nationalsecuritylaw ep. 80

June 27, 2018

Hello from Austin, and welcome to Episode 80 of the national security law podcast, brought to you by the Strauss Center at the University of Texas. It’s Wed. morning June 27, I’m Bobby Chesney….

1. SCOTUS-PALOOZA

a. Carpenter

5-4 majority, Roberts writes that REOP applies to collection of (eventually-)comprehensive location data generated by historic CSLI, at least where the scale of the collection encompasses 7 or more days worth of movement.

Open question: what about real-time CSLI tracking? What about 6 or fewer days? What about other types of third-party records?

Key idea: third-party doctrine already wasn’t bright line rule where content was involved, but it seemed so with metadata, but no longer. Roberts says this is about the newly-possible thorugh tech

Q: What does this portend for third-party records sought for intelligence purposes instead of law enforcement—is the Court heading towards answering whether there’s an FI (not nat sec, but FI) exception to the warrant requirement, and if so will there be a primary purpose test after all (as the Fourth Circuit concluded in the case of David Truong, who spied for North Vietnam)?

Roberts expressly withheld opinion on searches involving FI, carrying on the Katz and Keith tradition.

David Kris at Lawfare reviews how the CSLI ruling carries over to FISA tools used for same purpose. Interestingly, this underscores how FISA is a constrainer as much as enabler….

Q: Predictions on next third-party record category to get this treatment? Note issue of predictability/voluntariness/avoidability

b. Travel Ban

Q: What species of deference, if any, was at work here?

Q: What doctrinal rule, if any, does the majority give us regarding when a Tweet or speech by POTUS (pre or post election) count as evidence of the government’s intent/motive?

Ct assumed without deciding that extrinsic evidence of intent was relevant, but still it was RB review and there was non-arbitrary basis…

Q: Korematsu formally overruled, or is this dicta? Let’s unpack the holdings & dicta from Korematsu…

Roberts:

Finally, the dissent invokes Korematsu v. United States, 323 U. S. 214 (1944). Whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so, Korematsu has nothing to do with this case. The forcible relocation of U. S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority. But it is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission. See post, at 26–28. The entry suspension is an act that is well within executive authority and could have been taken by any other President—the only question is evaluating the actions of this particular President in promulgating an otherwise valid Proclamation. The dissent’s reference to Korematsu, however, affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—“has no place in law under the Constitution.” 323 U. S., at 248 (Jackson, J., dissenting).

c. Dalmazzi

d. Note: Govt files cert opposition in Paracha v. U.S (whether GTMO transfer constraints = bills of attainder)

Odd case. Saifullah Paracha held as an EC at GTMO for a long time, and has a habeas case that as I understand may not yet be resolved . At one point, he moved for SJM, and included in that motion arguments cahlenging a boatload of GTMO transfer restrictions, calling them bills of attainder. DCT rejected that argument, reasoning first that Paracha has no Article III standing bc he could not show that he’s injured by these constraints (makes sense as to some, but perhaps not all…), and then anyway the 28 USC 2241(e)(2) bars such claims. Didn’t reach merits. Circuit summarily affirmed on the statutory ground only. Now Paracha seeks cert to review both the merits of the bill of attainder and the Article III standing, neither of which the Circuit addressed. So odd! No grant likely.

any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination. 28 U.S.C. 2241(e)(2). The district court concluded that Section 2241(e)(2) deprived it of jurisdiction over petitioner’s bill-ofattainder claims, which “obviously ‘relate[]’ to his confinement.” Pet. App. 5-6 & n.3. The court added that the bill-of-attainder claims were non-habeas claims within the scope of Section 2241(e)(2), because they do “not actually challenge the legality of [petitioner’s] confinement” or “any aspect of the place or conditions of his confinement” and thus do “‘not sound in habeas.’”

Seeking cert now, and govt just filed his opposition brief with both the standing/jd arguments and a merits claim that this is not a bill of attainder anyway. Stay tuned. I don’t expect a grant.

2. Doe v. Mattis update

3. Quick DOJ NSD roundup (new material support case developments)

a. US v. Goldberg (M.D. Fla.) – Joshua Ryne Goldberg was sentenced to 10 years for attempted malicious damage and destruction by an explosive of a building. Goldberg pleaded guilty on Dec. 20, 2017. According to the plea agreement, in the summer of 2015, the FBI and law enforcement officers from Australia began investigating the online name “AusWitness” and determined that it was Goldberg. He had come to the attention of law enforcement due in part to his postings concerning the May 3, 2015, attack by two gunmen at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas. Prior to the attack, Goldberg posted a map of the location of the contest and urged anyone in the area to attack the event. Goldberg’s posting was copied by gunman Elton Simpson, one of the two individuals killed during the May 3, 2015, attack. The FBI later located an online posting in which Goldberg took responsibility for inspiring the Garland attack, as well as two other planned attacks. In late July 2015, an FBI confidential human source (CHS) began exchanging messages with Goldberg as “AusWitness” on social media. Between July and mid-August 2015, Goldberg discussed getting an individual in Melbourne, Australia to carry out a terrorist attack and to have the CHS commit a bombing in the United States. During portions of those conversations, Goldberg sent the CHS five website links containing instructions for making an explosive device, including pipe bombs and other incendiary devices. On Aug. 20, 2015, Goldberg stated that he was thinking of pipe bombs at a large public event and later said that a pressure cooker bomb may be better. Later that month, Goldberg told the CHS that he had found the “perfect place” to target on Sept. 13, 2015, and sent the CHS a link to a Kansas City, Missouri firefighter’s event that memorialized first responders that had been killed in the September 11th attacks. On Aug. 27, 2015, Goldberg instructed the CHS to place the bomb near the crowd at the memorial event and to ensure it was very well hidden. The following day, Goldberg provided the CHS with a list of items to use in the pressure cooker bomb, including shards of metal, nails and broken glass. He then instructed the CHS to dip screws and other shrapnel in rat poison before putting them in the pressure cooker bomb in order to inflict more casualties. Goldberg stated he would post a video of the bombing. A forensic analysis of the bomb making information determined that it could have been used to make explosives that would cause property damage, personal injury and/or death.

