Friends of Refugees

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Government Has Taken Serious Steps to Reduce Security Risks in Refugee Screening

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 23, 2015

magnifying glass and thumb print on white background. CRIME DETECTIVE THUMBPRINT MAGNIFYING GLASS FINGERPRINT FOTOLIA

Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called the refugee security screening process, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.” In fact, the refugee program is the toughest way for any foreigner to enter the US Legally. Applicants go though a laborious process that includes investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check, including fingerprinting and retina scans (and matched against criminal databases), photographs taken, identification of family trees, and other background information over a period that lasts on average 18-24 months (and up to three years). Biographical information such as past visa applications are scrutinized to make sure the applicant’s story coheres. Some have DNA tests. A Department of Homeland Security officer with training in this screening process as well as specialized training for Syrian and Iraqi refugee cases interviews each applicant. The applicant also goes through in-depth interviews by a DHS officer with training in the process as well as specialized training for Syrian and Iraqi refugee cases. Refugees from Syria also go through another layer of screening, called the Syria Enhanced Review process, a process built on years of experience in vetting Iraqi refugee applicants. Military combatants are weeded out. Additionally, the lengthy security checks are done in cooperation with international and national police agencies like Interpol and Scotland Yard. Biometric data and personal information are vetted at every step of the application process.  The security process is part of a 13-step process necessary for resettlement (as outlined in a USCRI chart). The refugee screening process is also constantly refined. [Note* – the bill the US House passed last week adds no additional scrutiny to the screening process.  Instead it would require federal agencies to “certify” each Syrian or Iraqi refugee is not a security threat – a step FBI director Comey calls “impractical”.]  An article at CNN describes part of the rigorous security screening process:

Much attention has been focused on the security vetting refugees must go through before they come to the United States, particularly after it was revealed that one of the terrorists in the Paris attacks entered Europe through a refugee processing center.

Several federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved in the process, which Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.”

These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check and make sure applicants really are who they say they are… Read more here

Posted in Department of Defense, Dept of Homeland Security, FBI, Iraqi, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attacker of Albuquerque Iraqi Catholic refugee yelled anti-Muslim obscenities

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 17, 2014


An Iraqi Catholic refugee alleges she was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment and robbed of $20,000 in gold. Now the FBI is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime. An article in the Daily Reporter covers the story:

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — An Iraqi Catholic refugee who was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment appears to be the victim of a hate crime by an attacker who yelled obscenities about Muslims, police said.

According to Albuquerque police, a man last week forced his way into the home of Seham Jaber, shouting nasty remarks about Muslims and punching her in the head and stomach. The intruder then tore up her family’s citizenship papers in the June 5 attack, investigators said.

“The irony is the individual thought the family was Muslim, and they’re actually refugees from Iraq who are Catholic,” Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said.

Jaber, who speaks Arabic, told police the unknown assailant also stole at least $20,000 in gold, which represented her family’s life savings. The assailant also stole jewelry, she said.

“No house, no car. It was all in gold,” Saad Sajet, Jaber’s husband, told the Albuquerque Journal.

The suspect was described as wearing a mask, jeans and a yellow T-shirt.

No arrest has been made.

The FBI now is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime, Albuquerque police said Friday… Read more here

Posted in anti-Islamic, Catholic, dangerous neighborhoods, FBI, hate crimes, Iraqi, New Mexico, police, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Trying to survive the smear of false terrorism charges

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 6, 2012

Last summer three Eritrean refugees were arrested after they tried to board an airplane, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport going to Des Moines, with a carry-on bag that contained a broken cellphone taped to a tin of helva (a sesame-paste-based food flavored with vanilla). The charges? Having a “hoax device” and “conspiracy” to obtain a hoax device. The three tried to explain that they were just trying to take candy and the old phone to friends. Authorities claimed, however – via questionable reasoning – that the three were attempting to do a trial run to see if they could get a “real bomb” through security, since this was assuredly not a real bomb (helva is not explosive, nor were there any fake wires or a fake detonation device attached). The authorities also deemed suspicious the three traveling in the month of August, being so close to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, you see – and besides, everyone knows that cell phones are used to detonate bombs. Surely the refugees must have carried aboard a broken cell phone during this “dry run” to fool authorities into thinking that it could not be used to trigger a detonator. But what about that tin of helva, that was suspicious wasn’t it? Well, helva it turns out is an Eritrean ethnic food. Maybe they were trying to trick authorities into thinking the helva was not suspicious since Eritreans are known to eat helva. Plus, some might say it would be nitpicking to point out that federal agents, in first contacts with the Eritrean refugees, used an interpreter that did not speak their Kunama language, thus leading to faulty linguistic interpretations.

