Thursday, September 27, 2012
PORTLAND (AP) — In the year before his arrest, terror suspect Mohamed Mohamud sent more than 11,000 text messages. He was watched by FBI agents, his calls were monitored, and his emails were tracked.
Now, his defense team wants records of that surveillance — records the government has said it possesses but claims it doesn’t have to provide to Mohamud.
The back-and-forth played out in federal court this week with testimony and tough cross-examination of two FBI agents who headed the investigation of Mohamud that culminated in his dramatic November 2010 arrest during a Portland Christmas-tree lighting ceremony.
Prosecutors say Mohamud was attempting to detonate a bomb, though his co-conspirators were in fact undercover FBI agents and the bomb they placed at the scene and told Mohamud to detonate with a cellphone was a fake.
The fight over the records is part of a larger battle the defense is waging as it seeks to keep certain statements made by Mohamud from a jury during a trial scheduled for January.
On Wednesday, former FBI agent Chris Henderson testified that he didn’t recall many aspects of the investigation leading to the arrest, including details about a day in June 2010 when Mohamud was turned away from an Alaska Airlines flight at Portland International Airport.
The FBI was watching the whole time, Henderson testified, and agents took that opportunity to interview Mohamud and his parents.
Federal public defender Steve Wax asked Henderson whether he remembered assembling a report in anticipation of the airport encounter — something the defense would request if it could confirm its existence. Henderson said he didn’t remember doing so. “Two years ago, no recall,” Wax said.
“That’s correct,” Henderson replied.
“This is precisely the type of concern that we have,” Wax told U.S. District Court Judge Garr King.
Wax said that the government has only provided about 1,000 of the 11,000 text messages sent by Mohamud.
King should review those documents and thousands of others that the defense believes exist concerning the investigation of Mohamud and determine whether any would be helpful.