nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Khan (N.D. Ill.) (guilty plea in ISIL material support case

October 30, 2015

Plea agreement attached, press release below:

WASHINGTON – A Bolingbrook, Illinois, man pleaded guilty today to a federal charge that he attempted to travel overseas to join a designated foreign terrorist organization in Syria.

The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s Chicago Division.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, identified in a written plea agreement as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Khan, a U.S. citizen from southwest suburban Bolingbrook, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois did not immediately schedule a sentencing hearing. A status hearing was set for Dec. 3, 2015, at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Khan has been detained in federal custody since he was arrested on Oct. 4, 2014, at O’Hare International Airport by members of the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force.

According to his plea agreement, beginning no later than approximately February 2014, Khan used the Internet to obtain introductions to ISIL members in Syria and to assist him with traveling there to join the terrorist group. Khan spoke with ISIL members to coordinate the logistics of his admission into ISIL-controlled territory, the plea agreement states.

Khan also admitted in the plea agreement that he knew ISIL had been designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization. Upon arriving in Syria, according to the plea agreement, Khan intended to work under the direction and control of ISIL, and be required to take any assignment ISIL gave him.

The case was investigated the FBI and the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) and the Illinois State Police also provided significant assistance in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matt Hiller, Angel Krull and Sean Driscoll of the Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Michael Dittoe of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan Plea Agreement.pdf

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Saadeh (D.N.J.) (guilty plea in ISIL material support case

October 30, 2015

The documents are attached, and the press release is below:

WASHINGTON – A West New York, New Jersey, man today admitted that he conspired to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. The announcement was made by 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, 24, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton of the District of New Jersey to an information charging him with one count of conspiring with others to provide material support to ISIL. He remains detained without bail.

“Saadeh conspired with his brother and others to travel overseas to join ISIL,” 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 provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

“Alaa Saadeh is the second defendant in this case who has admitted trying to provide material support to a known terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “That organization, and others who share its goals, are intent on recruiting people in this country and around the world to join their campaign against our security. The fight against these kinds of groups is going on around the world, but is also being waged here at home. They are intent on threatening the safety of Americans here and abroad, and we and our law enforcement partners are intent on stopping them.”

“Today in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey Alaa Saadeh admitted he planned to travel to Syria to join ISIL along with others,” said Special Agent in Charge Frankel. “Now, thanks to the efforts of Newark FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, Saadeh will go to prison rather than take up arms overseas.”

According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:

Saadeh admitted that prior to his arrest on June 29, 2015, he planned to travel overseas to join ISIL along with others. Saadeh discussed the plans to join ISIL with his brother, Nader Saadeh, Samuel Rahamin Topaz and Munther Omar Saleh, and told the judge today that each of them indicated that they wanted to join ISIL at various times. Saadeh also admitted that he watched ISIL-related videos with Nader Saadeh and Topaz, some of which depicted the execution of individuals – both Muslim and non-Muslim – regarded by ISIL as enemies.

On May 5, 2015, Nader Saadeh, departed the United States with plans to travel overseas to join ISIL as part of the conspiracy, according to Saadeh’s statements in court today. Saadeh further admitted assisting Nader Saadeh with these plans by letting him purchase airline tickets using Saadeh’s credit card, removing the SIM card from Nader’s smartphone and resetting the smartphone in an effort to avoid detection. Saadeh admitted that Saleh assisted Nader Saadeh by giving him a contact that would facilitate Nader’s travel from Turkey to ISIL in Syria. Saadeh further admitted that after his brother left the United States, Saleh and Topaz intended to travel overseas to join ISIL. After becoming aware that the FBI was investigating this matter, Saadeh instructed an individual who knew of Nader Saadeh’s support for ISIL to lie if questioned by the FBI on the subject. Saadeh further admitted telling this individual to “just play stupid,” “pretend it never happened” and “keep it honest up to a point.”

Saadeh admitted to knowing that ISIL was a designated terrorist organization and was taking over territory overseas, expelling non-Muslims from their homes and executing individuals who did not obey ISIL’s commands.

The count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 16, 2016.

