Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 27, 2010

The FBI was listening

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on November 27, 2010

The Oregonian reports:

The FBI thwarted an attempted terrorist bombing in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square before the city’s annual tree-lighting Friday night, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon.

A Corvallis man, thinking he was going to ignite a bomb, drove a van to the corner of the square at Southwest Yamhill Street and Sixth Avenue and attempted to detonate it.

However, the supposed explosive was a dummy that FBI operatives supplied to him, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint signed Friday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, was arrested at 5:42 p.m., 18 minutes before the tree lighting was to occur, on an accusation of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. MORE (The Oregonian is aggregating news coverage and opinion on the arrest here.)

According to the FBI the young man began considering terrorist acts at age 15.

Intelligence and police work requires careful observation and listening. We ought be grateful for the attentiveness of these professionals.

What might have happened if others had been listening more carefully years before?

SUNDAY UPDATE: An Islamic center in Corvallis, Oregon was the target of arson early Sunday morning.  More from the Corvallis Gazette Times. (Coverage is also available via The Oregonian’s aggregation link provided above.)  Further coverage of the arson from Al Jazeera and Dawn (Pakistan).


Following is a post that originally appeared on November 26 entitled:

Homeland security, you, me and the National Day of Listening


O.E. hlysnan  “to listen,” from P.Gmc. *khlusinon  (cf. O.H.G. hlosen  “to listen,” Ger. lauschen  “to listen”), from PIE base *kleu-  “hearing, to hear” (cf. Skt. srnoti  “hears,” srosati  “hears, obeys;” Avestan sraothra  “ear;” M.Pers. srod  “hearing, sound;” Lith. klausau  “to hear,” slove  “splendor, honor;” O.C.S. slusati  “to hear,” slava  “fame, glory,” slovo  “word;” Gk. klyo  “hear, be called,” kleos  “report, rumor, fame glory,” kleio  “make famous;” L. cluere  “to hear oneself called, be spoken of;” O.Ir. ro-clui-nethar  “hears,” clunim  “I hear,” clu  “fame, glory,” cluada  “ears;” Welsh clywaf  “I hear;” O.E. hlud  “loud,” hleoðor  “tone, tune;” O.H.G. hlut  “sound;” Goth. hiluþ  “listening, attention”). The -t-  probably is by influence of O.E. hlystan  (see list (v.2)). For vowel evolution, see bury.  (From Dictionary.com)

Listening to achieve splendor, honor, fame and glory is mostly neglected.  In our age speaking, writing, blogging, texting, tweeting more and more — and more provocatively — is what produces fame (if not glory).  Just ask Ashton Kutcher.

But in our modern — and perhaps particularly American  — propensity to expect  others to listen, what are we missing?

Are we listening to the survivors of earthquake, flood, and epidemic in Haiti? Or to those with similar challenges in Pakistan?  Are we listening when our local government authorizes construction on a flood plain or where wildfires regularly recur or where water is in short supply?

Are we listening to the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Engineering study and other studies related to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon?   Are we considering meaningful analogies for agro-chemical stockpiles in the Central Valley of California, for refineries along the Gulf, for nuclear plants in New England?

Are we listening to the hopes and fears, especially of isolated young men, in the chaotic cities and tribal homelands of South Asia and the Middle East, gritty European suburbs, in the apartment next door, in the seat beside us, in our own home?  Do we have the cultural context to understand what we hear?  Do we have the empathy — or perhaps better, the courage — to listen patiently and self-critically?

Are we listening actively with authentic questions and real curiosity? Are we listening in order to better understand, to communicate more effectively, and to act more wisely?

Today, November 26, is being promoted as a National Day of Listening.  In a set of instructions for good listening the sponsors urge:

Listen closely. Look your storyteller in the eyes. Smile. Stay engaged…

Ask emotional questions. Asking “How does this make you feel?” often elicits interesting responses. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Respect your subject. If there is a topic that your interview partner doesn’t want to talk about, respect his or her wishes and move on.

Take notes during the interview. Write down questions or stories you might want to return to later.

Be curious and honest, and keep an open heart. Great things will happen.

