nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Loewen (D. Kan.) (20 year sentence in carbomb plot)

August 31, 2015

This one dates back to summer and fall 2013, and feels dated in that the sources of inspiration cited are bin Ladin and al-Awlaki rather than ISIL. At any rate, it’s an interesting fact pattern both in that the defendant had access to a secure area of the airport and that the role played by undercover FBI agents was substantial. From the press release:

WASHINGTON – A Wichita, Kansas, man working as an avionic technician for an aeronautics company and possessing restricted access to secure airport areas, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison today for attempting to explode a car bomb at the airport in Wichita, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Barry R. Grissom of the District of Kansas announced.

Terry Lee Loewen, 60, pleaded guilty on June 8 to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Loewen was arrested in December 2013 when he tried to enter the grounds of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport for the purpose of exploding a bomb. (The airport was recently renamed the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport).

…In his plea, Loewen admitted he came to the attention of the FBI late in May 2013 when he became a Facebook friend of a person who was posting comments advocating violent jihad. The FBI began communicating with Loewen through an undercover employee. After Loewen expressed his desire to engage in violent jihad, the undercover employee offered to introduce him to someone who could help him do it.

Loewen told the undercover employee he was waiting for what he called “the green light” from Allah to carry out a violent attack on a civilian target. He said that he did not expect to live through any of the attacks he had in mind. Loewen also said that he was inspired by the teachings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al Awlaki, and that he had downloaded thousands of pages of information on jihad.

In September 2013, Loewen sent photos of airplanes on the tarmac at the Wichita airport. He commented that he could have “walked over there, shot both pilots … slapped some C4 on both fuel trucks and set them off before anyone even called TSA.”

In October 2013, Loewen met with a second undercover FBI employee who Loewen believed was a “brother” and would help him blow up a plane. Loewen said that he had scouted the airport to determine a time and place for an attack that would be sure to kill as many people as possible.

Loewen assisted the second FBI employee in the final assembly of an improvised explosive device. He was not aware that the explosive materials used in the device were inert. In the early hours of Dec. 13, 2013, the second FBI employee picked up Loewen at a Wichita hotel. They drove to where the bomb was stored and finished wiring the device. When they reached the airport, Loewen used his badge twice at a card reader to attempt to get onto the tarmac before he was arrested.

Loewen was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Monti L. Belot of the District of Kansas.

….

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Amin (E.D. Va.) (11 year sentence in ISIL material support case)

August 28, 2015

This one has both twitter & bitcoin in the fact pattern …

WASHINGTON – Ali Shukri Amin, 17, of Manassas, Virginia, was sentenced today to 136 months in prison to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release and monitoring of his internet activities for conspiring to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

“Ali Shukri Amin is a young American who used social media to provide material support to ISIL,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “ISIL continues to use social media to send their violent and hateful message around the world in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite youth and others to support their cause. More and more, their propaganda is seeping into our communities and reaching those who are most vulnerable. The Department of Justice will continue to use all tools to disrupt the threats that ISIL poses, and our efforts will be furthered by parents and other members of our community willing to take action to confront and deter this threat wherever it may surface.”

“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “The Department of Justice will continue to pursue those that travel to fight against the United States and our allies, as well as those individuals that recruit others on behalf of ISIL in the homeland.”

“Today marks a personal tragedy for the Amin family and the community as we have lost yet another young person to the allure of extremist ideology focused on hatred,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “Amin’s case serves as a reminder of how persistent and pervasive online radicalization has become. The FBI, through our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, remains dedicated to protecting the United States against the ongoing violent threat posed by ISIL and their supporters.”

“Observations made by school staff and subsequent follow-up by the School Resource Officer were some of the earlier indicators of suspicious behavior regarding this individual,” said Chief Hudson. “Those observations were quickly relayed to our partners with the JTTF who acted upon this information very quickly. We greatly appreciate that these observations were observed and reported to the proper authorities proved to be instrumental in the overall investigation in stopping a dangerous network such as ISIL from further infiltrating our community.”

Amin pleaded guilty on June 11, 2015. According to court documents, Amin admitted to using Twitter to provide advice and encouragement to ISIL and its supporters. Amin, who used the Twitter handle @Amreekiwitness, provided instruction on how to use Bitcoin, a virtual currency, to mask the provision of funds to ISIL, as well as facilitation to ISIL supporters seeking to travel to Syria to fight with ISIL. Additionally, Amin admitted that he facilitated travel for Reza Niknejad, an 18-year-old Prince William County resident who traveled to Syria to join ISIL in January 2015. Niknejad was charged on June 10, 2015, in the Eastern District of Virginia with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to provide material support to ISIL and conspiring to kill and injure people abroad…..


