nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Naseer (E.D.N.Y.) (40-year sentence in al Qaeda bomb plot)

November 24, 2015

DOJ’s press release appears below:

WASHINGTON – Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, Abid Naseer, 29, was sentenced to 40 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York for multiple terrorism offenses. The defendant and his accomplices came within days of executing a plot to conduct a bombing at a crowded shopping mall in Manchester, England, as directed by senior al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

The planned attack, which also targeted the New York City subway system and a newspaper office in Copenhagen, had been directed by and coordinated with senior al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Naseer is the eighth defendant to face charges in federal court related to the al-Qaeda plot, which also involved Adis Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, the three members of the cell that targeted New York City. Naseer was convicted in March 2015 after a three-week jury trial of providing material support to al-Qaeda, conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda and conspiring to use a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.

The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Diego G. Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner William J. Bratton of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

“Abid Naseer was part of an al Qaeda conspiracy that targeted Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, for terrorist attack,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “His conviction and sentence reflect our dedication to identifying and holding accountable those who seek to target the United States and its allies. I want to thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who are responsible for this successful result.”

“This al-Qaeda plot was intended by the group’s leaders and Naseer to send a message to the United States and its allies,” said U.S. Attorney Capers. “Today’s sentence sends an even more powerful message in response: terrorists who target the U.S. and its allies will be held accountable for their violent crimes to the full extent of the law.”

“Dispatched by al-Qaeda to the U.K. in 2006, Abid Naseer exploited the educational visa system not to improve his own life, but to take away the lives of many others ‘in large numbers,’” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez. “Trained in weapons and explosives, he communicated in code to hide his evil intentions. Found guilty in a court of law, he has been spared the fate of death he wished upon others and will spend considerable time incarcerated in a country he and his co-conspirators failed to take down.”

“This case demonstrates the importance of a closely coordinated international law enforcement approach to an established terrorist network that knows no borders,” said Commissioner Bratton. “The manner in which these defendants communicated their deadly plans reinforces the need to allow law enforcement the necessary authority and tools to prevent these plots from succeeding in their objectives of mass destruction and death. I commend our local and international partners in preventing these acts and securing convictions of those responsible for plotting them.”

In approximately September 2008, al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan recruited Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay, three friends from New York City, to conduct a suicide bombing attack in New York City. Those al-Qaeda leaders, including Adnan El-Shukrijumah and Saleh al-Somali, communicated with Zazi about the plot through an al-Qaeda facilitator named “Ahmad,” who was located in Peshawar, Pakistan. In early September 2009, after Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay had selected the New York City subway system as their target, Zazi emailed with “Ahmad” in Pakistan about the proper ingredients for the main charge explosive, which included flour and oil. Zazi pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on Feb. 22, 2010; Ahmedzay pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010; and Medunjanin was convicted after trial on May 1, 2012, and was sentenced to life in prison. Zazi and Ahmedzay are awaiting sentencing.

The investigation by authorities in the United States and United Kingdom revealed that “Ahmad” had also been communicating with Naseer earlier in 2009. The evidence at trial established that Naseer and his Pakistani accomplices had been dispatched by al-Qaeda to the United Kingdom in 2006 in order to begin preparations for an attack in that country. The defendant and his co-conspirators entered the United Kingdom on student visas but then immediately dropped out of the university in which they had enrolled. The defendant, like Zazi, returned briefly to Peshawar in November 2008, at the same time Zazi and his co-conspirators were receiving weapons and explosives training from al-Qaeda in that region. After returning to the United Kingdom, the defendant sent messages back and forth to the same email account that “Ahmad” was also using to communicate with the American-based al-Qaeda cell on behalf of Saleh al-Somali, al-Qaeda’s then-head of external operations. In the messages, the defendant used coded language to refer to different types of explosives. At the culmination of the plot, in early April 2009, Naseer told “Ahmad” that he was planning a large “wedding” for numerous guests during the upcoming Easter weekend and that “Ahmad” – whom he called “Sohaib” – should be ready. Notably, Zazi testified that “Ahmad” had instructed him to use the same code of “marriage” to refer to the planned attack on the New York City subway and that Zazi emailed “Ahmad” that “the marriage is ready” just before he drove to New York in early September 2009 to conduct the attack.

On April 8, 2009, Naseer and several associates were arrested in the United Kingdom. In connection with these arrests, U.K. authorities conducted searches of the plotters’ homes as well as an internet café used by the defendant to send his messages to “Ahmad,” where they seized a large volume of electronic media. As demonstrated at trial, a forensic review of the electronic media revealed that Naseer had downloaded several jihadi nasheeds, or anthems, calling for “death in large numbers.” A document recovered from the raid on Usama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 contained a letter from Saleh al-Somali to Bin Laden, written on April 16, 2009, that discussed the defendant and his accomplices’ arrests in the United Kingdom.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation in New York, the U.S. Marshals Service in Brooklyn and the law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom and Norway, including the Greater Manchester Police and the Norwegian Police Security Service, also provided significant assistance.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zainab Ahmad and Michael P. Canty of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Josh Parecki the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. McNeil (N.D. Ohio) (arrest for soliciting murder of US military personnel, involving Tumblr post)

November 12, 2015

Press release below, complaint attached. Very, very interesting fact pattern.

WASHINGTON – An Akron, Ohio, man was arrested today on federal charges that he solicited the murder of members of the U.S. military.

Terrence J. McNeil, 25, appeared in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio after being charged with one count of solicitation of a crime of violence.

