on television, and prayed.
In a surreptitiously made recording, Mohamud is shown trying on a hard hat and a construction vest, which he and Hussein would wear as disguises.
Mohamud suggests acting like construction workers who are "checking out drainage."
"There'll be a lot of blood, they'll need drainage," Hussein responds.
In the hotel, Mohamud told the agents he had a dream that the three of them "took down the Golden Gate Bridge and Obama's house."
"I could feel the explosions in my dream," Mohamud says in the recording.
On the local news, a reporter is heard saying that 25,000 people were expected at the Christmas-tree lighting ceremony.
In response, Hussein affectionately slaps Mohamud.
Under questioning by prosecutor Pam Holsinger, Hussein testified that he appears "amped up" in the video because he was "playing [his] role." Hussein testified that he repeatedly told Mohamud to calm down because "he seemed excited."
Hussein and Mohamud drove the van to a parking spot that had been pre-arranged by the FBI. Mohamud called it "a miracle" that Hussein was able to park the van in crowded downtown Portland.
Hussein asked Mohamud to "arm" the bomb by connecting a toggle switch to a cell phone between the van's seats.
The fake bomb consisted of six blue barrels held together with an orange strap and connected with wires to the cell phone "detonator." Hussein testified that the back of the van smelled like diesel.
In the recordings made just before Mohamud's arrest, Hussein mutters Arabic prayers under his breath and repeatedly asks Mohamud if he is calm.
After Hussein parked the van, Youssef picked up Mohamud and Hussein in an SUV and drove away. During the drive, Mohamud told the agents he thought he saw his mother's Volvo alongside them.
"I'm gonna put on this helmet," Mohamud says in surveillance footage. "That was too close. What are the odds?"
It is not clear whether the car Mohamud saw actually belonged to his mother.
Youssef left the SUV at a train station, and Mohamud and Hussein drove it to a nearby parking lot, where armed FBI agents were waiting.
Hussein gave Mohamud the number to dial to detonate the bomb.
"You ready?" Hussein asks in the recording.
"Ready," Mohamud responds.
Both men say, "Allahu akbar" (God is great.)
"Say it louder!" Hussein says enthusiastically. Mohamud does.
He then dialed the number, but nothing happened.
"Is it ringing?" Hussein asks in the recording. "Let's get out. Dial it again."
That was the "go code" for agents to arrest Mohamud.
"FBI! Get down! Get down! On the ground!" agents shout on the recording, which becomes crackled as Mohamud and Hussein are taken down in the parking lot.
FBI agent Monty Waldron, who was on the scene, testified that he saw Mohamud's face illuminated by the cell phone as he dialed outside the SUV.
He "appeared startled" when agents put him in a "control hold" and handcuffed him, Waldron testified.
Hussein also was handcuffed, shouted "Allahu akbar," and whispers to his colleagues, "I'm going to scream again."
Under cross-examination by public defender Steven Wax, Hussein acknowledged that he played his role as a terrorist until the very end.
Agents have testified that Mohamud was compliant when he was arrested, but had an outburst on the way to jail.
Wax brought up evidence that an agent overheard Hussein say, "Oh, I love that," when Mohamud kicked at and spat on agents as he was being taken to jail.
"You were trying to provoke him, and it worked," Wax said.
"We were happy because he got arrested," Hussein told Wax.
Hussein said that he and Youssef had been instructed to drive Mohamud home if he decided to back out of the plan after seeing the fake bomb.
Trial in U.S. District Judge Garr M. King's court was postponed Tuesday due to an attorney's illness. The trial is expected to resume today (Wednesday).