b. United States v. Muhtorov (D. Col.) –

Jamshid Muktorov was arrested in 2012 on suspicion of trying to fly to Uzbekistan to joint eh Islamic Jihad Union. Held pre-trial for some five years, as issues with suppression motions played out. Finally prosecuted: ederal prosecutor Greg Holloway told jurors that Jamshid Muhtorov had sworn allegiance to the Islamic Jihad Union shortly before asking his daughter to pray that he die a martyr in a holy war. FBI agents arrested him on Jan. 21, 2012 in Chicago as he was trying to board a plane to Turkey. He was carrying $2,865 and recently purchased electronic equipment, including two iPhones, a GPS device and an iPad tablet, for the IJU. He intended to become a propaganda expert. “‘Yeah, but what I really want to do is go fight and lose my life in the jihad,’” Holloway quoted Muhtorov as telling codefendant and fellow Ubekistan refugee Bakhityor Jumaev in a phone conversation recorded by the FBI. “We’ll raise the banner of jihad with a weapon in one hand and a Koran in the other.”

Jamshid Muhtorov guilty on three counts involving material support to a terrorist organization. The guilty verdicts come after a 19-day trial before Senior U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane. The defendant was acquitted of an additional count. – conspired and attempted to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a designated foreign terrorist organization, On April 30, 2018, a jury in the U.S. District Court found Muhtorov’s co-defendant, Bakhtiyor Jumaev, guilty of similar charges. GET MORE DETAILS

c. United States v. Al-Ghazi (N.D. Ohio) – Amir Said Rahman Al-Ghazi, 41, aka Robert C. McCollum, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for one count of providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms. al-Ghazi, who changed his name from Robert McCollum last year, pledged his support to ISIS and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi via social media in 2014. From July 2014 to June 2015, Al-Ghazi made multiple statements trying to persuade others to join ISIS. He also expressed his own desire to perpetrate an attack on the United States and had attempted to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle. Al-Ghazi has communicated with individuals he believed to be members of ISIS in the Middle East and took steps to create propaganda videos for ISIS, according to court documents.

d. United States v. Sayyed (N.D. Ala.) Aziz Ihab Sayyed, 23, sentenced today to 15 years in prison followed by lifetime supervised release for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Sayyed pleaded guilty in March to the terrorism charge. According to Sayyed’s plea agreement with the government, he attempted to provide services and personnel, namely himself, to ISIS. He acknowledged that he bought bomb-building ingredients in 2017, that he stated his aspirations to conduct ISIS-inspired attacks on police stations and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, and that he attempted to form a cell to conduct violent acts within the United States. Between January and June of 2017 in Madison County, Sayyed, a U.S. citizen, obtained and viewed ISIS propaganda videos depicting ISIS forces committing bombings, executions by gunshot and beheading, and other violent acts. Sayyed shared the videos and expressed his support for ISIS and for ISIS terrorist attacks around the world, according to his plea agreement. Sayyed researched and learned how to make triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a highly volatile and extremely dangerous explosive material. He then purchased the necessary ingredients for the explosive, and professed his aspiration to use TATP in an explosive belt or a car bomb. On June 13, 2017, Sayyed met with an individual he understood to be an ISIS member. In fact, the person was an undercover employee of the FBI. Sayyed and the undercover employee discussed the danger of TATP, ISIS’s preference for the use of certain explosives, and Sayyed’s desire to assist ISIS, according to the plea agreement. In that meeting, Sayyed offered to personally carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS.

e. United States v. Ahmed (E.D.N.Y.) Parveg Ahmed, 22, of Queens, New York, pleaded guilty today to attempting to provide material support or resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. As detailed in publicly filed court documents, the defendant is a U.S. citizen who traveled to Saudi Arabia in June 2017, purportedly to celebrate an Islamic religious holiday. Upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia, the defendant attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS. The defendant was apprehended in a country bordering Syria, during his attempted travel to ISIS-controlled territory. Ahmed was deported back to the United States on Aug. 28, 2017, where he was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. {NOTE ANALOGY TO DOE! Prior to his travel, the defendant had repeatedly expressed support on social media for ISIS and for individuals who provided support to the foreign terrorist organization’s mission of violent extremism. On July 17, 2017, JTTF agents obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s personal computer, and learned, among other things, that the defendant had viewed or listened to recordings of radical Islamic clerics Anwar al-Awlaki and Abdullah el-Faisal. Additionally, agents learned that, on the same day the defendant left the United States for the Middle East, the defendant researched how to erase the data on his computer. The defendant faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison at sentencing. AGAIN: A LOT LIKE DOE???

4. More NDAA highlights:

a. I did a post last week on section 1621, which is mostly hortatory but has an interesting directive to executive branch to “demonstrate” our cyber capabilities

b. By tomorrow, I *should* have a new post on various other NDAA measures that impact military cyber oversight and authorities in interesting ways.

5. FRIVOLITY: review of Solo?

Best

When Han Met Chewie: What a fun meet-cute, with the “fight of pretend” bad translation worthy of ___ trying to propose to Aralia in Portugeuse towards the end of Love Actually

Danny Glover channels Billy Dee Williams very, very well as young Lando.

