nationalsecuritylaw United State v. al-Dahab (D.D.C. Apr. 20, 2017) (denaturalization of EIJ member currently in Egypt)

April 21, 2017

Another successful denaturalization effort, this time involving a guy who left the US in 1998 and had until recently been in jail in Egypt. A variety of related materials are attached (and here I’ll express appreciation for whomever it is at DOJ OPA who has decided to start including more such materials as attachments to the press releases).

The press release states:

WASHINGTON – On April 19, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order that revoked the naturalized U.S. citizenship of a confessed al-Qaeda operative, restrained and enjoined him from claiming any rights, privileges, or advantages of U.S. citizenship and ordered him to immediately surrender and deliver his Certificate of Naturalization and any other indicia of U.S. citizenship to federal authorities, the Justice Department announced.

“The Justice Department is committed to protecting our nation’s national security and will aggressively pursue denaturalization of known or suspected terrorists,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This case demonstrates the Department’s commitment to using all tools at its disposal, both criminally and civilly, to strategically enforce our nation’s immigration laws and to disrupt international terrorism. I congratulate the aggressive and effective investigation and prosecution by the Department of Justice team. We will protect our national security and our borders, and when we identify individuals tied to foreign terrorist organizations who procured their U.S. citizenship by fraud, we will initiate denaturalization proceedings – whether you reside here or abroad – and ensure you are denied entry into the United States.”

Khaled Abu al-Dahab, 57, an Egyptian-born naturalized U.S. citizen and former Silicon Valley car salesman is a confessed member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) terrorist organization. Al-Dahab admitted to attending a training camp near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where he received military-style training and taught foreign fighters to fly hang gliders in preparation for terrorist attacks. Moreover, al-Dahab told the FBI that, during the period in which he was supposed to establish the good moral character to naturalize under the Immigration and Nationality Act, he operated a communications hub for EIJ operatives out of his Santa Clara, California apartment. He facilitated the transfer of fraudulent passports, documents, money and other items by, between and among EIJ members, and researched communications devices and helicopter piloting at the direction of EIJ leadership. Al-Dahab’s communication hub materially assisted in the perpetration of terrorist attacks in Egypt and Pakistan.

Additionally, al-Dahab admitted to recruiting Islamic Americans into the al-Qaeda terrorist organization during his 12-year residence in California. Al-Dahab told the investigators that Osama bin Laden was eager to recruit American citizens of Middle Eastern descent because their U.S. passports could be used to facilitate international travel by al Qaeda terrorists, and that bin Laden personally congratulated him for this work. Al-Dahab was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on Feb. 7, 1997. Upon departing the United States sometime in 1998, al-Dahab was arrested by Egyptian authorities. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for terrorism related offenses.

On April 8, 2015, the United States filed a civil action seeking the revocation of al-Dahab’s naturalized U.S. citizenship on the grounds that he illegally procured his citizenship on account of his false written statements and testimony during his naturalization proceedings regarding his current and past addresses; employment history; travel outside the United States; marital history; prior false testimony; prior claims of U.S. citizenship; commission of crimes for which he had not been arrested; and membership in or association with EIJ, as well as his affiliation with an organization that advocated terrorism. The United States also alleged al-Dahab should also be denaturalized because he procured his citizenship by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation due his concealment of these matters. The United States obtained the district court’s permission to serve the complaint on al-Dahab in Egypt via Facebook and electronic mail.

“The Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation – District Court Section will continue to pursue denaturalization proceedings against known or suspected terrorists who procured their citizenship by fraud,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The U.S. government is dedicated to strengthening the security of our nation and preventing the exploitation of our nation’s immigration system by those who would do harm to our country.”

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a naturalized U.S. citizen’s citizenship may be revoked, and his certificate of naturalization canceled, if the naturalization was illegally procured or procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.

This case was investigated by the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section (OIL-DCS) and the FBI. The litigation was handled by Christopher W. Dempsey, Chief of the National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit within OIL-DCS, with substantial assistance by FBI Special Agent Rami G. Nimri.

