WASHINGTON — The arrest 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 attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 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 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 U.S. citizen. They said that Mohamud was given several opportunities to vent his anger in ways that would not be deadly, but that he refused each time.
“I am confident that there is no entrapment here, and no entrapment claim will be found to be successful,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday.
Holder called the sting operation, in which Mohamud was under the scrutiny of federal agents for nearly six months, “part of a forward-leaning way in which the Justice Department, the FBI, our law enforcement partners at the state and local level are trying to find people who are bound and determined to harm Americans and American interests around the world.”