Worst

Darth Maul: both bc it’s annoying to see ANYTHING from Phantom Menace and bc this raises timeline questions. Darth Maul dies in Phantom Menace, while Anikin is 7 or so. I’m not sure if there’s an official timeline for how many years between then and A New Hope when Han turns up in Mos Eisley, nor how many years between the end of Solo and Phantome Menace. Surely 15-20? Wouldn’t that make Han a bit old in New Hope?

Not sure how I feel

___ (robot): I loved her, but dammit I also loved __ in Rogue One and this was the same damn robot, but with a differently-gendered personality program. Appreciated the human-robot romance angle, though.

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nationalsecuritylaw ep. 80

June 27, 2018

Friends…I’m so sorry, I did not mean to send out my show notes for today’s NSL Podcast episode!!! Very embarrassed…

On Jun 27, 2018, at 12:51 PM, Chesney, Robert M <rchesney> wrote:


nationalsecuritylaw the end of the National Security Law listserv

June 14, 2018

Dear friends and colleagues,

You may have noticed that I’ve stopped circulating clips announcing developments in recent terrorism-related cases.

I’m sorry about that, and regret to report that I’m shutting down the ol’ listserv after much more than a decade in operation.

No action needed on your part. You just won’t get further emails from me. Or, I should say, you won’t often get them; I’ll keep the system in place in case it somehow becomes useful again in the future.

Meanwhile, I should underscore that I’m not turning my attention away from national security law. Rather the opposite.

On the scholarship side, I’m drawing close at last to finishing the manuscript of the book I’ve been writing for many years now. It’s a history of how the law has developed over time in relation to the power of the state to kill or detain in the name of national security, starting in (not kidding) the late Roman Empire and running to September 11, 2001. It’s been a genuine labor of love, and I’m deeply excited to hear what others think of it. Indeed, I’ll probably send a note out via this listserve sometime next spring, with more information about the publication date.

As for the daily deluge of national security legal news? I still obsess over all of it, and have three ways I try to share it all:

1. The weekly podcast that I co-host with my colleague and friend here at UT, Steve Vladeck. Every week, we record an hour-long review of the latest national security law news (periodically including snapshots of terrorism-related case developments). We sometimes agree, but often debate; we think it’s important to show how people can debate these issues with respect and admiration from one another, and try to model that. Oh, I should admit: we’re quick to digress, and insist on maintaining a happy tone that sometimes is a bit incongruous with the subject. Some say we’re like Car Talk, but with national security topics and no callers. The show is creatively entitled “The National Security Law Podcast,” and you can access through its homepage here (https://www.nationalsecuritylawpodcast.com), iTunes here (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-national-security-law-podcast/id1201314368?mt=2), and all sorts of other places. We’ve got about 7500 weekly listeners at this point, and would love for you to give it a shot (and spread the word to others).

2. Lawfare (www.lawfareblog.com). What Ben Wittes, Jack Goldsmith, and I started long ago has grown…bigger. Lawfare is not going anywhere, and you can find me writing there on all the classic national security law issues – and, increasingly, on cybersecurity issues – every week.

3. Last, you might also find my Twitter feed somewhat useful (or perhaps somewhat annoying). I’m @bobbychesney, and I do use it 90% for national security news/commentary.

Well, that’s all. Thanks for being on the other side of these emails all these years. It’s been fun, and I hope you’ve found it useful! (Sincere apologies to those who’ve only joined recently and didn’t get any use from it!)

Signing off,

Bobby

Robert Chesney (website)

James Baker Chair and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs | The University of Texas School of Law

Director | The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law (website)

512.232.1298 | Twitter: @bobbychesney | Blog: www.lawfareblog.com | Scholarship: SSRN page


nationalsecuritylaw with apologies for the delay, here are a number of recent DOJ terrorism-related case developments

March 24, 2018

A number of backlogged case reports, all text from DOJ press releases:

1. United States v. Alahmedalabdaloklah (D. Arizona) (Mar. 17, 2018) (jury conviction of Syrian citizen involved in IED attacks on US soldiers in Iraq)

Today, Ahmed Alahmedalabdaloklah, a Syrian national who had been living in Iraq, was convicted by a jury, following a six-week trial, of conspiring and supporting the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades, an insurgent group that planted road-side bombs to attack and kill American soldiers in Iraq. A jury convicted Alahmedalabdaloklah on Conspiracy to Use a Weapon of Mass Destruction, Conspiring to Maliciously Damage or Destroy United States Property by Means of an Explosive, Aiding and Abetting Other Persons to Possess a Destructive Device in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence, and Conspiracy to Possess a Destructive Device in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence. Sentencing is set for June 5, 2018 before District Judge Roslyn O. Silver.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Elizabeth A. Strange, First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, and Michael Deleon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Phoenix Field Office, made the announcement.

“Alahmedalabdaloklah conspired with a violent Iraqi insurgent group to kill American soldiers in Iraq,” said First Assistant Strange. “Today’s verdict underscores our commitment to use every available resource to bring justice to American soldiers who were killed or injured by such terrorist acts. I commend the FBI and the prosecution team for their tremendous efforts in securing this conviction.”

