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.