United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010)

* United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010) (new material support indictment)

Last night FBI agents in Chicago arrested a U.S. citizen named Shaker Masri shortly before he was to leave the country. The criminal complaint alleges that Masri planned to join al Shabaab in Somalia (apparently al Qaeda is mentioned as well, though without the document to look at I’m simply assuming that the complaint treats al Shabaab as an extension of al Qaeda), and that he hoped ultimately to participate in a suicide bombing. The offenses specified in the complaint appears to be

(i) an attempted violation of 18 USC 2339B (providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, in this case al Shabaab and al Qaeda; query whether the support in question consisted of Masri supplying himself as “personnel” to the group, which is the way in which 2339B functions like a membership prohibition); and

(ii) an attempted violation of 18 USC 2339A (providing material support to anyone knowing or intending that they will use the support to facilitate any of several dozen predicate violent acts, including 18 USC 2332a (which criminalizes the use of “weapons of mass destruction”—defined very broadly to encompass explosive devices—in various scenarios, including a U.S. person using explosives without lawful authority outside the United States).

The key details from the press release appears below:

CHICAGO – A 26-year old Chicago man, who authorities believed was planning to travel to Somalia and engage in jihadist fighting with a terrorist group, was arrested last night just hours before he was scheduled to leave Chicago, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.

Shaker Masri, who lived in the Streeterville area of Chicago, was arrested late yesterday in Countryside, Ill., without incident, by members of the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) following an 18-month investigation. Masri was charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count each of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization and attempting to provide material support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction, both of which are felony offenses.

According to the complaint, Masri, who is a U.S. citizen, began espousing his increasingly violent views to an individual he befriended in early 2009. During the ensuing months, Masri began to openly express a desire to participate in a “jihad” and to fight against what he characterized as “infidels.”

In the past month, it is alleged that Masri began to actively plan a trip to Somalia where he hoped to join the specially designated terrorist groups al Qaeda and al Shabaab and commit a suicide attack targeting “infidels.” He was arrested last night just hours before he was planning to depart Chicago en route to Somalia.

Investigation by the Chicago FBI’s JTTF included the use of undercover operatives and court authorized electronic surveillance of a telephone used by Masri and resulted in the filing of the charges announced today.


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