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Said (S.D. Fla.) (15 year sentence in material support case involving Kenyan citizen involved with variety of groups)

August 28, 2015

As noted before, the interesting thing about this prosecution is that the defendant was a Kenyan citizen in Kenya, though he was transmitting money from a U.S. citizen (albeit a citizen resident in Saudi Arabia). At any rate, here is the excerpt from the press release:

WASHINGTON – Mohamed Hussain Said, 27, a citizen and resident of Nairobi, Kenya, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida for conspiring to provide material support to three separately designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in Iraq/al-Nusrah Front (AQI/al-Nusrah Front) and al-Shabaab.

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.

On May 28, 2015, Said pleaded guilty to count one of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to provide money and recruits to al-Qa’ida, AQI/al-Nusrah Front in Syria and al-Shabaab in Somalia. During the conspiracy, Said received a series of wire transfers from co-conspirator Gufran Ahmed Mohammed for the purpose of supporting al-Shabaab, and recruited experienced al-Shabaab fighters for AQI/al-Nusrah Front to fight in the conflict in Syria. Additionally, Said tried to recruit other individuals for attacks within the United States.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. El Gammal (S.D.N.Y.) (indictment of Arizona man for facilitating another’s travel to join ISIL)

August 27, 2015

The indictment is attached, but has few details. I don’t have the underlying complaint supporting the man’s arrest a few days ago; apparently it has more detail, and the press release excerpted below seems to draw on it. Like most such cases, this one begins with social media. It is not clear that this is how the defendant was detected, though it seems likely.

The offense conduct, interestingly, seems largely to focus on the defendant’s role in facilitating a New York City man’s travel to Syria in order to train with and join ISIL. At first blush at least, the facilitation primarily seems to have entailed introducing that man to a point of contact who could help him get to ISIL in Syria, and then providing further encouragement and unspecified travel advice thereafter.

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal, aka Jammie Gammal, 42, of Avondale, Arizona, was indicted today for providing and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as for aiding and abetting the receipt of military-type training from ISIL and conspiring to receive such training.

…As alleged in the indictment returned today and the complaint unsealed yesterday in the Southern District of New York:

In August 2014, a 24-year-old New York City resident (CC-1) learned via social media that El Gammal had posted social media comments that supported ISIL. Minutes later, CC-1 contacted El Gammal. Over the next several months, CC-1 and El Gammal continued corresponding over the Internet, although CC-1 deleted many of these exchanges.

In the midst of these communications, in October 2014, El Gammal traveled to Manhattan, New York, where CC-1 was enrolled in college, and contacted and met with CC-1. While in New York City, El Gammal also contacted another co-conspirator (CC-2), who lived in Turkey, about CC-1’s plans to travel to the Middle East. El Gammal later provided CC-1 with social media contact information for CC-2. Thereafter, El Gammal and CC-2 had multiple social media exchanges about CC-1 traveling to the Middle East. In addition, CC-1 began communicating with CC-2, introducing himself as a friend of “Gammal’s.”

In late January 2015, CC-1 abruptly left New York City for Istanbul. After CC-1 arrived in Turkey, El Gammal continued to communicate with him over the Internet, providing advice on traveling toward Syria and on meeting with CC-2. After CC-1 arrived in Syria, he received military-type training from ISIL between early February and at least early May 2015.

On May 7, 2015, CC-1 reported to El Gammal that “everything [was] going according to plan.”

* * *

El Gammal is charged with one count of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of conspiring to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the defendant’s sentence, if any, will be determined by a judge.

El Gammal was arrested on Aug. 24, 2015, in Avondale, and presented in federal court in the District of Arizona, pursuant to a criminal complaint. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York. …

El Gammal Indictment.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Beltran (D.D.C.) (guilty plea by FARC member relating to 2003 kidnappings)

August 26, 2015

See the press release excerpt below, plus the attached plea agreement.

WASHINGTON – Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran, 43, a member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (FARC) terrorist organization, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to hostage-taking charges stemming from the 2003 kidnappings of three U.S. citizens in Colombia.

Navarrete Beltran was extradited from Colombia to the United States in November 2014 to face charges in a superseding indictment that was returned in February 2011. He pleaded guilty to three counts of hostage-taking. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia scheduled sentencing for Nov. 10, 2015. Two other FARC leaders were convicted for their roles in the hostage-taking.

… According to a statement of facts submitted as part of the plea hearing, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia, formed in 1964 as the armed wing of the Colombian Communist Party. It has evolved into a major armed force financed by drug trafficking, hostage-taking and extortion. International human rights organizations have repeatedly accused the FARC of serious crimes, including kidnapping, murder, use of land mines, threats, the recruitment of minors, forced displacement and hostage-taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.

As described in the statement of offense, Navarrete Beltran was a member of the First Front in the FARC’s Southern Block.

In his plea, he admitted taking part in the hostage-taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes and Keith Stansell. These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on Feb. 13, 2003, by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia. Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.

For the next five and a half years, according to the statement of offense, Gonsalves, Howes, Stansell and many others were held prisoners by the FARC and used to bargain with the Colombian government. Along with about a dozen Colombian hostages, they were forced to march from one site to another to prevent their rescue. They were threatened, chained and forced to participate in proof-of-life videos. In early October 2006, the hostages were delivered to the FARC’s Southern Block’s First Front and were held prisoners by the First Front of the FARC.