"The FBI’s highest priority is preventing acts; both in the United States and abroad," said Phoenix FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael DeLeon. "We want to thank the Department of Justice and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, agents, analysts, and both local and foreign partners for working together to bring Ahmed Alahmedalabdaloklah to justice. This is a prime example of the FBI’s commitment to pursuing justice even in the most complex and difficult cases. The FBI also wants to voice our sympathy and condolences to the victims, their families and friends. The FBI will continue our mission of preventing terrorist acts and pursuing those who plan to do us harm. "

Between 2006 and 2011, United States soldiers were deployed to Iraq to support the fledgling Iraqi government and to provide security to the Iraqi people. Multiple insurgent groups, including the 1920 Revolution Brigades (“1920s”), opposed the Iraqi government and committed violent acts in an effort to destabilize Iraq and expel American forces from the country. American soldiers faced daily attacks from snipers, small team ambushes, and deadly improvised explosive devices (“IEDs”) planted along major military supply routes.

Alahmedalabdaloklah supported the 1920s by designing, making, and supplying parts for remote-controlled IED initiator switches for roadside bombs. In August 2006, during a search and seizure weapons clearing mission, American soldiers located an apartment in Baghdad that had been converted into an IED switch-making factory. Soldiers seized numerous items used to detonate IEDs, including receivers, transmitters, cell phones, key fobs, modified hands-free headsets, and ready-to-use IED switches. Over a thousand finger and palm prints belonging to Alahmedalabdaloklah were discovered on the items found there, including instructions for making IEDs.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution was handled by Trial Attorney Joseph Kaster from the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Pimsner, Melissa Karlen, and Bill Solomon, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona.

2. United States v. Ftouhi (E.D. Mich. March 21, 2018) (additional charge involving transnational terrorism)

Amor M. Ftouhi, 50, of Montreal, Canada, who was previously indicted in July 2017, for charges relating to an attack on a Bishop Airport officer in Flint, Michigan, was charged today with an additional offense of committing an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeffery E. Peterson of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office made the announcement.

United States Attorney Schneider stated, “This additional terrorism charge against Mr. Ftouhi shows we will — to the fullest extent of the law — vigorously prosecute terrorists who seek to harm the people of Michigan.”

"Today’s superseding indictment is a clear example of the work done by the Detroit Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to hold accountable those who seek to harm U.S. citizens on behalf of a foreign terrorist group. The indictment speaks to the collaborative efforts of law enforcement and intelligence professionals at the state, local and federal level, as well as the FBI’s close relationship with our international partners in Canada," said Jeffery E. Peterson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI.

According to court records, Mr. Ftouhi entered the United States from Canada for the purpose of killing government personnel in the United States. Before entering the United States on June 16, 2017, while in Canada, Mr. Ftouhi conducted online research of American gun laws and for gun shows in Michigan. Mr. Ftouhi subsequently traveled to Michigan where he was unsuccessful in purchasing a gun and purchased a knife instead. On June 20, 2017, Mr. Ftouhi walked up to the victim, who is a lieutenant with the Bishop Airport Authority and was in full uniform, and stabbed the police officer in the neck with a knife. Mr. Ftouhi referenced killings in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and yelled “Allahu Akbar.” After his arrest, Mr. Ftouhi told law enforcement that he was a “soldier of Allah” and subscribed to the ideology of al-Qaeda and Usama bin Laden.

Ftouhi will be arraigned on the new indictment in federal court in Flint. The defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. Any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

3. United States v. Hendricks (N.D. Ohio March 20, 2018) (jury conviction in ISIS material support case)

Erick Jamal Hendricks, 37, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was convicted today by a jury in Akron, Ohio, of attempting and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The guilty verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Office following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge John Adams.

“Hendricks used social media to recruit others to plan and carry out attacks on our homeland in the name of ISIS, with the goal of creating a sleeper cell on our soil,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of law enforcement, Hendricks’ plan was thwarted, and with today’s verdict he is being held accountable for his terrorist activities.”

“This defendant recruited and directed people here in the United States to launch attacks against our citizens, and attempted to recruit others to engage in similar attacks,” said U.S. Attorney Herdman. “Protecting our citizens from terrorist attacks remains our priority and our community will be safer with this defendant behind bars.”

“Erick Jamal Hendricks represents the significant online ISIS threat that we face daily – a US citizen that becomes radicalized online and attempts to recruit and train individuals to commit jihad, all while on American soil,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “The FBI urges the public to report information regarding individuals pledging their allegiance to ISIS or other identified terrorist groups. The FBI is pleased that Hendricks was stopped before he was successful and now will spend a significant amount of time behind bars.”

According to court documents and trial testimony, Hendricks tried to recruit people to train together and conduct terrorist attacks in the United States on behalf of ISIS.

Amir Al-Ghazi was arrested in the Northern District of Ohio in June 2015 after attempting to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition from an undercover law enforcement officer. Al-Ghazi had pledged allegiance to ISIS in social media and made statements expressing interest in conducting attacks in the U.S.

Hendricks had contacted Al-Ghazi over social media to recruit him in the spring of 2015. Hendricks allegedly told Al-Ghazi that he “needed people” and wanted to meet in person; that there were several “brothers” located in Texas and Mexico; that he was attempting to “get brothers to meet face to face;” and that he wanted “to get brothers to train together,” according to court documents and trial testimony

Al-Ghazi said Hendricks tested his religious knowledge and commitment, inquiring about his willingness to commit “jihad,” to die as a “martyr” and his desire to enter “jannah” (paradise). Al-Ghazi understood these statements to mean that Hendricks was recruiting people to train together for the purpose of conducting a terrorist attack in the U.S. and to see if Al-Ghazi was suitable for recruitment, according to the allegations. Al-Ghazi believed that Hendricks and the “brothers in Texas and Mexico” may have been responsible for a thwarted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, on May 3, 2015, and therefore he decided to stay away from social media for a period following the attack to minimize detection by law enforcement.