Now the three are trying to overcome the false “terrorist” label affixed to them in public opinion. This smear is now an obstacle to employment, nine months later, and months after all charges were suddenly dropped. An article in The Republic looks at the aftermath of the false charges:

Civil war drove Shullu Gorado from his home in Eritrea, a small country on the Horn of Africa, and landed him — like most Kunama — in a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was no kinder to the refugees than their war-torn homeland, but the United States welcomed the Kunama people, promising safety and the opportunity for a new life to the former farmers and shepherds. In four years,Gorado rose steadily through the ranks at a local supermarket, stashing away savings and taking general-education and English-language classes as he worked toward a new future in a new country.

But after being arrested on suspicion of plotting to sneak a hoax explosive device through airport security, serving two months in a federal detention facility, then having the charges against him dropped in December, Gorado and Asa Shani are branded as terrorists in the eyes of many. Among those viewing them with suspicion, they say, are prospective employers who need only perform a perfunctory Internet search to find coverage of their arrests… Read more here

Posted in Eritrean, FBI, Phoenix, police, security/terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

FBI ‘community outreach’ to foster trust and generate goodwill?

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 29, 2012

Documents uncovered by The Associated Press revealed that the New York Police Department conducted an extensive surveillance campaign of the Muslim population in the northeast. Now it turns out that the FBI in San Francisco used a public relations program announced as “mosque outreach” to collect information on the religious views and practices of Muslims in Northern California. The claimed intention of the FBI outreach programs was to foster trust between law enforcers and members of the Muslim community so they could work together to fight crime and avert terrorism. We learn now, however, that the FBI was operating the community outreach in Northern California as part of a secret and systematic intelligence gathering program, and conducted without any apparent evidence of wrongdoing. The legacy of this deception will, no doubt, be to undermine trust for genuine outreach programs. An article at has the story:

The FBI in San Francisco used a public relations program billed as “mosque outreach” to collect information on the religious views and practices of Muslims in Northern California and then shared the intelligence with other government agencies, according to FBI documents obtained by civil rights groups.

The heavily redacted documents, released after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, raise “grave constitutional concerns,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“In San Francisco, we have found that community outreach was being run out of the FBI’s intelligence division and was part of a secret and systematic intelligence gathering program,” conducted without any apparent evidence of wrongdoing,” said Shamsi. “The bureau’s documentation of religious leaders’ and congregants’ beliefs and practices violates the Privacy Act, which Congress passed to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights.”…

…The documents indicate that FBI was keeping records of conversations and activities within mosques and other Muslim organizations from 2004 through 2008, information that was provided by employees engaged in the outreach programs.

The announced intention of the FBI outreach programs is to foster trust between law enforcers and members of the Muslim community so they can work together to fight crime and avert terrorism…

…documents still under analysis by the ACLU indicate FBI San Francisco continued to mingle outreach and intelligence gathering through 2011, according to Shimsa.

The documents undermine trust for genuine outreach programs, said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that makes policy recommendations to lawmakers and leaders.

“I think the recent documents further underscore how well-intentioned community leaders who talk with the FBI are instead the targets of this broad, intelligence-gathering effort,” she said. “It’s easy to see then how that community leader who had a conversation with an FBI agent finds himself being harassed when traveling or crossing borders.”

“These documents are illustrating the actual experiences of American Muslims that we have been hearing for a number of years now,” she added…

…Rules governing FBI surveillance were relaxed in 2008 to give more leeway to FBI “assessments” — a stage of surveillance that takes place before the opening of a formal investigation. These more lenient standards, critics say, allow information gathering on individuals without probable cause.

Rights groups are asking the Department of Justice to restore stricter rules on surveillance and to prohibit racial and religious profiling in all cases.

