PORTLAND, Ore. – An attorney for an Oregon terrorism suspect on Wednesday tried to draw into question the accuracy and selectiveness of the written records made by an FBI agent who headed up the undercover investigation into her client.
The records are crucial to establishing the initial face-to-face contact between the suspect, Mohamed Mohamud, and an undercover agent posing as a jihadi.
That meeting would help establish Mohamud's mindset before an FBI sting operation targeting him swung into high gear and culminated with his arrest. Mohamud is accused of attempting to detonate a bomb at a Portland Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in November 2010.
His attorneys are trying to show he was not predisposed to terrorism before he met two men — actually undercover agents — who promised him the chance to work for al-Qaida and carry out an act of terrorism in the U.S.
The FBI has said the undercover agent attempted to tape-record the original face-to-face meeting with Mohamud on July 30, 2010, but the battery in his recording device failed.
After the meeting, the undercover agent's FBI handler, Elvis Chan, took notes and wrote a summary about it. The FBI learned on Aug. 2, 2010, that the recorder did not function, but Chan said he wasn't told about it.
He destroyed his notes on Aug. 3, 2010, leaving only his written summary.
During Mohamud's terrorism trial on Wednesday, defense attorney Lisa Hay questioned why Chan chose not to record the agent telling Mohamud that he was in competition with five other men to help carry out a purported al-Qaida plot, a fact that Hay asserted in previous questioning could coerce a naive 18-year-old into getting involved with the plot.
Hay said Chan neglected to include facts from other calls and meetings that would be helpful to Mohamud's defense, including Mohamud expressing a desire to go overseas instead of carrying out the plot, and another occasion when he wanted to "back out."
Chan did note the small talk between Mohamud and the undercover agent, including details on where Mohamud went to school and what he was studying.
"I summarized what I believed to be the highlights of the meeting," Chan said.
"And the highlights for you were the small talk," Hay replied.
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