United States v. Chesser (E.D. Va.)

* United States v. Chesser (E.D. Va.)

Zachary Chesser was arrested yesterday based on a criminal complaint alleging that he attempted to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, in violation of 18 USC 2339B (Al-Shabaab was designated an FTO in February 2008). The underlying FBI affidavit, which is attached, describes various attempts to travel to Somalia in order to join and receive training from Al-Shabaab as well as a variety of internet-related activities.

Note in case you are wondering why there is no charge under 18 USC 2339D, which forbids the receipt of military-style training from a DFTO:

18 USC 2339D prohibits the receipt of training, but for good or ill, it does not also cover attempts or conspiracies to receive training.

From the press release:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Fairfax County, Va., was arrested today on charges that he provided material support to Al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

On Feb. 29, 2008, the U.S. Department of State designated Al-Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization, describing it as a violent and brutal extremist group based in Somalia with a number of individuals affiliated with Al-Qa’ida. This designation prohibits providing material support or resources to Al-Shabaab.

According to an affidavit filed in court, Chesser, aka Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, volunteered to federal agents that he attempted on two occasions to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab as a foreign fighter. After he was prevented from boarding a flight from New York to Uganda on July 10, 2010, Chesser allegedly admitted to agents that he intended to travel from Uganda to Somalia. Chesser had attempted to board the plane with his infant son, and court records allege that he brought his son with him as part of his “cover” to avoid detection of his intention to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The court affidavit indicates that in a series of interviews with federal law enforcement, Chesser allegedly discussed in detail how he has maintained several online profiles dedicated to extremist jihad propaganda. These profiles were allegedly used by Chesser to post pro-jihad messages and videos online. These postings allegedly included an article detailing the prerequisites involved in leaving for jihad, which closely follows the steps Chesser took before his July 10 attempt to leave the United States in order to go fight in Somalia.

Chesser_affidavit.pdf

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