SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday strongly defended undercover sting tactics like those used last month to capture an Oregon man charged with trying to plant a fake bomb at a holiday festival.
“These types of operations have proven to be an essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks,” Holder told the annual dinner of San Francisco Bay Area community group Muslim Advocates, according to a prepared text of his remarks.
The comments came in a speech broadly focused on a call for better relations between Muslims and law enforcement and a promise to prosecute hate crimes.
Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was charged last month with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction after he tried to blow up what he thought was a car bomb, supplied to him by undercover agents.
Mohamud’s lawyer has said agents were “grooming” his client for arrest and seeking publicity, a position which taps into concerns that Muslims in the United States are being targeted and stereotyped by authorities and average Americans.
“I make no apologies for how the FBI agents handled their work in executing the operation,” Holder said in the remarks released before he spoke.
“Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as ‘entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight — or do not have a full understanding of the law,” he added.
A Baltimore man also was arrested earlier this week on charges he plotted to detonate a vehicle bomb at an Armed Forces recruiting center in a separate case involving an undercover FBI agent.
Holder acknowledged that some Muslims and Arab Americans felt they were not being treated respectfully by authorities and Americans, and said the government should reach out to those communities even as it pursues “potential terrorists.”
The government has increased prosecution of hate crimes, but in some parts of the country “We know that we have more work to do to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and those in Muslim and Arab-American communities,” he said.
Reporting by Peter Henderson; editing by Mohammad Zargham