nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Nagi (W.D.N.Y.) (arrest in ISIL material support case)

July 29, 2015

Those of you who have been following the prosecution side of counterterrorism for a long time will certainly recall the Lackawanna Six case from back in 2002. Well, here is a new Lackawanna case, involving a U.S. citizen who apparently pledged allegiance to ISIL. In this case the tip came not from social media, but from a concerned local citizen who provided a tip to the FBI. The charge, of course, is material support (presumably an attempt to provide himself as personnel to the group). From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Arafat M. Nagi, 42, of Lackawanna, New York, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support and resources, namely personnel, to a foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York and Special Agent in Charge Brian P. Boetig of the FBI’s Buffalo, New York, Division made the announcement today.

“Our continuing fight against international terrorism today returns to Western New York,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “As alleged, Arafat Nagi pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and the leader of this terrorist organization. After buying military combat gear, he traveled twice to Turkey in an effort to help the group. Thanks to the combined efforts of law enforcement and community members, this defendant is no longer capable of achieving his goal of joining the most despicable group of our time.”

“The FBI has a responsibility to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are positioned to identify existing or emerging threats,” said Special Agent in Charge Boetig. “Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) serve as the national platforms for deterring, detecting and disrupting terrorist machinations. The JTTF in Buffalo relies on community engagement to gain perspectives on radicalization and to deter recruitment and the spread of radicalization messages. We continue to call upon people to contact law enforcement if they know of someone who has been influenced by ISIL rhetoric on social media – powerful propaganda that calls for followers to commit quick and unpredictable violent acts.”

According to the complaint, on Aug. 28, 2014, a Lackawanna community member advised the FBI that Nagi talks about violent jihad to various people in the community and it is common for Nagi to get into verbal arguments regarding his jihadi beliefs.

Further investigation determined that Nagi pledged allegiance to ISIL and the leader of the terrorist group, Abu Bakr al Bagdadi. The defendant traveled to Turkey on two occasions, in October 2012 and July 2014, with the intention to meet with members of the group. Evidence revealed that prior to these trips, the defendant purchased large number of military combat items, including a tactical vest, army combat shirt, body armor, a Shahada Flag, combat boots, a backpack, burn kit, hunting knife, machete and night vision goggles.

During follow up interviews in December 2014 and March 2015, the community member who alerted the FBI regarding Nagi’s actions stated that the defendant still possessed radical political and religious views. According to the individual, Nagi was angry about the killing of rebels in Yemen, which he blamed on the United States; pledged an oath to ISIL leaders; expressed agreement with ISIL tactics, including the killing of innocent men, women and children; and planned to travel to Yemen and Turkey again soon.

Nagi will make his initial appearance this morning at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott in the Western District of New York.

The complaint is the culmination of an investigation by the FBI’s Buffalo JTTF, which includes the Amherst, New York, Police Department; the Buffalo Police Department; the U.S. Department of State; the Federal Protective Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Internal Revenue Service; the New York State Police; the Niagara County, New York, Sheriff’s Office; the Niagara Falls, New York, Police Department; the Customs and Border Protection’s U.S. Border Patrol; and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Air and Marine Branch. Additional assistance was provided by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Diaz (S.D. Fla.) (another sentencing in an ISIL-related case)

July 28, 2015

A busy week for ISIL-related cases: This one involves a 10-year sentence on a gun charge, in a case in which DOJ is emphasizing the defendant’s interest in ISIL. Note that, once again, social media posts provided the tip-off, followed by interactions with a confidential source. From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Miguel Moran Diaz, 45, of Miami, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard of the Southern District of Florida to the statutory maximum term of 120 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, following his guilty plea for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

…“Miguel Moran Diaz was an armed, convicted felon who harbored sympathies for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” said Special Agent in Charge Piro. “He called himself a ‘Lone Wolf’ for ‘ISIS.’ This is not a scenario where law enforcement can afford to wait and see what happens next. The FBI and our partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated and disrupted this threat to South Florida.”