Hendricks also communicated over social media with several other people, including an undercover FBI employee (UCE-1). Hendricks on April 16, 2015 instructed UCE-1 to download the document “GPS for the Ghuraba in the U.S.”, which included a section entitled “Final Advice” which advocated that “brothers and sisters” should not allow themselves to go to jail. This section also allegedly encouraged Muslims to die as a “Shaheed” (martyr), to “Boobie trap your homes,” to “lay in wait for them” and to “never leave your home without your AK-47 or M16.” Hendricks also directed UCE-1 to communicate online with other people and stated “It’s hard to sift through brothers;” “Allah chooses only the few;” and “Everyday I do this day in and day out,” according to court documents and trial testimony.

Hendricks told another person that his goal was to create a sleeper cell to be trained and housed at a secure compound that would conduct attacks in the U.S. He mentioned that potential targets included military members whose information had been released by ISIS and the woman who organized the “Draw Prophet Mohammad contest,” and he claimed to have 10 members signed up for his group, according court documents and trial testimony.

On April 23, 2015, Hendricks used social media to contact Elton Simpson, who, along with Nadir Hamid Soofi, was inspired by ISIS and launched the attack on the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” in Garland. Simpson and Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard, before Garland police returned fire and killed both Simpson and Soofi. Hendricks also connected UCE-1 with Simpson via social media, communicated with UCE-1 about the contest in Garland, and directed UCE-1 to go to the contest. Hendricks said: “If you see that pig (meaning the organizer of the contest) make your ‘voice’ heard against her.” He also asked UCE-1 a series of questions related to security at the event, including: “How big is the gathering?” “How many ppl?” “How many police/agents?” “Do you see feds there?’ “Do you see snipers?” and “How many media?” Shortly thereafter, Simpson and Soofi committed the attack on the cartoon drawing contest.

Al-Ghazi previously pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization and being a felon in possession of firearms. He is awaiting sentencing.

Hendricks’ sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s offices in Cleveland; Columbia, South Carolina; Baltimore; and Charlotte, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Maryland, District of South Carolina and the Western District of North Carolina.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd and Mark S. Bennett and Trial Attorney Rebecca Magnone of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

4. United States v. Solano (S.D. Fla. Mar. 15, 2018) (guilty plea in ISIS material support case)

Vicente Adolfo Solano, 53, a citizen of Honduras residing in Miami, pleaded guilty yesterday to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

Solano pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B(a)(1). Sentencing is set for May 30, 2018, at 9:15 a.m. before United States District Judge Paul C. Huck in Miami. Solano faces a statutory maximum sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

According to the stipulated factual basis filed with the Court, in early 2017, Solano told an individual, who later became a Confidential Human Source (“CHS”) for the government, that he was upset with the United States and wanted to conduct an attack in Miami. Later, Solano told this CHS that he wanted to join ISIS.

Solano planned to place and detonate an explosive device in a crowded area of a popular Miami mall. Solano discussed his plot with the CHS and two undercover FBI employees. According to the complaint, Solano provided three videos to the CHS, in which Solano makes pro-ISIS statements and expresses anti-U.S. sentiments. Just prior to his arrest, Solano took possession of what he believed was an explosive device, took steps to arm it, and walked toward a mall entrance in order to carry out his attack. Unbeknownst to Solano, the device was inert and did not pose a risk to the public. Solano was taken into custody prior to entering the Mall.

Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Demers commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen E. Gilbert and Department of Justice Counterterrorism Section Trial Attorney Jolie Zimmerman.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

5. United States v. Lepsky (D.N.J. Mar. 13, 2018) (guilty pleas in ISIS-related case)

A Point Pleasant, New Jersey, man today admitted that he planned to construct and use a pressure cooker bomb in New York on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers announced.

Gregory Lepsky, 20, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, specifically ISIS.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Feb. 21, 2017, Lepsky was arrested by the Point Pleasant Police Department in connection with an incident that occurred that day in his family’s home. Following the arrest, law enforcement officers searched the residence and found a new pressure cooker stored behind a roll of bubble wrap in Lepsky’s bedroom closet.

During searches of computers and other digital evidence linked to Lepsky, law enforcement officers found evidence of Lepsky’s plan to build and detonate a bomb as part of his support for ISIS. During several social media communications, Lepsky told others that he intended to fight on behalf of ISIS and that he would, if necessary, become a martyr by driving a “bunch of explosives” to where the “enemies” could be found and blowing himself up.

Law enforcement officers also located a series of instructions that had been published online by another terrorist group that gave specific, step-by-step instructions on how to build a pressure cooker bomb, which coincided with the delivery of the pressure cooker to Lepsky a short time before his arrest. In addition, law enforcement officers recovered a message forwarded by Lepsky from another ISIS supporter stating that if a westerner could not travel to Syria to fight for ISIS, he could conduct a terrorist attack in his home country using improvised explosive devices.

During today’s plea hearing, Lepsky admitted that beginning in January 2017, he began to formulate a plan to detonate the pressure cooker bomb in New York City on behalf of ISIS. Lepsky admitted that he used the internet to access ISIS directives, obtain bomb-making instructions, and purchase the pressure cooker and other items to be used in the attack.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, if accepted by the Court, Lepsky will be given a sentence between 16 and 19 years in prison and a lifetime term of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for June 19, 2018.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito and Assistant Attorney General Demers credited the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; the N.J. State Attorney General’s Office under the direction of Attorney General Gurbir Grewal; the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Joseph Coronato; the Point Pleasant Police Department under the direction of Chief Richard P. Larsen; and the N.J. Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness under the direction of Director Jared Maples, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Donnelly of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Defense counsel: Lisa Mack Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark

6. United States v. al Farekh (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2018) (45-year sentence for defendant directly involved with al Qaeda and attacks on US forces in Afghanistan)

Muhanad Mahmoud al Farekh, 32, of Houston, was sentenced today to 45 years following his Sept. 29, 2017 trial conviction of multiple offenses covering seven years of terrorist conduct, including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to bomb a government facility and providing material support to al-Qaeda.