The charge was announced by Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

“According to the allegations in the complaint, Terrence McNeil solicited the murder of members of our military by disseminating ISIL’s violent rhetoric, circulating detailed U.S. military personnel information, and explicitly calling for the killing of American service members in their homes and communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “ISIL and its followers continue to use social media in an attempt to incite violence around the world, including in the United States. The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism and we will use all of our tools to disrupt threats and acts of violence against our military members and their families.”

“As this nation honors our veterans, we must make clear that we will not tolerate threats of violence against our service members,” said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach. “This defendant is charged with urging harm to our men and women in uniform and will now answer for those threats.”

“While we aggressively defend First Amendment rights, the individual arrested went far beyond free speech by reposting names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members, all with the intent to have them killed,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “We will remain vigilant in our efforts to stop those who wish to support these despicable acts.”

According to an affidavit filed in the case:

McNeil professed his support on social media on numerous occasions for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

On or about Sept. 24, 2015, using a Tumblr account, McNeil reblogged a file with the banner “Islamic State Hacking Division,” followed by “Target: United States Military” and “Leak: Addresses of 100 U.S. Military Personnel.”

The file type is a .gif file, which allows multiple still images to be looped in one file, with a timed delay between each image. The text of the first file reads “O Brothers in America, know that the jihad against the crusaders is not limited to the lands of the Khilafah, it is a world-wide jihad and their war is not just a war against the Islamic State, it is a war against Islam…Know that it is wajib (translated to “necessary”) for you to kill these kuffar! and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe…”

The file then loops several dozen photographs, purportedly of U.S. military personnel, along with their respective name, address and military branch.

The final image looped is a picture of a handgun and a knife with text that reads “…and kill them wherever you find them…”

A charge is not evidence of guilt. It is the government’s burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and a defendant is presumed innocent until that time.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Cleveland. This case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio and the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

McNeil Complaint.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Mohammad (N.D. Ohio) (AQAP material support indictment)

November 6, 2015

This case involves a group of men who allegedly raised money that they hoped to put into the hands of Anwar al-Awlaki. Details from the press release appear below, and the indictment is attached.

WASHINGTON – A four-count indictment was unsealed today in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio charging four men with conspiring to travel to Yemen to provide thousands of dollars to Anwar Al-Alwaki in an effort to support violent jihad against U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio, U.S. Attorney Barry R. Grissom of the District of Kansas and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 37; Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad, 36; Asif Ahmed Salim, 35; and Sultane Room Salim, 40, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists, one count of providing material support and resources to terrorists and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Farooq Mohammad and Ibrahim Mohammad both face an additional count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

“According to the allegations in the indictment, Farooq Mohammad, Ibrahim Mohammad, Asif Salim and Sultane Salim conspired to provide and did provide material support to Anwar Al-Awlaki in response to his calls to support violent jihad,” 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 terrorists.”

“The charges in this case outline a plan to send thousands of dollars to a known terrorist, a plan which came to fruition shortly before one of the most notorious attempted attacks in recent memory – an attack claimed by that same terrorist,” said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach. “This indictment is a testament to the perseverance of those who stand watch over our nation and is a clear message to those who support terrorism – we will not forget and you will face justice.”

“In today’s world, Kansas is not far removed from the battlefields of the war on terror,” said U.S. Attorney Grissom. “We will do everything in our power to prevent funding and material support from finding its way from the heart of America to terrorists in foreign lands.”

“These individuals conspired and then acted on their radical beliefs by providing support to a known terrorist organization,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “The identification of their conspiracy and the subsequent investigation demonstrate how members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force continue to work with our international law enforcement partners to mitigate terrorist’s threats in order to protect our citizens.”

Farooq Mohammad was an Indian citizen who was an engineering student at Ohio State University between 2002 and 2004. In or around March 2008, he married a U.S. citizen. His brother, Ibrahim Mohammad, was also an Indian citizen who studied engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 2001 through 2005. In or around 2006, he moved to Toledo, Ohio, and married a U.S. citizen. He became a lawful permanent resident of the United States in or around 2007.

Asif Salim was a U.S. citizen who studied at Ohio State University between 2000 and 2005. He became a resident of Overland Park, Kansas, in 2007. His brother, Sultane Salim, is also a U.S. citizen who resided in the Chicago-area from 2006 through 2012, until he moved to the Columbus-area.

According to the indictment, from January 2005 through January 2012, the four defendants conspired to provide money, equipment and other assistance to Anwar Al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki, a key leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was designated a global terrorist in 2010. The indictment also alleges that the defendants’ support was to be used in furtherance of violent jihad against the U.S. and U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

The defendants made various financial transactions in 2008 and 2009, and communicated about raising funds for a trip to the Middle East. Allegations in the indictment charge that Farooq Mohammad and Ibrahim Mohammad obtained money by opening credit cards and withdrawing money with no intention of repaying the amounts obtained from the financial institutions.

The indictment further alleges that on July 22, 2009, Farooq Mohammad travelled with two other people to Yemen to meet Awlaki. They were unable to meet with Awlaki, so instead travelled to Sana’a, Yemen, to meet with one of his associates. Farooq Mohammad and his two fellow travelers gave the associate approximately $22,000 to be given to Awlaki.

An indictment is only a charge is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, the defendants’ sentence will be determined by the court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, and the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

The case is being investigated by the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd and Christos Georgalis of the Northern District of Ohio, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Smith of the District of Kansas and Trial Attorney Gregory Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Farooq Mohammad et al Indictment.pdf