According to court documents and statements made in court, in late January 2015, Diaz came to the attention of the FBI due in part to Facebook postings in the name of “Azizi Al Hariri,” a photo of Diaz possessing a firearm and articles regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Thereafter, during a subsequent undercover operation, Diaz told an FBI confidential source that he was a convicted felon and could not purchase a firearm. Diaz asked the confidential source to purchase him a “baby Glock” (a small concealable semi-automatic firearm) and other weapons, in exchange for $500. Diaz proposed that he would arrange to have the guns “stolen” from the confidential source’s vehicle.

Diaz also advised that he already owned a number of weapons, including a rifle, handgun and a Ket Tec 2000 with a collapsible stock that he would use to conceal the firearm. Diaz showed the confidential source photographs of him holding firearms and also displayed a gun that was concealed in his vehicle.

On Jan. 30, 2015, during a meeting with the confidential source in Miami, Diaz described himself as a “Lone Wolf” for ISIS. Diaz indicated that he wanted to acquire a .308 caliber bolt action rifle and intended to scratch “ISIS” into the shell casings. Diaz claimed that after he killed people, authorities would find the shell casings and put the city on lockdown as they attempted to locate the sniper. Diaz also used his iPhone to view Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP’s) Inspire Magazine website in order to learn how to build bombs.

On Feb. 8, 2015, the confidential source again met with Diaz in Miami in order to conduct target practice with loaded firearms.

On March 20, 2015, the confidential source asked Diaz if he would like to purchase any additional ammunition. Diaz stated that he had approximately 500 rounds of ammunition at his residence,but wanted to purchase 500 additional rounds if the price was good.

On April 2, 2015, the FBI executed a warrant and found Diaz driving a vehicle while in possession of a .40 caliber handgun loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition and a magazine containing 15 addition rounds. A search of Diaz’s residence revealed an additional Kel-tec 2000, .40 caliber rifle and approximately 200 to 300 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition.


nationalsecuritylaw update on the future of this listserv

July 28, 2015

Hi folks,

As you probably have noticed (especially those of you who have been on this list going back a full decade), I’ve been struggling for some time with the question of whether to continue to keep this listserv operational. The original goal was to provide a way to stay on top of the endless stream of developments in the national security law field, at a time when there were no websites like Lawfare and Just Security to perform that function. Well, now they do exist, and my assumption is that most of you read those sources in order to keep up with things. What, then, to do with the listserv?

I’ve decided I will keep it going, but with a somewhat narrower focus than in the past. In particular, I will focus (at least for a time) on the sort of posts that I’ve been sending out lately: those relating to criminal prosecution in terrorism-related cases. These arrests, convictions, sentences, and the like often go by with relatively little mainstream media attention, and do not always generate blog attention either. And so I’ll commit to continue to post briefly about them here. With this narrowing of focus, I do hope to make the list more active (goodness knows that current events are supplying ample content).

Note that I will no longer be in the business of flagging upcoming events or forthcoming/recent scholarship (two former mainstays of the list, both of which I’ve largely stopped posting already). That said, I hope you’ll forgive me if, on rare occasions, I succumb to the temptation to mention my own scholarship or events I’m hosting!

By the way, if you are wondering how many of you there are: 1,193 subscribers at this time.

Best,

Bobby

Robert Chesney (website)

Charles I. Francis Professor in Law 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 United States v. Davis (D. Ga.) (15 year sentence in ISIL material support case)

July 28, 2015

And another one from the ISIL prosecution files… From the DOJ press release:

Leon Nathan Davis, 37, of Augusta, Georgia, was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall of the Southern District of Georgia for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Davis pleaded guilty to an information charging him with attempting to provide material support to ISIL on May 27, 2015. His prison term will be followed by a lifetime of supervised release.

