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Defense attorney questions undercover agents' motives in sting of Oregon car-bomb suspect

A veteran federal public defender grilled an undercover FBI agent on his motives when he posed as a member of al-Qaida and presented an Oregon teenager with options to serve as a good Muslim.

None of those options included walking away from an alleged car-bomb plot, which culminated in the arrest of terrorism suspect Mohamed Mohamud in November 2010, the defense argues. The bomb was a fake provided by the undercover agents posing as members of al-Qaida.

At Mohamud's terrorism trial in U.S. District Court on Friday, attorney Lisa Hay found at least two examples of the agent, testifying under the pseudonym "Youssef," giving Mohamud a list of choices. None included backing off the plot entirely, and Mohamud's defense argues he was entrapped by the FBI.

The agent denies attempting to influence Mohamud.

In one meeting held after Mohamud allegedly picked the time and place of the purported bomb plot, the agent tried to dissuade him from choosing martyrdom, telling him he could kill himself or, preferably, get on a boat after the detonation and leave the country.

"You didn't give him the option to go home," Hay said. "You didn't give him three options, did you?"

The agent responded, "We gave him outs."

Hays pressed him. "Actually, you were trying to influence him to pick which option you wanted."

In recordings previously aired, the agent repeatedly said that Mohamud should do "what's in (his) heart," a statement that Hay said could be taken several ways, depending on the tone of voice.

Remember, Hay said, Mohamud considered "Youssef" and his purported al-Qaida co-conspirator "Hussein" to be hardened terrorists who were interviewing Mohamud, then 19, about his ability to serve the cause of violent jihad against the West.

The agent said he was merely giving Mohamud "suggestions," and wasn't trying to say that Mohamud couldn't leave.

The prosecution is trying to show that Mohamud was a threat to commit an act of terrorism without their intervention, and the sting operation only showed what he was capable of doing.

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Reach reporter Nigel Duara on Facebook at http://bit.ly/RSmBei

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