nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Justice (C.D. Cal. May 22, 2017) (guilty plea in espionage/AECA sting)

May 23, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Today, Gregory Allen Justice, 49, of Culver City, California, pleaded guilty to federal charges of one count of attempting to commit economic espionage and one count of attempting to violate the Arms Export Control Act. The charges are related to Justice’s selling sensitive satellite information to a person he believed to be an agent of a Russian intelligence service. Justice was an engineer who worked for a cleared defense contractor. Specifically, he worked on military and commercial satellite programs.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California.

According to a plea agreement filed in this case, Justice stole proprietary trade secrets from his employer and provided them to a person he believed to be a Russian agent – but who in fact was an undercover FBI employee.

In addition to their proprietary nature, the documents contained technical data covered by the U.S. Munitions List and therefore were subject to controls restricting export from the U.S. under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments. During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show “The Americans,” and during their final meeting, Justice offered to take the undercover agent on a tour of his employer’s production facilities where Justice said all military spacecraft were built, according to the plea agreement.

Justice faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Justice pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge George Wu, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for September 18. Justice has been in custody since his arrest in July 2016.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Attorneys from the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Alebbini (S.D. Ohio May 11, 2017) (attempted provision of material support to Islamic State)

May 12, 2017

Form the press release:

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging Laith Waleed Alebbini, 26, of Dayton, Ohio, with one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Alebbini allegedly attempted to provide support in the form of personnel, namely himself, to ISIS.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division and other members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) announced the indictment.

Alebbini was arrested on April 26 at the Cincinnati/Kentucky International Airport and charged with the same crime by criminal complaint. He has remained in custody since his arrest.

Attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The JTTF includes officers and agents from the Cincinnati Police Department, Colerain Police Department, Dayton Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, University of Cincinnati Police Department, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, FBI, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Oakwood Police Department, West Chester Police Department and Cincinnati State Police Department.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the JTTF, as well as First Assistant Vipal J. Patel, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dominick S. Gerace and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, who are prosecuting the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United State v. al-Dahab (D.D.C. Apr. 20, 2017) (denaturalization of EIJ member currently in Egypt)

April 21, 2017

Another successful denaturalization effort, this time involving a guy who left the US in 1998 and had until recently been in jail in Egypt. A variety of related materials are attached (and here I’ll express appreciation for whomever it is at DOJ OPA who has decided to start including more such materials as attachments to the press releases).

The press release states:

WASHINGTON – On April 19, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order that revoked the naturalized U.S. citizenship of a confessed al-Qaeda operative, restrained and enjoined him from claiming any rights, privileges, or advantages of U.S. citizenship and ordered him to immediately surrender and deliver his Certificate of Naturalization and any other indicia of U.S. citizenship to federal authorities, the Justice Department announced.

“The Justice Department is committed to protecting our nation’s national security and will aggressively pursue denaturalization of known or suspected terrorists,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This case demonstrates the Department’s commitment to using all tools at its disposal, both criminally and civilly, to strategically enforce our nation’s immigration laws and to disrupt international terrorism. I congratulate the aggressive and effective investigation and prosecution by the Department of Justice team. We will protect our national security and our borders, and when we identify individuals tied to foreign terrorist organizations who procured their U.S. citizenship by fraud, we will initiate denaturalization proceedings – whether you reside here or abroad – and ensure you are denied entry into the United States.”

Khaled Abu al-Dahab, 57, an Egyptian-born naturalized U.S. citizen and former Silicon Valley car salesman is a confessed member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) terrorist organization. Al-Dahab admitted to attending a training camp near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where he received military-style training and taught foreign fighters to fly hang gliders in preparation for terrorist attacks. Moreover, al-Dahab told the FBI that, during the period in which he was supposed to establish the good moral character to naturalize under the Immigration and Nationality Act, he operated a communications hub for EIJ operatives out of his Santa Clara, California apartment. He facilitated the transfer of fraudulent passports, documents, money and other items by, between and among EIJ members, and researched communications devices and helicopter piloting at the direction of EIJ leadership. Al-Dahab’s communication hub materially assisted in the perpetration of terrorist attacks in Egypt and Pakistan.

Additionally, al-Dahab admitted to recruiting Islamic Americans into the al-Qaeda terrorist organization during his 12-year residence in California. Al-Dahab told the investigators that Osama bin Laden was eager to recruit American citizens of Middle Eastern descent because their U.S. passports could be used to facilitate international travel by al Qaeda terrorists, and that bin Laden personally congratulated him for this work. Al-Dahab was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on Feb. 7, 1997. Upon departing the United States sometime in 1998, al-Dahab was arrested by Egyptian authorities. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for terrorism related offenses.