…Evidence produced at the guilty plea and sentencing hearings revealed that for more than a year, an FBI-led team investigated Davis’ attempts to join an overseas designated foreign terrorist organization. Davis was arrested at the Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson Airport in October 2014 on a parole violation, after he had purchased a ticket to fly to Turkey and then traveled from Augusta to the Atlanta airport. Davis has been in custody since his arrest.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Tarver commended the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles for their work on this case. Carlin and Tarver also expressed gratitude to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service and the Atlanta Police Department for their contributions to the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlie Bourne and Nancy Greenwood of the Southern District of Georgia and Trial Attorney Clement McGovern of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Suarez (S.D. Fla.) (arrest and criminal complaint in case involving a “self-professed ISIL adherent”)

July 28, 2015

United States v. Suarez is the latest arrest in a remarkable series involving an individual in the United States identified as an ISIL supporter based on his social media posts, with the FBI then interacting with the person through a confidential source and culminating in a preventive arrest. Some of these cases are material support cases because the person is arrested while trying to make their way to Syria or Iraq. Others, like this one, involve a defendant allegedly prepared to carry out an attack in the United States itself. The criminal complaint is attached, and details from the DOJ press release appears below:

WASHINGTON – Harlem Suarez, also known as Almlak Benitez, 23, of Key West, Florida, was charged by a criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property within the United States.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.

“According to the complaint, Harlem Suarez, a self-professed ISIL adherent, knowingly attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction – a backpack bomb – in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Stopping attacks on our homeland by those inspired or directed by designated foreign terrorist organizations is the highest priority of the National Security Division.”

“The top priority of the Department of Justice is to protect the security of the American people,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the FBI, works tirelessly to advance this mission by continuing to thwart home-grown acts of terrorism.”

“There is no room for failure when it comes to investigating the potential use of a weapon of mass destruction,” said Special Agent in Charge Piro. “The FBI and our local, state and federal partners work around the clock to prevent such catastrophic weapons from being used against our citizens. Even so, we ask the public to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

According to the complaint, in April 2015, Suarez came to the attention of the FBI due to Facebook posts that contained extremist rhetoric and promoted the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The complaint further alleges that Suarez told the confidential 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 cellphone. Suarez intended to bury the device at a public beach in Key West and then detonate it.

On July 27, 2015, Suarez took possession of an inert device and was arrested.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, members of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives , U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), the Key West Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc S. Anton and Karen E. Gilbert and Trial Attorneys Clement McGovern and Michael Dittoe of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.

A complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Suarez Complaint.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw heads-up regarding the supplements for National Security Law and Counterterrorism Law casebooks

July 28, 2015

Dear friends,

A note from our colleague Professor Steve Vladeck, alerting everyone that the supplement for the Dycus, Banks, Raven-Hansen, Vladeck casebooks (National Security Law and Counterterrorism Law) is now available. Steve writes:

Dear Colleagues:

One of the most exhilarating (and terrifying) things about teaching national security law is how thoroughly the field changes from year to year (and, lately, from month to month). To that end, I wanted to flag the 2015-16 Supplement to a pair of casebooks of which Steve Dycus from Vermont Law School, Bill Banks from Syracuse, Peter Raven-Hansen from George Washington, and I are the co-authors. As the attached front matter indicates, this year’s version (ISBN: 978-1-4548-5916-1) includes nearly 500 pages of material updating the fifth edition of National Security Law(published in 2011), and the second edition of Counterterrorism Law (published in 2012), over two-thirds of which is new as compared to last year.

Although folks should check out the Table of Contents for complete details (and the Teacher’s Guide for how the new materials supplement or supplant what’s in the latest casebooks), some of the highlights of the 2015-16 Supplement include detailed treatments of (and teaching materials for):

  • The Executive Summary of the SSCI Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program;
  • The updated Department of Defense Law of War Manual;
  • The Second Circuit’s May 7 decision in ACLU v. Clapper;
  • The Supreme Court’s June 8 decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry;
  • The D.C. Circuit’s June 12 decision in al Bahlul v. United States;
  • The Second Circuit’s June 17 decision in Turkmen v. Hasty;
  • Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015, and the FISA Court’s important interpretation thereof in a June 29 opinion;
  • The ongoing debate over the legal authorities for the use of military force against ISIL; and
  • The continuing litigation arising out of the continuing detention of non-citizens at Guantánamo, including the conditions thereof.