Assistant Attorney General for the National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD announced the sentence issued by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan.

“With the sentence handed down today, al Qaeda terrorist Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh is being held accountable for his crimes. Farekh – an American citizen – traveled overseas, joined al Qaeda, and conspired to kill Americans, including through an attack using explosive devices on a U.S. military installation in Afghanistan in 2009,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Across the globe, the National Security Division will continue to relentlessly pursue and bring to justice those who seek to harm Americans, including our brave servicemen and women who risk their lives in defense of our nation. I applaud the efforts of the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this successful result.”

“Farekh, a citizen of this country, turned his back on America by joining al-Qaeda and trying to kill American soldiers in a bomb attack on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This case demonstrates that we will do everything in our power to ensure that those who seek to harm our country and our armed forces will be brought to justice.” Mr. Donoghue extended his grateful appreciation to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which comprises a large number of federal, state, and local agencies from the region.

“Today’s sentencing shows that justice prevails even when terrorist acts are committed in distant foreign locales yet impact American citizens and interests,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “The FBI New York Joint Terrorism Task Force remains dedicated to investigating and bringing terrorists to justice wherever they are. I would like to thank all of our partner agencies for their continued cooperation and dedication.”

As proven at trial, in March 2007, Farekh and two co-conspirators, all of whom were students at the University of Manitoba, departed Canada for Pakistan with the intention of fighting against American forces overseas. Before traveling overseas, Farekh and his co-conspirators watched video recordings encouraging violent jihad, listened to jihadist lectures by now-deceased al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaqi, and came to embrace a violent, extremist view of Islam.

Farekh and his co-conspirators traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, an area in the northern part of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is home to al-Qaeda’s base of operations, where they joined and received training from al-Qaeda. Taking advantage of his familiarity with the West, Farekh became a member of, and ultimately ascended to, a leadership role within al-Qaeda’s external operations group, which specialized in planning and executing attacks against the U.S. and its Western allies.

In January 2009, Farekh helped to build a vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device (VBIED) that was used in an attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman (FOB Chapman), a U.S. military installation that served as the base for the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in Khost, Afghanistan. On January 19, 2009, two explosives-laden vehicles approached the fence line of FOB Chapman. At the gate, the first vehicle, a pickup-sized truck, exploded after its operator detonated the VBIED. The second vehicle, a truck that was carrying approximately 7,500 pounds of explosives, became stuck in the blast crater caused by the first explosion. The driver abandoned his vehicle without detonating the VBIED, and was shot and killed by local security personnel. The initial detonation of the first vehicle injured one U.S. serviceman and numerous Afghan nationals. Forensic technicians recovered 18 latent fingerprints that were determined to be a match to Farekh from adhesive packing tape used to bind together the explosive materials of the second, undetonated VBIED.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard M. Tucker, Douglas M. Pravda and Saritha Komatireddy of the Eastern District of New York, along with Trial Attorney Alicia Cook of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, are in charge of the prosecution.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Canczarski (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 17, 2018) (unsealed indictment for German al Qaeda member soon to finish a prison sentence in France)

January 17, 2018

From DOJ’s press release:

Alleged Al Qaeda Associate Charged With Conspiring to Kill Americans and Other Terrorism Offenses

A Superseding Indictment charging Christian Ganczarski, aka Abu Mohamed, aka Abu Mohamed al Amani, aka Ibrahim, aka Ibrahim the German (Ganczarski), 51, with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, providing and conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and conspiring to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization, was unsealed today in the Southern District of New York. The United States is seeking Ganczarski’s extradition from France.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Office and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement.

“According to the superseding indictment, between 1999 and 2001, Ganczarski regularly interacted with members of al Qaeda leadership who were responsible for terrorist operations, and provided them with the knowledge and technology to carry out attacks against the U.S. military and its allies,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “This case demonstrates the National Security Division’s resolve to find and bring to justice, terrorists who target U.S. interests in any part of the world. I want to thank all of the prosecutors, agents and analysts who made this result possible.”

“Christian Ganczarski, a German national, allegedly provided critical support to the most prolific terrorists of our time,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “Today we publicly announce charges against Ganczarski alleging that he participated in the planning of plots to kill Americans with high-level al Qaeda terrorists Khaled Shaikh Mohammad, Usama bin Laden and others. The unsealing of the indictment exemplifies this Office’s commitment to the relentless pursuit and prosecution of those who seek to harm Americans.”

“As alleged, Ganczarski willingly supported the goals of al Qaeda, immersing himself in social circles that included the likes of Usama bin Laden and one of the future hijackers in the September 11 attacks, among others,” said Assistant Director Sweeney. “He allegedly participated in efforts to kill Americans by providing technological support and guidance, and arranged meetings between senior officials in the organization and other like-minded individuals bent on future attacks against U.S. interests. While he’s spent the past fifteen years behind bars in France, we haven’t forgotten his allegiance to those who have threatened our interests both at home and abroad. We will continue to work with our international partners to mitigate the threat of global terrorism, bringing to justice everyone who participates in or materially supports this crime.”