Abu al-Dahab Memorandum Opinion.pdf

Abu al-Dahab ORDER Granting MSJ.pdf

Abu al-Dahab Motion for Summary Judgment.pdf

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. McNeil (N.D. Ohio Apr. 19, 2017) (guilty plea in ISIS-related murder solicitation case)

April 20, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Terrence J. McNeil, 24, of Akron, Ohio, pleaded guilty to five counts of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and five counts of making threatening interstate communications involving his soliciting the murder of members of the U.S. military.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja for the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

“Terrence McNeil pleaded guilty to soliciting the murder of members of our military. He disseminated ISIL’s violent rhetoric, circulated U.S. military personnel information, and explicitly called for the killing of American service members in their homes and communities. Now, he will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism. We will continue to use all of our tools to disrupt those who use social media to threaten acts of violence against our military members and their families, on behalf of terrorist organizations.”

“This case demonstrates the challenges faced by law enforcement in confronting global terrorism,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sierleja. “It highlights the dangers posed by terrorists committed to carrying out attacks here in the United States and their use of social media to accomplish their mission. The message should be clear that individuals who engage in this behavior will be aggressively prosecuted.”

“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 documents filed in the case:

McNeil, a U.S. citizen, professed his support on social media on numerous occasions for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), 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…”

The defendant posted multiple other kill lists in late 2015, all of which repeated the same refrain, calling on others to seek out and murder U.S. servicemen and women.

McNeil is scheduled to be sentenced on August 2. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he faces a sentence of between 15 and 20 years in prison.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Cleveland investigated this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christos Georgalis and Michelle Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Suarez (S.D. Fla. Apr. 18, 2017) (life sentence in ISIS material support & explosives case)

April 19, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Harlem Suarez, aka “Almlak Benitez,” 23, of Monroe County, Florida, was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, an explosive device, and attempting to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, and members of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Suarez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez in Key West to life in prison for the weapon of mass of mass destruction count of conviction and a concurrent term of 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support.

Suarez, a U.S. legal resident and citizen of Cuba, was convicted at trial in Key West, Florida on January 27, of knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property within the U.S., in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2332a(a)(2) and attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2339B.

According to evidence introduced at trial, in April 2015, Suarez’s Facebook postings contained extremist rhetoric and promoted ISIS. Evidence further indicated that Suarez told an FBI confidential human source that he wanted to make a “timer bomb.” Suarez purchased components for this device, which was to contain galvanized nails, be concealed in a backpack and be remotely detonated by a cellular telephone. Suarez intended to bury the device at a public beach in Key West and then detonate it.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI; South Florida JTTF, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Key West Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office;s and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc S. Anton and Karen E. Gilbert with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Muchacho (E.D.Va. Apr. 12, 2017) (false statement case involving CBP agent mishandling classified and other protected information systems)

April 13, 2017

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – A former officer and program manager for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pleaded guilty today to making false statements regarding his improper use of CBP and other law enforcement databases, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Jesus R. Muchacho, 39, of Temple Hills, Maryland, and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Venezuela, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements before U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia. Sentencing is scheduled for July 7, 2017.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, in December 2013, Muchacho was reassigned to CBP’s National Targeting Center Cargo (NTCC) in Herndon, Virginia, as a CBP officer and a program manager. The NTCC targets and coordinates the examination of high-risk cargo entering the United States and persons associated with such shipments. According to his plea, Muchacho held a Top Secret security clearance, which gave him access to classified national security information, sensitive information and protected law enforcement database systems. Muchacho exceeded CBP’s use restrictions by, among other things, making unauthorized searches and disclosing information to foreign nationals.

According to his plea, on Dec. 1, 2016, Muchacho falsely stated to federal law enforcement officers that: he did not send CBP or U.S. government information outside of CBP systems; he was not asked to provide, and he did not disclose, CBP or U.S. government information to third parties who did not have an authorized need to know; and he did not search law enforcement databases for non-official purposes. Muchacho further admitted that he made false statements during a background reinvestigation in 2014, when he applied for access to a classified information system in 2016, and when he was interviewed during a secondary inspection at Dulles International Airport. According to the plea, the false statements were related to his citizenship status, his contacts with foreign governments and an undisclosed foreign passport.

The CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the FBI’s Washington Field Office are investigating the case. Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Grace L. Hill of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Jones (N.D. Ill. Apr. 12, 2017) (material support charges in Islamic State case)

April 12, 2017

WASHINGTON – Joseph D. Jones, also known as “Yusuf Abdulhaqq,” 35, and Edward Schimenti, also known as “Abdul Wali,” 35, both of Zion, Illinois, were arrested today on a federal complaint charging them with conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Jones and Schimenti were arrested this morning. They are scheduled to make an initial appearance at on April 12 at 3:00 p.m. CDT (4:00 p.m. EDT) before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. David Weisman in Chicago, Illinois. Authorities also executed a search warrant at Jones’ residence in Zion today.

The complaint and arrests were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, Acting U.S. Attorney Joel R. Levin for the Northern District of Illinois and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s Chicago Office.

According to a complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Jones and Schimenti, both U.S. citizens, pledged their allegiance to ISIS and advocated on social media for violent extremism in support of the terrorist group. In the fall of 2015, the pair befriended three individuals whom Jones and Schimenti believed were fellow ISIS devotees. Unbeknownst to Jones and Schimenti, two of the individuals were undercover FBI employees and the third individual was cooperating with law enforcement and was not an ISIS supporter.

Over the next several months, as part of the conspiracy, Jones and Schimenti allegedly took steps to assist the cooperating source with plans to travel overseas to join ISIS. The defendants met the undercover FBI employees and the cooperating source on numerous occasions, during which Jones and Schimenti discussed their devotion and commitment to ISIS, according to the complaint. Some of the meetings took place in Waukegan, Zion, Bridgeview, North Chicago, Highland Park and Chicago, in Illinois.

At one point, Jones and Schimenti shared photographs of themselves holding the ISIS flag at the Illinois Beach State Park in north suburban Zion, according to the complaint. In a recorded conversation with the cooperating source, Schimenti commented that Schimenti would like to see the ISIS flag “on top of the White House,” the complaint states.

Earlier this year, Schimenti engaged in physical training exercises with the cooperating source at a gym in Zion, the complaint states. Understanding that the cooperating source intended to travel overseas to fight for ISIS, Schimenti commented that the exercises would “make you good, you know, in the battlefield,” according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, last month, the pair furnished several cellular phones to the cooperating source, believing they would be used to detonate explosive devices in ISIS attacks overseas. On April 7, Jones and Schimenti drove the cooperating source to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with the understanding that the source would be traveling to Syria to join and fight with ISIS. Schimenti told the source to “drench that land with they, they blood.”

A complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The charge in the complaint is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of FBI personnel and representatives from numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The Zion Police Department also provided valuable assistance. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and Rajnath Laud of the Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Levashov (D. Alaska April 10, 2017) (botnet takedown)

April 10, 2017

DOJ CCIPS and FBI Cyber Divison are in the midst of a botnet takedown, this one focused on the Kelihos malware. Details and documents from DOJ follow below:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced an extensive effort to disrupt and dismantle the Kelihos botnet – a global network of tens of thousands of infected computers under the control of a cybercriminal that was used to facilitate malicious activities including harvesting login credentials, distributing hundreds of millions of spam e-mails, and installing ransomware and other malicious software.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder for the District of Alaska, and Assistant Director Scott Smith for the FBI’s Cyber Division made the announcement.

“The operation announced today targeted an ongoing international scheme that was distributing hundreds of millions of fraudulent e-mails per year, intercepting the credentials to online and financial accounts belonging to thousands of Americans, and spreading ransomware throughout our networks. The ability of botnets like Kelihos to be weaponized quickly for vast and varied types of harms is a dangerous and deep threat to all Americans, driving at the core of how we communicate, network, earn a living, and live our everyday lives,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Our success in disrupting the Kelihos botnet was the result of strong cooperation between private industry experts and law enforcement, and the use of innovative legal and technical tactics. The Department of Justice is committed to combatting cybercrime, no matter the size or sophistication of the scheme, and to punish those who are engaged in such crimes.”

“Cybercrime is a worldwide problem, but one that infects its victims directly through the computers and personal electronic devices that we use every day,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder for the District of Alaska. “Protecting the American people from such a worldwide threat requires a broad-reaching response, and the dismantling of the Kelihos botnet was such an operation. We are lucky that we have talented FBI agents and federal prosecutors with the skillsets to help protect Americans from this pervasive cybercrime.”