Saadeh’s alleged co-conspirators are being prosecuted and are currently in federal custody. On Sept. 9, 2015, Topaz pleaded guilty before Judge Wigenton to conspiring to provide material support to ISIL. Nader Saadeh has been charged in a criminal complaint with conspiring to provide material support to ISIL, among other charges. Saleh has been indicted on terrorism-related charges in the Eastern District of New York. The charges and allegations against Nader Saadeh and Saleh are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Frankel, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys L. Judson Welle, Dennis C. Carletta and Francisco J. Navarro of the District of New Jersey, with assistance from Trial Attorney Robert Sander of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Alaa Saadeh Information.pdf

Alaa Saadeh Plea Agreement.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Aswat (

October 16, 2015

A 20-year sentence today (on a count of conspiracy to provide material support to AQ, and another count of actually providing such support) in connection with a long-running case involving a group of men linked to plans for an extremist training camp in Oregon (remember the Ujaama case?). From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Haroon Aswat, 41, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York to 20 years in prison for terrorism offenses relating to Aswat’s efforts to establish a terrorist training camp in the United States. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York made the announcement.

Aswat was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom on Oct. 21, 2014. Aswat pleaded guilty on March 30, 2015, to one count of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and one count of providing material support to al Qaeda.

“Haroon Aswat provided material support to al Qaeda and plotted to establish a terrorist training camp on American soil,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Aswat was arrested more than 10 years ago, and his sentence is the result of the tireless and persistent efforts of law enforcement to hold accountable all those who wish to harm the United States, whether at home or abroad, no matter how long it takes.”

“Haroon Aswat, with his co-conspirators, sought to establish a terrorist training camp on American soil, and traveled to Afghanistan to receive training from al Qaeda,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “Arrested abroad in 2005, Aswat fought extradition for nearly 10 years, but faced with overwhelming evidence against him, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to providing material support to al Qaeda shortly after arriving here. Aswat’s conviction and the sentence imposed today – along with the other recent terrorism prosecutions by this Office, including of Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, Abu Hamza, and Khaled al Fawwaz – serve as further proof that justice in international terrorism cases continues to be delivered in American civilian courts.”

According to the allegations contained in the indictment, statements made at related court proceedings including today’s sentencing, court fillings and evidence presented at prior trials:

In late 1999, Aswat, along with co-defendants Mustafa Kamel Mustafa aka Abu Hamza, Ouassama Kassir and Earnest James Ujaama, attempted to establish a terrorist training camp in the United States to support al Qaeda, which has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization. Aswat conspired with Abu Hamza, Kassir and Ujaama to establish the terrorist training camp on a rural parcel of property located in Bly, Oregon. The purpose of the Bly camp was for Muslims to receive various types of training – including military-style jihad training – in preparation to fight jihad in Afghanistan. As used by the conspirators in this case, the term “jihad” meant defending Islam against purported enemies through violence and armed aggression, including, if necessary, by using murder to rid Muslim holy lands of non-believers in Islam.

In a letter faxed from Ujaama in the United States to Abu Hamza in the United Kingdom, the property in Bly was described as a place that “looks just like Afghanistan,” and the letter noted that the men at Bly were “stock-piling weapons and ammunition.” In late 1999, after transmitting the faxed letter, Abu Hamza directed Aswat and Kassir, both of whom resided in London and attended Abu Hamza’s mosque there, to travel to Oregon to assist in establishing the camp. On Nov. 26, 1999, Aswat and Kassir arrived in New York, and then traveled to Bly.

Aswat and Kassir traveled to Bly for the purpose of training men to fight jihad. Kassir told witnesses that he supported Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and that he had previously received jihad training in Pakistan. Kassir also possessed a compact disc that contained instructions on how to make bombs and poisons. After leaving Bly, Aswat and Kassir traveled to Seattle where they resided at a mosque for approximately two months. While in Seattle, Kassir, in Aswat’s presence, provided men from the mosque with additional terrorist training lessons – including instructions on different types of weapons, how to construct a homemade silencer for a firearm, how to assemble and disassemble an AK-47 and how an AK-47 could be altered to be fully automatic and to launch a grenade. On another occasion, with Aswat sitting by his side, Kassir announced to the men in Seattle that he had come to the United States for martyrdom and to destroy, and he informed his audience that some of them could die or get hurt.

Aswat subsequently linked up with al Qaeda and received training at al Qaeda’s al Faruq training camp in Afghanistan, which was al Qaeda’s primary training camp and where recruits were trained in topics that included military tactics, weapons and explosives. Aswat remained in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and after the United States invaded Afghanistan. A ledger recovered in September 2002 from an al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan, listed a number of individuals associated with al Qaeda, including Aswat. The al Qaeda safe house was used by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s chief operational planner and the alleged planner of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

At the time of Aswat’s arrest in Zambia in 2005, he had a computer with him that contained, among other things: a book on survival skills in the event of a nuclear, biological and chemical weapon detonation; the “Anarchist Cookbook,” which contained instructions on how to make bombs and hack into computers; a hand-to-hand combat instruction manual, which noted that its purpose was to “teach you how you can kill another person with your own two hands;” the “Close Combat Textbook;” and the “Big Book of Mischief,” which also contained detailed and extensive instructions on how to make explosives.