“As alleged, Christian Ganczarski worked for al-Qaeda, lived in its camps and guest houses,” said Police Commissioner O’Neill. “He rubbed shoulders with Osama Bin Laden and the men who planned and executed plots from the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 225 people, to the 9-11 attacks that cost 3000 lives, most of them here in New York City. Ganczarski allegedly provided al-Qaeda with expertise in logistics, computers, radio communications and the maintenance of weapons systems that would be used against Americans soldiers after the 9/11 attacks. This case is another example of the work of the FBI agents and NYPD detectives of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. There is no time too long, or place to far, or suspect out of reach when it comes to bringing terrorists, or those who aid them to justice.”

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment unsealed in federal court:

Al Qaeda is an international terrorist organization dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. The organization was founded by Usama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef, aka Abu Hafs el Masri (Abu Hafs el Masri), and was headquartered in Afghanistan since approximately 1996. Bin Laden served as the leader or “emir” of al Qaeda until his death on or about May 2, 2011.

Al Qaeda has a command control structure that included a majlis al shura (or consultation council) that discussed and approved major undertakings, including terrorist operations. Bin Laden and Abu Hafs el Masri sat on the majlis al shura of al Qaeda, as did others, including Saif al Adel. Khaled Shaikh Mohammad, aka Mukhtar, devised, planned, and facilitated terrorist operations for al Qaeda, and he also assisted in the preparation of promotional media used by al Qaeda to advertise its terrorist agenda and attract recruits.

Ganczarski, a German citizen born in Poland, traveled from Germany to Pakistan and Afghanistan on at least five separate occasions between 1999 and 2001. During these trips, Ganczarski became associated with al Qaeda and developed personal relationships with bin Laden, Abu Hafs el Masri, al Adel and Mohammad. Ganczarski lived at times with his family at al Qaeda’s fortified compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan. At other times, Ganczarski lived in guest houses and other facilities operated by al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Ganczarski participated in al Qaeda’s efforts to kill Americans in a number of ways, such as providing al Adel and other al Qaeda members with technological guidance and hardware, including computers, radios and other communications equipment.

In approximately January 2000, Ganczarski attended a speech delivered by bin Laden at al Qaeda’s headquarters in Kandahar. The January 2000 speech was attended by at least 100 men, including, among others, many significant al Qaeda leaders and terrorists, such as at least one of the plotters in the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in East Africa, and one of the future hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States (the September 11 Attacks). During the speech, Ganczarski sat in the front row with al Adel’s son in his lap.

In approximately March 2000, Ganczarski attended a meeting in Karachi, Pakistan, between Mohammad and a member of Jamaah Islamiyah (CC-1), a Southeast Asia terrorist organization, at which U.S. and Israeli targets for terrorist attacks were discussed. Following the meeting, Ganczarski helped transport CC-1 and a written communication from Mohammad to al Qaeda’s fortified compound in Kandahar, where Ganczarski spoke to bin Laden and took CC-1 to meetings with al Adel and Abu Hafs el Masri at which potential attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests were further discussed.

Ganczarski was in Germany at the time of the September 11 Attacks, and he indicated after the attacks that he had been aware that a significant event was about to occur. In approximately early October 2001, Ganczarski returned to Afghanistan and met with other members of al Qaeda, including al Adel. In approximately November 2001, Ganczarski and others attempted to repair anti-aircraft missiles controlled by al Qaeda that were not functioning, so that the missiles could be fired at U.S. military aircraft flying in the area at the time.

Ganczarski was arrested in France in 2003, and subsequently convicted of offenses under French law relating to a 2002 al Qaeda attack on a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. Ganczarski has been incarcerated in France since being convicted.

* * *

The Superseding Indictment charges Ganczarski, with four counts: one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; two counts of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and provision of material support and resources to terrorists, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on each count; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization (al Qaeda) which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge. The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Berman praised the extraordinary investigative work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD – for the critical role they played and continue to play in the investigation of Ganczarski and his co-conspirators. In addition, Mr. Berman thanked the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Amanda L. Houle of the Southern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Smith of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Lee (E.D. Va. Jan. 16, 2018) (arrest of former CIA officer who spied for China, apparently resulting in execution of many in China)

January 16, 2018

This one’s is a counterintelligence rather than counterterrorism development, but so significant I felt I should pass it along:

Critical context from NY Times here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/us/politics/cia-china-mole-arrest-jerry-chun-shing-lee.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

DOJ’s press release is here:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer was arrested last night on charges of unlawful retention of national defense information.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, aka “Zhen Cheng Li”, 53, was arrested after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. Lee, who is a naturalized United States citizen, currently resides in Hong Kong, China. According to court documents, Lee began working for the CIA as a case officer in 1994, maintained a Top Secret clearance, and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at CIA.

According to court documents, in August 2012, Lee and his family left Hong Kong to return to the United States to live in northern Virginia. While traveling back to the United States, Lee and his family had hotel stays in Hawaii and Virginia. During each of the hotel stays, FBI agents conducted court-authorized searches of Lee’s room and luggage, and found that Lee was in unauthorized possession of materials relating to the national defense. Specifically, agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities.

Lee made his initial appearance this afternoon in the Eastern District of New York. He is charged with unlawful retention of national defense information and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom and Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Ullah (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2018) (indictment in NYC port authority bomb / IS material support case)

January 11, 2018

From DOJ’s press release:

Today, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment (the Indictment) against Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, in connection with Ullah’s detonation and attempted denotation of a bomb in a subway station near the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on Dec. 11, 2017. Three people were injured as a result of the detonation. The Indictment charges Ullah with one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization; one count of using and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction; one count of bombing and attempting to bomb a place of public use and a public transportation system; one count of destruction and attempted destruction of property by means of fire or explosives; one count of conducting and attempting to conduct a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system; and one count of using a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York made the announcement. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Richard J. Sullivan.