On April 8, 2015, the United States filed a civil action seeking the revocation of al-Dahab’s naturalized U.S. citizenship on the grounds that he illegally procured his citizenship on account of his false written statements and testimony during his naturalization proceedings regarding his current and past addresses; employment history; travel outside the United States; marital history; prior false testimony; prior claims of U.S. citizenship; commission of crimes for which he had not been arrested; and membership in or association with EIJ, as well as his affiliation with an organization that advocated terrorism. The United States also alleged al-Dahab should also be denaturalized because he procured his citizenship by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation due his concealment of these matters. The United States obtained the district court’s permission to serve the complaint on al-Dahab in Egypt via Facebook and electronic mail.

“The Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation – District Court Section will continue to pursue denaturalization proceedings against known or suspected terrorists who procured their citizenship by fraud,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The U.S. government is dedicated to strengthening the security of our nation and preventing the exploitation of our nation’s immigration system by those who would do harm to our country.”

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a naturalized U.S. citizen’s citizenship may be revoked, and his certificate of naturalization canceled, if the naturalization was illegally procured or procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.

This case was investigated by the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section (OIL-DCS) and the FBI. The litigation was handled by Christopher W. Dempsey, Chief of the National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit within OIL-DCS, with substantial assistance by FBI Special Agent Rami G. Nimri.

Abu al-Dahab Memorandum Opinion.pdf

Abu al-Dahab ORDER Granting MSJ.pdf

Abu al-Dahab Motion for Summary Judgment.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. McNeil (N.D. Ohio Apr. 19, 2017) (guilty plea in ISIS-related murder solicitation case)

April 20, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Terrence J. McNeil, 24, of Akron, Ohio, pleaded guilty to five counts of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and five counts of making threatening interstate communications involving his soliciting the murder of members of the U.S. military.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja for the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

“Terrence McNeil pleaded guilty to soliciting the murder of members of our military. He disseminated ISIL’s violent rhetoric, circulated U.S. military personnel information, and explicitly called for the killing of American service members in their homes and communities. Now, he will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism. We will continue to use all of our tools to disrupt those who use social media to threaten acts of violence against our military members and their families, on behalf of terrorist organizations.”

“This case demonstrates the challenges faced by law enforcement in confronting global terrorism,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sierleja. “It highlights the dangers posed by terrorists committed to carrying out attacks here in the United States and their use of social media to accomplish their mission. The message should be clear that individuals who engage in this behavior will be aggressively prosecuted.”

“While we aggressively defend First Amendment rights, the individual arrested went far beyond free speech by reposting names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members, all with the intent to have them killed,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “We will remain vigilant in our efforts to stop those who wish to support these despicable acts.”

According to documents filed in the case:

McNeil, a U.S. citizen, professed his support on social media on numerous occasions for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. On or about Sept. 24, 2015, using a Tumblr account, McNeil reblogged a file with the banner “Islamic State Hacking Division,” followed by “Target: United States Military” and “Leak: Addresses of 100 U.S. Military Personnel.”

The file type is a .gif file, which allows multiple still images to be looped in one file, with a timed delay between each image. The text of the first file reads “O Brothers in America, know that the jihad against the crusaders is not limited to the lands of the Khilafah, it is a world-wide jihad and their war is not just a war against the Islamic State, it is a war against Islam…Know that it is wajib (translated to “necessary”) for you to kill these kuffar! and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe…”

The file then loops several dozen photographs, purportedly of U.S. military personnel, along with their respective name, address and military branch. The final image looped is a picture of a handgun and a knife with text that reads “…and kill them wherever you find them…”

The defendant posted multiple other kill lists in late 2015, all of which repeated the same refrain, calling on others to seek out and murder U.S. servicemen and women.

McNeil is scheduled to be sentenced on August 2. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he faces a sentence of between 15 and 20 years in prison.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Cleveland investigated this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christos Georgalis and Michelle Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Suarez (S.D. Fla. Apr. 18, 2017) (life sentence in ISIS material support & explosives case)

April 19, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Harlem Suarez, aka “Almlak Benitez,” 23, of Monroe County, Florida, was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, an explosive device, and attempting to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, and members of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Suarez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez in Key West to life in prison for the weapon of mass of mass destruction count of conviction and a concurrent term of 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support.

Suarez, a U.S. legal resident and citizen of Cuba, was convicted at trial in Key West, Florida on January 27, of knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property within the U.S., in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2332a(a)(2) and attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2339B.