From October 2006 through mid-June 2008, according to the statement of offense, Navarrete Beltran and other guerillas kept the hostages under the control of the FARC’s First Front. In particular, Navarrete Beltran often served as an armed guard of the American hostages.

In July 2008, the Colombian military conducted an operation which resulted in the rescue of the hostages. All told, members of the FARC held the Americans hostage for 1,967 days.

Navarrete Beltran Plea Agreement.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Crawford (N.D.N.Y.) (guilty verdict for KKK member who tried to make…an x-ray weapon)

August 21, 2015

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – A jury convicted Glendon Scott Crawford, 51, of Galway, New York, today after a five-day trial on all charges relating to his efforts to build a weapon of mass destruction.

…Crawford was convicted of attempting to produce and use a radiological dispersal device and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Crawford was also convicted of distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He also faces a $2 million fine on the attempting to produce and use a radiological dispersal device charge, and a fine of $250,000 on the other two charges.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2015, before Chief U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe of the Northern District of New York.

Crawford is the first person to be found guilty of attempting to construct a radiological dispersal device, a statute Congress passed in 2004.

“Glendon Scott Crawford, a self-professed member of the Ku Klux Klan, was convicted of offenses relating to his deadly plan to use a radiological dispersal device to target unsuspecting Muslim Americans with lethal doses of radiation,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism, and we will continue to pursue justice against those who seek to perpetrate attacks on American soil.”

“Crawford is a terrorist motivated by bigotry and hate who would have used a weapon of mass destruction to kill innocent Muslim members of our community were it not for the good judgment of citizens who quickly alerted law enforcement to his diabolical plan and the outstanding work of the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said U.S. Attorney Hartunian. “This case illustrates how we must remain vigilant to protect our community from would-be terrorists.”

“Today’s verdict is a testament to the tremendous efforts of our Joint Terrorism Task Force in uncovering Crawford’s plot and the dedication of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing justice to an individual who sought to inflict terror and harm on our innocent citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge Vale. “This verdict is a victory for us all, but we must continue to remain observant; it is only with the assistance of our community members and law enforcement partners that we can be successful in thwarting these violent plots.”

In April 2012, the FBI received information that Crawford, who was employed as an industrial mechanic with General Electric in Schenectady, New York, had approached local Jewish organizations seeking people who might help him develop technology to be used against people whom he perceived to be enemies of Israel. During a 14-month investigation, the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force learned that Crawford was attempting to solicit funds to purchase, and then weaponize, a commercially available X-ray machine so that it could be used to injure or kill others by exposing them to lethal doses of radiation.

During the investigation, Crawford, with help from co-conspirator Eric J. Feight, took steps to design, acquire the parts for, build and test a remote initiation device that could have activated the radiation machine, and acquired the X-ray machine that he planned to modify into a weapon of mass destruction. The X-ray device that he planned to use had been modified so that Crawford could not have used it to hurt anyone.

Feight pleaded guilty on Jan. 22, 2014, to providing material support to terrorists. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 17, 2015, by Chief Judge Sharpe and faces up to 15 years of imprisonment.

Crawford, a self-professed member of the Ku Klux Klan, wanted to use the device against Muslims, and he scouted mosques in Albany and Schenectady and an Islamic community center and school in Schenectady as possible targets. Crawford also suggested the New York governor’s mansion as a potential target.

With undercover agents, Crawford discussed placing the radiological device within a van or truck, parking the vehicle near the entrance to the target location, and then remotely activating the device so that it would direct lethal doses of radiation at people coming in and out of the target location.

A central feature of Crawford’s completed X-ray device was that its targets would be exposed to dangerous and lethal doses of X-ray radiation without being aware of the exposure, the harmful effects of which would likely not be immediately apparent.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Juraboev (E.D.N.Y.) (guilty plea in ISIL material support case)

August 14, 2015

From DOJ’s press release (see also attached plea agreement):

WASHINGTON – Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 25, a citizen of Uzbekistan and resident of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

…According to previous court filings, in August 2014, Juraboev posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIL. In subsequent interviews by federal agents, Juraboev stated his belief in ISIL’s terrorist agenda, including the establishment by force of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Juraboev stated that he wanted to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIL but lacked the means to travel. He stated that if he were unable to travel, he would engage in an act of martyrdom on U.S. soil if ordered to do so by ISIL, such as killing the President or planting a bomb on Coney Island, New York. During the next several months, Juraboev and a co-conspirator discussed plans to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIL, culminating in Juraboev’s purchase on Dec. 27, 2014, of a ticket to travel from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, to Istanbul, departing on March 29, 2015.

Juraboev pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge William F. Kuntz II of the Eastern District of New York. At sentencing, Juraboev faces up to 15 years in prison. …

Juraboev Plea Agreement.pdf