“As alleged in the indictment Akayed Ullah constructed a pipe bomb and detonated it in a mass transit hub in the heart of New York City to terrorize as many people as possible and to bring ISIS-inspired violence to American soil,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the law enforcement community, the defendant was safely apprehended at the scene of the attack that injured three people, and will now be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The National Security Division remains steadfast in its mission to pursue justice against those who seek to harm our country and our citizens in the name of terrorism.”

“Less than one month ago, during the holiday rush hour, Akayed Ullah allegedly detonated a bomb in a major transit hub of New York City,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “In selecting this time and place, Ullah’s alleged purpose in the Port Authority bombing was painfully clear: to inflict as much damage as possible, and to strike fear into the hearts of New Yorkers in the name of ISIS. Ullah’s alleged plot failed, and he is now charged with federal terrorism offenses and facing life behind bars.”

Ullah was initially arrested on a Complaint and presented before the Honorable Katharine H. Parker on Dec. 13, 2017. Ullah was ordered detained and has been in federal custody since his arrest. He will be arraigned before Judge Sullivan on Jan. 11, at 3:00 p.m.

As alleged in the Indictment and the Complaint:

Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham

ISIS is a foreign terrorist organization based in the Middle East and Africa whose publicly stated purpose is the establishment of an Islamic state or caliphate based in the Middle East and Africa that encompasses all Muslims worldwide. ISIS has pursued the objective of an Islamic state through, among other things, killing and deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions, persecution of individuals and communities on the basis of their religion, nationality, or ethnicity, kidnapping of civilians, forced displacement of Shia communities and minority groups, killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence. ISIS has recruited thousands of foreign fighters from across the globe to assist with its efforts to expand its so-called caliphate in Iraq, Syria and other locations in Africa and the Middle East, and has leveraged technology to spread its violent extremist ideology and for incitement to commit terrorist acts.

The Dec. 11, 2017 Attack

On Dec. 11, 2017, at approximately 7:20 a.m., Akayed Ullah detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated inside a subway terminal (the Subway Terminal) in or around the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal located at West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York, New York (the December 11 Attack). Shortly after the blast, members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD) located Ullah lying on the ground in the vicinity of the explosion. Surveillance footage captured Ullah walking through the Subway Terminal immediately prior to the explosion, and then falling to the ground after the explosion.

Ullah was subsequently taken into custody by law enforcement. During the course of Ullah’s arrest, law enforcement officers located on his person and in the surrounding area what appeared to be the components of an exploded pipe bomb (the Pipe Bomb). Specifically, law enforcement located, among other items, (i) a nine-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket; (ii) wires connected to the battery and running underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iii) two plastic zip ties underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iv) several fragments of a metal pipe, including pieces of a metal end cap, on the ground; (v) the remnants of what appeared to be a Christmas tree lightbulb attached to wires; and (vi) pieces of what appear to be plastic zip ties, among other items.

After Ullah was taken into custody, he was transferred to Bellevue Hospital, where he made statements to law enforcement officers after waiving his Miranda rights. During that interview, Ullah stated, among other things, the following:

  • Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb and carried out the December 11 Attack. Ullah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the December 11 Attack, and stated, among other things, “I did it for the Islamic State.”
  • Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb at his residence in Brooklyn (the Residence).
  • The Pipe Bomb was composed of a metal pipe, which Ullah filled with explosive material that he created. Ullah used Christmas tree lights, wires, and a nine-volt battery as a trigger to detonate the Pipe Bomb. Ullah filled the Pipe Bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage. Ullah used zip ties to secure the Pipe Bomb to his body.
  • Ullah carried out the December 11 Attack in part because of the United States Government’s policies in, among other places, the Middle East. One of Ullah’s goals in carrying out the December 11 Attack was to terrorize as many people as possible. He chose to carry out the attack on a work day because he believed that there would be more people.
  • Ullah’s radicalization began in at least approximately 2014. Ullah viewed pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands. He began researching how to build IEDs on the Internet approximately one year prior to the attack.
  • On the morning of Dec. 11, 2017, shortly before carrying out the attack, Ullah posted a statement on his Facebook account referring to the President of the United States, stating, in substance, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.” Ullah also posted a statement that he believed would be understood by members and supporters of ISIS to convey that Ullah carried out the attack in the name of ISIS.

Items Recovered from Ullah’s Residence

On Dec. 11, 2017, law enforcement agents conducted a search of the Residence pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant. Law enforcement agents recovered, among other items, (i) multiple pieces of metal pipes; (ii) pieces of wire and fragments of what appear to be Christmas tree lights; (iii) multiple screws consistent with the screws recovered at the scene of the December 11 Attack; and (iv) a passport in Ullah’s name with multiple handwritten notations, including: “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”

Three individuals were injured as a result of the December 11 Attack.

* * *

If convicted of the charges in the Indictment, potential maximum sentences could include: (i) 20 years in prison for providing and attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, ISIS; (ii) life in prison for using and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction; (iii) life in prison for bombing and attempting to bomb a place of public use and a public transportation system; (iv) a maximum of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for destruction and attempted destruction of property by means of fire or explosives; (v) life in prison for conducting and attempting to conduct a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system; and (vi) a consecutive sentence of 30 years to life in prison for using a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence. The potential sentences are all related to Ullah’s detonation and attempted detonation of an explosive device in New York City.

The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The charges in the Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn G. Crowley, Rebekah Donaleski and George D. Turner of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jerome J. Teresinski of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.