Friday evening Attorney-General Holder spoke to the annual dinner in San Francisco of the Muslim Advocates. Applause greeted many of his comments, including:
There can be no “us” or “them” among Americans. And I believe that law enforcement has an obligation to ensure that members of every religious community enjoy the ability to worship and to practice their faith in peace, free from intimidation, violence or suspicion. That is the right of all Americans. And it must be a reality for every citizen. In this nation, our many faiths, origins, and appearances must bind us together – not break us apart. Our justice system must be used to empower, not to exclude or target. And security and liberty must be guideposts – not opposing forces – in ensuring safety and opportunity for all. (Read his prepared remarks)
The audience of mostly Muslim lawyers was less pleased with the Attorney-General’s defense of “sting operations” directed against potential terrorists.
Some have expressed concerns about the recent charges brought against Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Portland, Oregon, for his alleged involvement in planning – and attempting to execute – a terror attack during a Christmas Tree-lighting celebration.
Mr. Mohamud’s arrest was the result of a successful undercover operation – a critical and frequently used law enforcement tool that has helped identify and defuse public safety threats such as those posed by potential terrorists, drug dealers and child pornographers for decades. These types of operations have proven to be an essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks.
Since 2001, more than 400 individuals have been convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related violations in federal courts. And in those terrorism cases where undercover sting operations have been used, there is a lengthy record of convictions.
The use of sting operations has been effective in flushing out several freelance operators. There has, however, been concern that such tactics have amplified the actual threat presented by several suspects. This was previously discussed at HLSWatch in regard to the wanna-be Portland Christmas Tree bomber. (Here and here.)
Saturday in Stockholm two explosions were linked to threats emailed to a Swedish news agency and others. It appears a vehicle-bomb caught fire but did not fully detonate, while nearby an apparent suicide bomber killed himself, perhaps earlier than he intended. While both blasts occurred in a busy shopping area only two others were slightly injured.
Police are investigating a set of e-mails sent shortly before the blasts threatening attacks because Sweden had sent troops to Afghanistan. Sweden has some 500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan as part of the international military force.
The e-mails, with MP3 audio files in Swedish and Arabic, were sent to the Swedish security service and the TT news agency. They called for “mujahideen” – or Islamist fighters – to rise up in Sweden and Europe, promising Swedes would “die like our brothers and sisters”.
They also attacked the country for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by Swedish artist Lars Vilks.
The investigation of the Stockholm bombings is still in its earliest stages, but media reports suggest that Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, a 29-year-old Iraqi Swede was acting alone. According to coverage of the Swedish blasts in The Guardian (UK):
“The worrying thing about this development is that there is almost zero chance of finding lone jihadists like this before they strike, and that – as each is acting alone – there can be greater numbers of attacks,” said Claude Moniquet, head of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre in Brussels.
Sting operations — like most police tactics — work best when tough procedures and protocols, combined with professional supervision, and the highest prosecutorial standards eliminate short-cuts and give the suspects plenty of space for extracting themselves. When this is done and the suspects demonstrate not just a readiness for pulling the trigger but a commitment to doing so, I would rather sting than be stung.