According to evidence introduced at trial, in April 2015, Suarez’s Facebook postings contained extremist rhetoric and promoted ISIS. Evidence further indicated that Suarez told an FBI confidential human source that he wanted to make a “timer bomb.” Suarez purchased components for this device, which was to contain galvanized nails, be concealed in a backpack and be remotely detonated by a cellular telephone. Suarez intended to bury the device at a public beach in Key West and then detonate it.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI; South Florida JTTF, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Key West Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office;s and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc S. Anton and Karen E. Gilbert with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Muchacho (E.D.Va. Apr. 12, 2017) (false statement case involving CBP agent mishandling classified and other protected information systems)

April 13, 2017

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – A former officer and program manager for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pleaded guilty today to making false statements regarding his improper use of CBP and other law enforcement databases, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Jesus R. Muchacho, 39, of Temple Hills, Maryland, and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Venezuela, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements before U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia. Sentencing is scheduled for July 7, 2017.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, in December 2013, Muchacho was reassigned to CBP’s National Targeting Center Cargo (NTCC) in Herndon, Virginia, as a CBP officer and a program manager. The NTCC targets and coordinates the examination of high-risk cargo entering the United States and persons associated with such shipments. According to his plea, Muchacho held a Top Secret security clearance, which gave him access to classified national security information, sensitive information and protected law enforcement database systems. Muchacho exceeded CBP’s use restrictions by, among other things, making unauthorized searches and disclosing information to foreign nationals.

According to his plea, on Dec. 1, 2016, Muchacho falsely stated to federal law enforcement officers that: he did not send CBP or U.S. government information outside of CBP systems; he was not asked to provide, and he did not disclose, CBP or U.S. government information to third parties who did not have an authorized need to know; and he did not search law enforcement databases for non-official purposes. Muchacho further admitted that he made false statements during a background reinvestigation in 2014, when he applied for access to a classified information system in 2016, and when he was interviewed during a secondary inspection at Dulles International Airport. According to the plea, the false statements were related to his citizenship status, his contacts with foreign governments and an undisclosed foreign passport.

The CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the FBI’s Washington Field Office are investigating the case. Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Grace L. Hill of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Jones (N.D. Ill. Apr. 12, 2017) (material support charges in Islamic State case)

April 12, 2017

WASHINGTON – Joseph D. Jones, also known as “Yusuf Abdulhaqq,” 35, and Edward Schimenti, also known as “Abdul Wali,” 35, both of Zion, Illinois, were arrested today on a federal complaint charging them with conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Jones and Schimenti were arrested this morning. They are scheduled to make an initial appearance at on April 12 at 3:00 p.m. CDT (4:00 p.m. EDT) before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. David Weisman in Chicago, Illinois. Authorities also executed a search warrant at Jones’ residence in Zion today.

The complaint and arrests were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, Acting U.S. Attorney Joel R. Levin for the Northern District of Illinois and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s Chicago Office.

According to a complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Jones and Schimenti, both U.S. citizens, pledged their allegiance to ISIS and advocated on social media for violent extremism in support of the terrorist group. In the fall of 2015, the pair befriended three individuals whom Jones and Schimenti believed were fellow ISIS devotees. Unbeknownst to Jones and Schimenti, two of the individuals were undercover FBI employees and the third individual was cooperating with law enforcement and was not an ISIS supporter.

Over the next several months, as part of the conspiracy, Jones and Schimenti allegedly took steps to assist the cooperating source with plans to travel overseas to join ISIS. The defendants met the undercover FBI employees and the cooperating source on numerous occasions, during which Jones and Schimenti discussed their devotion and commitment to ISIS, according to the complaint. Some of the meetings took place in Waukegan, Zion, Bridgeview, North Chicago, Highland Park and Chicago, in Illinois.

At one point, Jones and Schimenti shared photographs of themselves holding the ISIS flag at the Illinois Beach State Park in north suburban Zion, according to the complaint. In a recorded conversation with the cooperating source, Schimenti commented that Schimenti would like to see the ISIS flag “on top of the White House,” the complaint states.

Earlier this year, Schimenti engaged in physical training exercises with the cooperating source at a gym in Zion, the complaint states. Understanding that the cooperating source intended to travel overseas to fight for ISIS, Schimenti commented that the exercises would “make you good, you know, in the battlefield,” according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, last month, the pair furnished several cellular phones to the cooperating source, believing they would be used to detonate explosive devices in ISIS attacks overseas. On April 7, Jones and Schimenti drove the cooperating source to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with the understanding that the source would be traveling to Syria to join and fight with ISIS. Schimenti told the source to “drench that land with they, they blood.”

A complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The charge in the complaint is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of FBI personnel and representatives from numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The Zion Police Department also provided valuable assistance. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and Rajnath Laud of the Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.