Listening will not prevent every harm.  Reality unfolds.  Natural events, accidents, and evil intention will persist.

But authentic listening — combined with wise action — allows us to have a relationship with reality that maximizes our resilience, minimizes our risks, and enriches our lives.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

November 27, 2010 @ 12:20 am

Honor the listeners! They hear the future for the rest of U.S.!

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 27, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

Good work FBI! Was none but FBI following this kid as he developed his interest in terrorism? Schools, parents, teachers, friends, co-religionists (if that is not a proper group to watch for terrorism then there may be a bigger problem than I think)!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 28, 2010 @ 4:51 am

OregonLive — online version of The Oregonian — provides a profile of the suspect at: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/suspect_in_attempted_portland.html

Comment by Listening and the Word of Our Creator; This 21st Century

November 28, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

“Authentic listening – combined with wise action – allows us to have a relationship with reality that maximizes our resilience, minimizes our risks, and enriches our lives.”

Surely the FBI was indeed listening and local law enforcement vigilant as those at NSA and others committed to thwart those that seek our beloved Republic’s demise, seeking to cast the multitude into darkness and despair contrary to the conveyance of our Creator in his hope that we are excited, thrilled and prosperous in Life as biblical scripture asserts in testimony of God’s Love for each of us. (Pls see: 3 John 2) that God Loves us, however he will punish us as well, judging us, as many fail to listen to him, “Beloved, I wish above all things that you mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

Mesmerized and enthralled by the World of Warcraft at the chagrin of spouse and children seeking family time and attention, guidance and teaching, in this 21st century consumed by electronic innovation which has few sensitively listening to God and his hopes and dreams for all, nation to nation, continent to continent, none escaping, in the midst of degradation of character among men and women everywhere….

….and especially in those who espouse pledge and commitment to serving the public, their disparagement towards those whose “entrusted” and precious vote to support their ambition to serve the majority have placed them in leadership role serving only self-agenda in their prowess in lust for arrrogant power to result in the disharmony and despair of so many who see void in leadership on both sides of the aisle!

We must listen to our Creator and we must not manipulate the Koran for instance and its sensitive teachings for Love and Respect to be shown to all other. To those clerics and others who take advantage of youth and fill then with evil notion, I remind you God is witness to all and it is our Creator who is justice, not anyone of us his children who you refer to as infidel. You will be judged accordingly as you disregard the preciousness of Life and the innocent.

Groves of palm trees once were found in abundance in the oldest city of Jericho. Today, not one palm tree in its beauty stands in Jericho representative of the erosion of mankind’s heart and soul.

Listening and the wisdom we derive from doing so stregthens man’s fortitude like the great Cedar trees of Lebanon, however today, with the dastardly acts of the “Brutes of Tehran” as I refer to them, willing to spill rich Persian blood on the streets of Tehran, having bloodied hands of our courageous youth sent afar to protect those subjected to violence in rape, disregard and oppressive tactic, time is of the essence as mankind faces much peril in the deceit and disharmony which others prefer rather than the Blwessings and glory God has bestowed on those who authentically listen to his Love and compassion for all his creations….

God Bless America! God Bless you his children!

Comment by John Comiskey

November 28, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

To Mr. Cumming’s point; it takes a village to “listen” to/identify/rectify would-be terrorists. Civics 101 on a national and international order is in order.

Just the same, I made a concerted effort to listen more attentively to my wife and children last night. At work I made a like-effort to listen to an employee and a client.

No excuses, I like many [IMHO] often just want the facts and discount what I perceive to be peripheral information. I often espouse the non-superfluous (NSD) doctrine (just the facts, please).

I may modify NSD.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 29, 2010 @ 5:12 am

More background information on M.O.M.

The Oregonian: Suspect felt betrayed

New York Times: Suspect Called Confused

Los Angeles Times: Mixed Portraits of Suspect

Time magazine: Who is Mohamed Mohamud?

To Bill Cumming’s comment above, the New York Times is quoting an anonymous FBI source who indicates that tracking M.O.M. was originally triggered by a co-religionist who was concerned by the young man’s increasing radicalism.

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