Terror plot thwarted in Oregon

TERROR PLOT THWARTED IN OREGON…. We’ve seen a fair number of incidents like these in recent years, and every time they occur, I’m reminded to be thankful for the effectiveness of law enforcement officials, who have a strong track record.

Federal agents in a sting operation arrested a Somali-born teenager just as he tried blowing up a van he believed was loaded with explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, authorities said.

The bomb was an elaborate fake supplied by the agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5:40 p.m. Friday just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would set off the blast but instead brought federal agents and police swooping down on him.

As the AP’s report explained, the plot was months in the making, and the would-be terrorist, a naturalized American citizen, was dead serious about his intentions. Mohamud fully expected to commit mass murder, and rebuffed opportunities to back out. Fortunately, he was dealing with undercover FBI agents from the outset.

“The threat was very real,” said Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale.”

Friday, an agent and Mohamud drove to downtown Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert, the complaint states.

They left the van near the downtown ceremony site and went to a train station where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the vehicle, according to the complaint. There was no detonation when he dialed, and when he tried again federal agents and police made their move.

Congratulations are, of course, in order for all the officials involved. Success stories like these are heartening. I’d also note similar successes, which played in nearly identical ways.

As for the larger context, stories like these are yet another reminder about the nature of effective counter-terrorism. For years, Republicans insisted that combating terrorism was a matter of military might, and any suggestions to the contrary were evidence of weakness. Democrats have countered that keeping Americans safe also meant relying on intelligence gathering and law enforcement — because the White House isn’t exactly going to send a marine battalion into Portland.

Also note, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was identified, approached, apprehended, and charged, all without torturing anyone. Playing by the rules and preventing terror need not be in conflict.

The AP added that Mohamud has been charged with the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, “which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.” The accused will make his first court appearance on Monday.

Here’s hoping Rudy Giuliani and Liz Cheney resist the urge to whine about his appearing in an American criminal court.