“What we need is for the FBI to go back to the standards set after the Hoover-era abuses.… guidelines put in place that required the FBI to engage in surveillance only if there’s evidence of wrongdoing,” said Khera of Muslim Advocates. Read more here

Posted in California, FBI, Muslim, NYC, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, security/terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NYPD Apparently Targeting Buffalo-Area Citizens and Refugee Population Based On Ethnicity and Religion, Not Criminal Activity

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 18, 2012

It seems that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has focused on Buffalo-area Muslims and Somalis (including people and citizens resettled as refugees), not based upon on known criminal activity, but instead based upon these people’s ethnicity and religion. Although the NYPD, unlike the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department need not predicate domestic surveillance on information that their target is engaged or about to engage in criminal activity, the NYPD did not fully consult with local police and other federal security agencies about its activities in Buffalo. There is no sign that the Strategic Intelligence Unit announced its activities to the Buffalo area’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a cooperative effort that includes federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. There is also the concern that actions by the NYPD could be jeopardizing the good relationship that local law enforcement authorities have with the local Somali and Muslim populations, including US citizens. An article at the Buffalo News explains:

The New York City Police Department’s focus on Buffalo-area Muslims continues to this day. Further, an internal document indicates the surveillance began even before NYPD detectives met with the Erie County undersheriff in December 2008 to describe their “Somalia Project.”…

…At the same time, there is no sign that the Strategic Intelligence Unit announced its activities to the Buffalo area’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a cooperative effort that includes federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Associated Press in recent months revealed the NYPD’s covert efforts to examine Muslim businesses, infiltrate mosques and keep an eye on Muslim students on college campuses, not just in New York City but in locations around the Northeast. The Muslim Student Association website at the University of Buffalo was among those monitored, a separate NYPD document shows.

The NYPD calls its surveillance and intelligence-gathering legal and necessary and does not apologize for the program. The department after 9/11 determined it “could not rely solely on the federal government” for its defense. Says Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly: “Our primary mission, our primary goal, is to keep this city safe.”

Yet ethnicity and religion, not criminal activity, seem to have sparked the NYPD’s interest around the Northeast, including Buffalo…

…Unlike the NYPD, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department must predicate domestic surveillance on information that their target is engaged or about to engage in criminal activity.

“I can tell you that we don’t predicate any investigation based on somebody’s race, or color, or national origin, or on the exercise of their First Amendment rights,” said William J. Hochul, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. “In terms of the bigger picture, why was the NYPD doing what it was? I don’t have all the details.”…

…If the NYPD did not provide a heads-up on its activities to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, it should have, said a former agent-in-charge here for the FBI.

“If I had still been up there that would have bothered me a lot,” said Peter J. Ahearn, who headed the FBI office in Buffalo from 2001 to 2006 and now works as a consultant helping businesses deal with government. “With the reputation the NYPD does have, and I know this factually, they will do different things in cities around the country and not even let law enforcement know they are there.

“There are reasons to be concerned,” he said. “If you are not talking to law enforcement, and the local police department rolls up on you, it creates an officer-safety issue. Also it can prove detrimental to the efforts that the local law enforcement community is making in the Muslim community. We had some very good community outreach up there.”

Dr. Khalid Qazi, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, agrees.

“This is all related to the security of the homeland, I don’t have any doubt about that,” he said of the NYPD’s foray into Buffalo. “The only question in my mind is, when we are working very cooperatively, and in a very proactive fashion for the security of the homeland, whether these types of actions are counterproductive.

“And I guess the issue always will be, where do we stop so we don’t compromise the civil rights and civil liberties of innocent Americans?”…

…Yahye Y. Omar, chairman of the Imams Council of Western New York, also is active on the West Side, especially as executive director of HEAL — Help Everyone Achieve Livelihood — a nonprofit that helps immigrants and refugees.

He is engaged in a long-standing effort to make the Islamic way of life less mysterious to outsiders, and to encourage Somali youth to consider how they can enrich their community.

In 2010, he helped establish a law enforcement education program for Somali high school and college students. It brought in representatives from the FBI, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and the State Police to speak about the role of law enforcement, and careers. On a wall of his office, Omar has proudly placed a photo of a local Somali now with the Baltimore Police Department…

…Omar expressed [his] sentiments about the NYPD surveillance…why does the New York police force need contacts in the Somali and Muslim community here after its members have cooperated so much with local authorities?… Read more here

Posted in Buffalo, Dept of Homeland Security, Dept. of Justice, FBI, Muslim, NYC, security/terrorism, Somali | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Recasting Freedom Fighters As Terrorists?

