nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Dec. 11, 2012) (sentencing of man for attempting to join al-Shabaab)

December 11, 2012

From DOJ’s press release:

CHICAGO — A Chicago man was sentenced today to nearly 10 years in federal prison for planning to travel to Somalia in 2010 to engage in jihadist fighting for a foreign terrorist organization. The defendant, Shaker Masri, pleaded guilty in July to attempting to provide material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, knowing that it was engaging in terrorism. Masri, 29, a U.S. citizen, has remained in custody since he was arrested as he was preparing to leave the country in August 2010.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman imposed the 118-month sentence that was agreed upon under the terms of Masri’s plea agreement, and she placed the former resident of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood on supervised release for 20 years after he is incarcerated. There is no parole in the federal prison system and inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

“Shaker Masri wanted to take the lives of human beings – including his own – to wreak havoc and advance a terrorist agenda. Through the hard work and dedication of a team of federal agents and prosecutors, he was stopped, and today’s sentence ensures that those who would lend support to terrorist organizations will be punished,” said Gary S. Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Acting U.S. Attorney Shapiro announced the sentence with Thomas R. Trautmann, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI. The investigation was conducted by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of FBI special agents, Chicago police officers, and representatives from 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

According to court documents, on July 19, 2010, Masri told an associate, who unknown to him was cooperating with law enforcement, that he not only intended to travel abroad to engage in a jihadist conflict as a combatant, but that he intended to volunteer for a suicide mission. Masri told this individual that he had two choices: either travel to Somalia to aid al-Shabaab or to Afghanistan to aid al-Qaeda, and Masri indicated that he had decided to travel to Somalia. Masri assured the cooperating source (CS) that he was determined to join a jihadist conflict and only needed funds to facilitate his plan. The CS responded that he had money to fund Masri’s proposed travel, but only if he could join Masri in traveling to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, and Masri agreed.

Masri admitted that he and the CS met to discuss their proposed travel on multiple occasions over the following two weeks. They discussed the logistics of traveling to Somalia, including prospective routes, dates, how to conceal their departure, the costs of the journey, the necessity of supplies, and the weapons they would need to acquire in Somalia. Masri warned the CS that they had to be careful to avoid drawing any attention to their proposed travel, the plea agreement states.

On July 23 and 28, 2010, Masri and the CS met to discuss their proposed travel. Masri suggested that, to avoid suspicion, they should avoid traveling directly towards East Africa. Rather, Masri suggested that they travel to southern California, where they could cross the U.S. border into Mexico. From Mexico, Masri explained that they could travel to and through a Central or South American country that did not work with United States’ law enforcement before heading to East Africa. When asked by the CS how they would link up with al-Shabaab once in Somalia, Masri assured the CS that the area of southern Somalia where they would be traveling was controlled exclusively by al-Shabaab. Masri further assured the CS that, after arriving in Somalia, he expected they would be placed with a faction of al-Shabaab comprised of foreign fighters.

Masri admitted he knew that al-Shabaab was a militant organization that had engaged in violent terrorist activity. He was also aware that al-Shabaab’s leadership had issued statements advocating terrorism, and he further knew that the United States had designated al-Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization. In their July 23 meeting, Masri told the CS that once they embarked on their journey, they would be “wanted” men.

On July 29, 2010, Masri and the CS met at the CS’s home where they used the CS’s computer to purchase airline tickets to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles. Using a debit card provided by the CS, Masri purchased two one-way tickets to travel from Chicago’s Midway Airport to Los Angeles on Aug. 4, 2010.

Masri told the CS that before they left, he needed to discard his laptop and purchase a new computer. Masri explained that he needed to destroy his computer because it contained incriminating information and the CS agreed to help. In the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2010, Masri and the CS met to finalize preparations for their impending journey to Somalia. They went to a liquor store where the CS was to collect a purported debt that could be used to finance their trip. After purportedly obtaining $18,000 in funds from the liquor store, Masri and the CS traveled to a retail store where they purchased a new laptop computer. Masri was arrested as he and the CS exited the store.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel Hammerman and Nicole Kim, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Abukhdair (S.D. Alabama Dec. 11, 2012)

December 11, 2012

From the DOJ press release (see also attached complaint):

MOBILE, Ala. – U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown of the Southern District of Alabama and Stephen E. Richardson, Special Agent in Charge of the Mobile Division of the FBI, announced that Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair, 25, and Randy Wilson, also known as Rasheed Wilson, 25, both U.S. citizens living in Mobile, were arrested today on terrorism charges filed in the Southern District of Alabama.