Needless to say, keeping abreast of the ever-expanding universe that is U.S. national security law and policy can be quite daunting. To that end, we very much hope that teachers and students alike find these materials both accessible and pedagogically useful. As always, we welcome any and all feedback about what we can do better in future supplements–and in the next editions of the casebooks (on which we’re already hard at work).

For Steve, Bill, and Peter, I am, sincerely yours,

-steve

Stephen I. Vladeck

Professor of Law

American University Washington College of Law

4801 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Room 350

Washington, DC 20016

Phone: (202) 274-4241 | E-Mail: svladeck

Web: http://www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/vladeck/

Twitter: @steve_vladeck

NSL-CTL 2015-2016 Supplement FM.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Saadeh (D.N.J.) (another ISIL material support arrest)

June 29, 2015

The criminal complaint is attached, and the key parts of the press release appear below:

NEW JERSEY MAN CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY TO PROVIDE MATERIAL SUPPORT TO ISIL AND WITNESS TAMPERING

WASHINGTON – A Hudson County, New Jersey, man was arrested today on charges of conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and aiding and abetting an attempt to do so, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey and Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel of the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, Division.

Alaa Saadeh, 23, of West New York, New Jersey, was arrested early this morning at his home. He is charged in a complaint with conspiring with other individuals in New Jersey and New York to provide services and personnel to ISIL, aiding and abetting an attempt to provide services and personnel to ISIL and attempting to persuade a witness to lie to the FBI. The defendant is scheduled to make his initial appearance at 2:30 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor of the District of New Jersey.

According to documents filed in this case:

The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) have been investigating a group of individuals from New York and New Jersey who have allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIL. Co-Conspirator 1 (CC-1) is Saadeh’s brother and was a resident of Rutherford, New Jersey, until departing the United States on May 5, 2015, allegedly to join ISIL. Co-Conspirator 2 (CC-2) was a resident of Queens, New York, until he was arrested on June 13, 2015, in New York on terrorism charges. Samuel Rahamin Topaz was a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey, until he was arrested on June 17, 2015, in New Jersey and charged with conspiring to provide services and personnel to ISIL.

On May 5, 2015, CC-1 attempted to travel from New Jersey to the Middle East, via John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly in order to join ISIL. CC-1 was accompanied to JFK by Saadeh and CC-2. On the way to the airport, CC-1 stated that he, Saadeh, CC-2 and Topaz had plans to reunite overseas within a few weeks.

After CC-1’s departure, and despite learning from CC-1’s family that he had been arrested in Jordan on suspicion of supporting ISIL, Saadeh, CC-2 and Topaz continued to discuss their plan to travel overseas to join ISIL. Electronic communications later recovered from Topaz’s phone corroborated their plans. On May 21, 2015, Saadeh and Topaz discussed that they needed to “lay low” and refrain from taking action in furtherance of the conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL that might be detected by law enforcement. Saadeh and Topaz also discussed needing to meet in person to discuss “hijra.” Topaz later told members of the JTTF that he and his conspirators used the term “hijra” (often spelled “hijrah”) to refer to traveling overseas to join ISIL. The next day, Saadeh told another individual that he suspected that CC-2 or Topaz had “snitched” on CC-1 and caused his arrest overseas, and that, if true, Saadeh thought he would have to “kill someone.”

In recorded conversations with an informant, Saadeh revealed his support for ISIL, including the terrorist organization’s use of beheadings and mass killings to impose its violent agenda. Saadeh also stated that he planned to travel overseas with CC-2 “at some point.” Saadeh further stated that he knew CC-1 planned to travel to join ISIL before CC-1 departed the United States, and that he bought CC-1’s airline ticket despite knowing this. The investigation revealed that Saadeh provided CC-1 transportation and removed a SIM card from CC-1’s phone in an apparent effort hide incriminating communications and other data.

In June, after becoming aware that he was under FBI surveillance, Saadeh directed an individual in New Jersey not to tell the FBI about CC-1’s support for ISIL or CC-1’s plans to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL. Saadeh instructed the individual to “play dumb” and be “honest up to a point,” but to be sure not to tell the FBI anything about ISIL.

Saadeh Criminal Complaint.pdf


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