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2012

A federal grand jury has indicted an Uzbek refugee living in Denver for alleged material support to an Uzbekistan group that the U.S. State Department designates a foreign terrorist organization. But the group is fighting the Uzbekistan dictatorship that U.S. diplomats spoke out against for its indiscriminate use of force after police mowed down hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators in 2005. The regime practices torture of activists and ordinary citizens using electric shock, boiling water and the threat of rape and sexual humiliation, thus radicalizing many Uzbeks. A professor calls the Uzbek dictator one of the world’s worst human-rights violators. (Reminds me of the US government’s help in creating the Iranian Islamic regime via support for the Shah of Iran’s widespread repression and human rights abuses.) Human Rights Watch claims that the material-support law is overbroad and that it’s a problem if our government uses the law improperly against anybody who was not actually involved in terrorism. An article in The Denver Post explains the story:

AURORA — The Uzbek refugee facing terrorism charges in Denver was a merchant turned human-rights activist who tried to defend farmers, opposed Uzbekistan’s dictator after a 2005 massacre, endured a detention that left him bloody, saw his sister arrested on a false murder charge…

The plight of Jamshid Muhtorov, 35, looked so bleak that the United Nations and U.S. government rescued him, along with his wife and two small children. U.S. authorities gave Muhtorov a comfortable new perch in Colorado…

But now the same government that rescued Muhtorov is prosecuting him under a law that prohibits “material support” for terrorists.

FBI agents arrested him in Chicago on Jan. 21 while he was en route to Turkey. A federal grand jury indicted him for allegedly providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union — which the U.S. State Department has designated a foreign terrorist organization — and attempting to provide material support.

It’s a complicated case that raises questions about the fine line between freedom fighter and terrorist. The portrait of Muhtorov that emerges from State Department reports — including a leaked diplomatic cable, and from interviews with human-rights colleagues — is one of an idealist forced to flee for his life. He — like Libyans, Egyptians and others — remained keenly aware of the continuing repression and fight for freedom back home…

 …A federal affidavit does not reveal much about the substance of his alleged material support...

The law [that prohibits “material support” for terrorists] is controversial.

“Human Rights Watch definitely has concerns that the material-support law is overbroad,” said Laura Pitter, an adviser on counterterrorism for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, which worked with Muhtorov inside Uzbekistan. “If the material-support law was being used improperly against somebody who was not actually involved in terrorism, then that would be a problem.”…

 …In 2005, U.S. diplomats spoke out publicly against Uzbekistan’s indiscriminate use of force when police mowed down hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators at Andijan, near where Muhtorov was working.

Since then, [Uzbekistan’s dictator, Islam Karimov’s] repression has intensified and includes torture of activists and ordinary citizens using electric shock, boiling water and the threat of rape and sexual humiliation, said Hugh Williamson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division...

“The longstanding dictator of Uzbekistan is one of the worst human-rights violators in the world,” said Nader Hashemi, an assistant professor at the University of Denver who studies Middle East and Islamic affairs.

Ruthless torture and oppression by Karimov “have radicalized a lot of Uzbeks who are seeking a revolutionary change. The IJU emerges out of that political context,” Hashemi said.

While union members have been charged with attacks on U.S. and German targets overseas and could have links to al-Qaeda, “Muhtorov may not have any intention of committing a terrorist act against Americans. It depends on where he was flying to and what the objective of the mission was,” he said.

“My sense is the target of his ire and his angst is back in his native country. If he was targeting Western forces, that would raise serious concerns,” Hashemi said. “But if one wants to be objective, it would be highly irresponsible for someone to render a judgment on this case without bringing it back to Uzbekistan and the political regime there.” Read more here

Posted in Denver, FBI, Human Rights Watch, Muslim, police, security/terrorism, Uzbek | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The downside of resettling large numbers of refugees in a location in a relatively short period

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 9, 2011

An in-depth article on the events surrounding the December 2009 attack on dozens of Asian refugee children at a south Philadelphia school, that resulted in 13 refugee children taken to the emergency room, reveals the extent that teachers, the principle, security guards and other staff were present and unresponsive as the attacks occurred. Refugee students report that the principle disappeared while walking children home just before vicious beatings took place. Teachers and cafeteria staff called the students “Yo Dragonball” or “Yo Chinese” and even mocked their accents. The School District of Philadelphia also apparently has an ongoing pattern of unresponsiveness to reports of students bullying refugee students, despite an early 2011 settlement with the Justice Department.