A criminal complaint signed on Dec. 10, 2012, charges Abukhdair and Wilson with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, knowing or intending that it be used in preparation for, or in carrying out a conspiracy to kill persons or damage property outside the United States. The complaint also charges Abukhdair with passport fraud. According to the complaint, the charges stem from Wilson and Abukhdair’s conspiracy to travel from the United States to Mauritania intending to prepare to wage violent jihad.

Abukhdair and Wilson were the subjects of an investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Mobile Division of the FBI. Wilson was arrested this morning in Atlanta attempting to board a flight that would ultimately take him to Morocco. Abukhdair was arrested in Augusta, Ga., at a bus terminal. According to the complaint, Abukhdair was scheduled to fly to Morocco from outside the United States on Dec 13, 2012.

The complaint alleges that Wilson and Abukhdair met online in 2010. On Aug. 27, 2011, an FBI undercover employee met Wilson, and Wilson told the FBI employee that he and Abukhdair had formulated a plan to travel together overseas for the purpose of waging violent jihad prior to Wilson meeting the FBI employee, according to the complaint. In preparation for their travel, Abukhdair applied for a new passport and falsely claimed that his previous passport had been misplaced, according to the complaint. In fact, the complaint alleges, Abukhdair was concerned that Egyptian stamps in his passport might raise suspicions and impede his travel plans.

The complaint further alleges that in July of 2012, Wilson and Abukhdair also began meeting with a confidential source working for the FBI, and that Wilson and Abukhdair brought the source into their plans to travel overseas to wage violent jihad. According to the complaint, Abukhdair and Wilson planned to travel to Casablanca, Morocco, and from there to Mauritania, where they expected to be in a position to wage violent jihad in a nearby country or conflict.

U.S. Attorney Brown stated, “The top priority of the Department of Justice nationally, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office locally, is to deter, disrupt and prevent acts of terrorism. We will continue to defend our nation against anyone who seeks to harm us by investigating and prosecuting national and international terrorist plots. The law enforcement actions of today should send a clear warning to those who would consider engaging in violent jihad, either at home or abroad, that their future is bleak: they may end up in a US prison cell or a casualty on a foreign battlefield. This case should also generally serve as a reminder to all Americans to remain vigilant against terror threats. Thanks to the excellent work of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, any threat posed by these individuals has been prevented.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richardson stated: “The efforts of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in this investigation represent our unwavering commitment to protect the United States against terrorist attacks domestically and abroad. Our resolve to protect our family, friends, neighbors and community ensures that we work diligently using every resource available to identify, disrupt, and dismantle extremists who desire to do us harm.”

The Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Mobile division of the FBI conducted the investigation and presented the case for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Bodnar and Sean P. Costello and Trial Attorneys Clement McGovern and Annamartine Salick of the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section are handling the prosecution of the case on behalf of the United States.

A complaint is a determination by a U.S. Magistrate Judge that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until and unless he or she is proven guilty at trial.

Wilson and AK Complaint.pdf

nationalsecuritylaw upcoming event: ICRC/Pepperdine Interactive IHL Training (January 11-13, 2013)

December 10, 2012

A very interesting event upcoming at Pepperdine:

The ICRC and Pepperdine Law are partnering to organize an Interactive IHL training session on January 11-13 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. The training is open to participants with an international law background, law professors teaching or interested in teaching international law courses related to IHL, and humanitarian and legal practitioners. The training will be using response-based technology (Turning Technologies Clickers) to place participants in an operational environment where they will have to concretely apply the knowledge gained through presentations and lectures.

I see two big benefits for faculty considering attending: first, the course is a great refresher on IHL; second, it will introduce participants to ways that clickers can be used in the classroom. (I suppose a third benefit, is being in Malibu in January).

The flyer is attached, and more information is available here.

The workshop schedule is available here:

Anyone with questions should feel free to contact me at the information listed below.


Greg McNeal

Application form.docx