Kelihos malware targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system. Infected computers became part of a network of compromised computers known as a botnet and were controlled remotely through a decentralized command and control system. According to the civil complaint, Peter Yuryevich Levashov allegedly operated the Kelihos botnet since approximately 2010. The Kelihos malware harvested user credentials by searching infected computers for usernames and passwords and by intercepting network traffic. Levashov allegedly used the information gained from this credential harvesting operation to further his illegal spamming operation which he advertised on various online criminal forums. The Kelihos botnet generated and distributed enormous volumes of unsolicited spam e-mails advertising counterfeit drugs, deceptively promoting stocks in order to fraudulently increase their price (so-called “pump-and-dump” stock fraud schemes), work-at-home scams, and other frauds. Kelihos was also responsible for directly installing additional malware onto victims’ computers, including ransomware and malware that intercepts users’ bank account passwords.

As with other botnets, Kelihos is designed to operate automatically and undetected on victims’ computers, with the malicious code secretly sending requests for instructions to the botnet operator. In order to liberate the victim computers from the botnet, the United States obtained civil and criminal court orders in the District of Alaska. These orders authorized measures to neutralize the Kelihos botnet by (1) establishing substitute servers that receive the automated requests for instructions so that infected computers no longer communicate with the criminal operator and (2) blocking any commands sent from the criminal operator attempting to regain control of the infected computers.

In seeking authorization to disrupt and dismantle the Kelihos botnet, law enforcement obtained a warrant pursuant to recent amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. A copy of this warrant along with the other court orders are produced below. The warrant obtained by the government authorizes law enforcement to redirect Kelihos-infected computers to a substitute server and to record the Internet Protocol addresses of those computers as they connect to the server. This will enable the government to provide the IP addresses of Kelihos victims to those who can assist with removing the Kelihos malware including internet service providers.

The efforts to disrupt and dismantle the Kelihos botnet were led by the FBI’s Anchorage Office and New Haven Office; Senior Counsel Ethan Arenson and Harold Chun, and Trial Attorney Frank Lin of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section; and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Yvonne Lamoureux and Adam Alexander of the District of Alaska.

The details contained in the civil complaint and related pleadings are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Government has and will continue to share samples of the Kelihos malware with the internet security community so that antivirus vendors can update their programs to detect and remove Kelihos. A number of free and paid antivirus programs are already capable of detecting and removing Kelihos, including the Microsoft Safety Scanner, a free product.

The documents filed by the Government as well as the court orders entered in this case are available online at the following web address:

Complaint

TRO

Signed Search Warrant

Declaration

PRTT Order

Application for Search Warrant

Memo in Support of TRO

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Gonzalez-Diaz (D.P.R. April 7, 2017) (indictment in stolen explosives case)

April 7, 2017

Not sure this one warrants coverage here, but I’d not seen a stolen-explosives charge in a long while and thought it was interesting enough to circulate (despite being mindful that there is no particular reason based on the limited information to assume this defendant was looking to engage in terrorism).

WASHINGTON – On April 6, 2017, a federal Grand Jury indicted Juan González-Díaz for possession of stolen explosive materials, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. On March 23, 2017, FBI agents arrested González-Díaz based on a criminal complaint charging him with possession of stolen explosives, namely, approximately 20 pounds of ammonium nitrate, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 842(h).

According to the information contained in the complaint, the defendant had stolen the explosives from a construction site in Caguas. González-Díaz took approximately two to three large bags and several others of a smaller size from a white pick-up truck. The defendant knew that the bags were explosives because the word “explosives” was written on the original packing.

González-Díaz told FBI agents that decided to store the explosives at a friend’s farm in Caguas, claiming that at the time he did not have any use for them. On March 22, 2017, FBI agents seized the explosives and a considerable number of explosive blasting caps.

“The Justice Department will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute these crimes as we strive to protect the safety of our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico. “As prosecutors, a significant part of the role we play is to protect the citizens in our communities from the threats they face. This case accomplishes that.”

Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Alum is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, González-Díaz faces a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years, a term of supervised release of up to three years, and a fine of up to $250,000. The FBI is in charge of the investigation with the collaboration of ATF.

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