The article also points to relatively large number of refugees from Burma/Myanmar that the State Department resettled in a relatively short period, which the school district was not ready to accommodate. These are some of the considerations the State Department needs to make when reading glowing annual resettlement proposals from their private resettlement contractors

We should not underestimate the catastrophic long-term damage to refugees resulting from these brutalities during their formative years. The article points out that bullying can lead to a lifetime of low self-worth, suicide attempt or depression, and that doesn’t even consider the trauma, tumult and deprivation that refugee have already endured before their resettlement. Hyphen Magazine magazine published this article:

On a cold December day in 2009, just weeks before Christmas, 15-year-old Trang Dang was walking home from school with her sister and eight friends, all recent Vietnamese immigrants. Also part of their group: the principal of their school.

Dang, who is 5’9” with a medium build and a dimpled, contagious smile, asked the principal to accompany them because she and the others were terrified by the intense bullying and violence against Asian students that had taken place earlier that day at their school, South Philadelphia High School. Midway through the walk, the principal, LaGreta Brown, disappeared, Dang said. “She walked to the corner with us and then we didn’t see her anymore,” Dang said. They debated whether to stay or continue walking. “Our friends said if we stand here, we’ll get in trouble,” Dang said. So they opted to try to make it home that day on their own.

They never did.

About half a block from school, a mob of at least two dozen students started chasing them. Dang was the first to be caught. She was punched in the face, shattering her glasses. “It was a quick hit and then they ran,” she said. “After I got hit, then my mind just went blank. I was crying. It wasn’t that painful, I think, but I don’t really remember. I think because I’ve tried to forget about that day.” The entire group was cornered, and all were hit. Dang still doesn’t know for sure why the principal seemingly left the group…

…The entire day, roving gangs of high schoolers searched for and attacked Asian teenagers in a nightmarish ordeal. Most of the attacks took place on the premises of this poor school in south Philadelphia while teachers, security guards and other staff were present.

In total, at least 26 Asian immigrant students were physically assaulted in a series of violent conflicts. Thirteen Asian students ended up in the emergency room for injuries ranging from a broken nose to black eyes. One had to have surgery because he could no longer breathe through his nose…

…Some speculate that the ethnic tensions at the school can be attributed to lack of adult intervention, adults modeling bad behavior such as racially charged name calling, stereotypes and an influx of Asian students in a relatively short time period without the school or district adequately addressing the changes…

…In the last five years, there were 534 documented assaults at the school, more than any other in the district…

…In some cases, bullying can lead to thoughts of suicide, according to Eliza Noh, an Asian American studies professor at California State University, Fullerton, who has studied suicide among Asian Americans. “Some Asian American women I interviewed reported being victims of racist bullying when they were young, contributing to their low self-worth, suicide attempt or depression later in life,” Noh said. Liu pointed out bullying victims are essentially trauma victims who experience post-traumatic stress disorder similar to war veterans. He warned that young people may experience psychosomatic symptoms like feeling ill, as well as hypervigilance, heightened startled responses, depression and social withdrawal… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Burma/Myanmar, capacity, children, dangerous neighborhoods, Dept. of Justice, FBI, mental health, Philadelphia, safety, schools, State Department, teenagers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Government rescreening more than 58,000 Iraqi refugees in U.S.

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 25, 2011

The Los Angeles Times has a recent article about new procedures the federal government has instituted which will rescreen 58,000 Iraqi refugees who have already been resettled to the U.S. The recheck will include a smaller number of refugees from Yemen, Somalia and other countries where terrorist groups are active.

Reporting from Washington— In a far-reaching inquiry, authorities are rescreening more than 58,000 Iraqi refugees living in the United States amid concerns that lapses in immigration security may have allowed former insurgents and potential terrorists to enter the country, U.S. officials said.

The investigation was given added urgency after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and Yemen had tried to target the U.S. refugee
stream, or exploit other immigration loopholes, in an attempt to infiltrate the country with operatives.

..So far, immigration authorities have given the FBI about 300 names of Iraqi refugees for further investigation. The FBI won’t say whether any have been arrested or pose a potential threat.