* * *

Aswat was convicted of one count of conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda, and one count of providing material support to al Qaeda. In addition to the term of imprisonment, Judge Forrest sentenced Aswat to 20 years and imposed a $200 special assessment. Judge Forrest also ordered that Aswat be removed from the United States to the United Kingdom following the completion of his sentence.

Abu Hamza and Kassir were previously convicted for their roles in attempting to establish a terrorist training camp in the United States. On May 12, 2009, after a four-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Kassir was found guilty of charges relating to his efforts to establish the terrorist training camp in Bly and his operation of several terrorist websites. On Sept. 15, 2009, U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan of the Southern District of New York sentenced Kassir to life in prison.

On May 19, 2014, after a four-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Abu Hamza was found guilty of charges relating to his role in the conspiracy to establish the terrorist training camp in Bly, as well as his role in a hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998 that resulted in four deaths and his support of violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. On Jan. 9, 2015, Judge Forrest sentenced Abu Hamza to life in prison.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Ferizi (E.D. Va.) (ISIL material support charges involving hacker from Kosovo)

October 16, 2015

An unusual one, involving a Kosovo man who used his hacking skills to provide ISIL with personal info on U.S. military and government personnel…Note that there is a link to the complaint at the bottom of the press release, the text of which appears below:

ISIL-Linked Hacker Arrested in Malaysia on U.S. Charges

Defendant Charged with Providing Material Support to ISIL and Computer Hacking Related to the Theft and Distribution of U.S. Military and Federal Employee Personal Information

Malaysian authorities have detained Kosovo citizen Ardit Ferizi in Malaysia on a U.S. provisional arrest warrant alleging that he provided material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and committed computer hacking and identity theft violations in conjunction with the theft and release of personally identifiable information (PII) of U.S. service members and federal employees. The criminal complaint was unsealed today. The United States is seeking his extradition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia to stand trial.

The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Paul Abbate of the FBI’s Washington, D.C.’s Field Office.

As alleged in the criminal complaint, Ferizi, also known by his hacking moniker “Th3Dir3ctorY,” is believed to be the leader of a Kosovar internet hacking group called Kosova Hacker’s Security (KHS). Ferizi hacked into the computer system of a victim company located in the United States and stole the PII of thousands of individuals. He then provided the PII of over 1,000 U.S. service members and federal employees to ISIL to be used against those employees. Between June and August 2015, Ferizi provided unlawfully obtained PII to ISIL member Junaid Hussain, aka Abu Hussain al-Britani. On Aug. 11, 2015, in the name of the Islamic State Hacking Division (ISHD), Hussain posted a tweet titled “NEW: U.S. Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!” which contained a hyperlink to a 30-page document. That document stated, in part, that “we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses, we are in your emails and social media accounts, we are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the khilafah, who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!” The next 27 pages of the document contained the names, e-mail addresses, e-mail passwords, locations and phone numbers for approximately 1,351 U.S. military and other government personnel. This posting was intended to provide ISIL supporters in the United States and elsewhere with the PII belonging to the listed government employees for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against those individuals.

“As alleged, Ardit Ferizi is a terrorist hacker who provided material support to ISIL by stealing the personally identifiable information of U.S. service members and federal employees and providing it to ISIL for use against those employees,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “This case is a first of its kind and, with these charges, we seek to hold Ferizi accountable for his theft of this information and his role in ISIL’s targeting of U.S. government employees. This arrest demonstrates our resolve to confront and disrupt ISIL’s efforts to target Americans, in whatever form and wherever they occur.”

“National security is compromised by computer intrusions, and Ferizi is charged with obtaining the personal identifying information of U.S. military and government personnel and providing it to ISIL,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “We will investigate and prosecute these cyber-attacks to fullest extent of the law.”

If convicted, the defendant faces up to 35 years.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Gregory Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Haaland of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Attorney and FBI Assistant Director thanked the Malaysian authorities for their assistance in this matter.

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National Security Division (NSD)

Download Ferizi Complaint (941.45 KB)