The individuals may have only tenuous links to known or suspected terrorists. The names were identified when authorities rechecked phone numbers, email addresses, fingerprints, iris scans and other data in immigration files of Iraqis given asylum since the war began in 2003.

They checked the data against military, law enforcement and intelligence databases that were not available or were not utilized during the initial screening process, or were not searched using sufficient Arabic spelling and name variations.

It addition to the Iraqis, authorities have rescreened a smaller number of refugees from Yemen, Somalia and other countries where terrorist groups are active.

…The enhanced screening procedures have caused a logjam in regular visa admissions from Iraq, even for those who risked their lives to aid American troops and who now fear reprisals as the Obama administration winds down the U.S. military presence… Read more here

Posted in Dept of Homeland Security, FBI, government, Iraqi, security/terrorism, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants, Somali, The List Project | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Did the FBI successfully thwart its own terrorist plot?

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 28, 2010

The media is flooding the nation with reports about the so-called 19-year-old Somali terrorist in Portland who was planning on blowing up a Christmas tree lighting event. He came to the U.S. at age 3 as a refugee. I’ve been thinking about this story and it bothers me how much time and effort and money the FBI agents used to entice this teenager into the plot. The agents helped him to create the plot which he had no knowledge, ability or means to do on his own. People who knew Mohamed Osman Mohamud report that he was a sweet child who always had a smile on his face. According to an article in The Oregonian as a teenager he was known for being smart, quiet, never violent, and enjoyed playing basketball.    

…”He was a good kid who made good grades,” Stephanie Napier said of Mohamud. The Napiers described him as an intelligent, polite, quiet teen who graduated early from Westview High School and moved to Corvallis for college.

Their impression of Mohamud lines up with that of a wide range of friends and acquaintances who have known the accused would-be bomber from grade school in Portland, high school in Beaverton and college in Corvallis.

While legal documents paint him as someone bent on mass destruction, friends says he is a quiet, smart young man; an avid basketball player; and proud of his Muslim faith.

They say his father was heavily involved in the Somali community but that his family was friendly and had a modern lifestyle.

But none ever saw anything to indicate he might have a radical side.

The Napiers came to know Mohamud and his parents, Mariam and Osman Barre, during the two years the families were neighbors.

They said the couple seemed to have a happy home with three well-behaved children. Mariam and her teenage daughter, Mona, were especially close with Stephanie Napier. In fact, Mona babysat Marcus, the Napier’s now 9-year-old son.

Portland Bombing Suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s Neighbors The Napier family lived across the street from the family of Mohamed Osman Mohamud…

…The Napiers said Mohamud’s family moved away sometime in the summer of 2009, around the time that Mariam Barre and Osman Barre split up, she said.

“He was a quiet kid, but with his folks splitting up, who knows,” Adam Napier said…He speculated that Mohamud may have been recruited into terrorist violence: he said that in training for the Army, he learned terrorist organizations often target loners or those with no family – young kids with nothing to lose…Read more here

So far we don’t know anything about his side of what happened. The media are relying entirely on a FBI affidavit for their breathless and exciting stories, although omitting information that points to a reason why this otherwise well-behaved 19-year-old boy would want to hurt civilians, including children. Glenn Greenwald writing for analyzes this further.

The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who — with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI’s own undercover agents — allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon.  Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it.  Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

What’s missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism… Read more here

What could have gone wrong with this boy? Anger and emotional turmoil of his parent’s divorce? Mental illness? Young people, loners, people alienated from their families, and people mentally ill with depression, psychosis or other are all quite vulnerable, and criminals and terrorists are able to influence them with their ideas. Should we be enticing alienated, misguided, or mentally ill young people into criminal plots or should we be offering them help and treatment? It seems that an incredible amount of manpower and money went into this operation to destroy this young person’s life, when instead we could have used just a fraction of that money to guide him, treat him, help him. What scares me is the number of people we have in our society who fulfill their unseemly urge for power by trying to destroy other people’s lives, including the life of this teenager who had his whole life before him. I don’t think that is what this country should stand for. Call me naïve but I always believed in the U.S. Constitution and the principles for which we stand, even though I have often seen much contradiction in our society.

Posted in FBI, mental health, Muslim, Oregon, Portland, Somali, teenagers | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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