nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Canczarski (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 17, 2018) (unsealed indictment for German al Qaeda member soon to finish a prison sentence in France)

January 17, 2018

From DOJ’s press release:

Alleged Al Qaeda Associate Charged With Conspiring to Kill Americans and Other Terrorism Offenses

A Superseding Indictment charging Christian Ganczarski, aka Abu Mohamed, aka Abu Mohamed al Amani, aka Ibrahim, aka Ibrahim the German (Ganczarski), 51, with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, providing and conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and conspiring to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization, was unsealed today in the Southern District of New York. The United States is seeking Ganczarski’s extradition from France.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Office and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement.

“According to the superseding indictment, between 1999 and 2001, Ganczarski regularly interacted with members of al Qaeda leadership who were responsible for terrorist operations, and provided them with the knowledge and technology to carry out attacks against the U.S. military and its allies,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “This case demonstrates the National Security Division’s resolve to find and bring to justice, terrorists who target U.S. interests in any part of the world. I want to thank all of the prosecutors, agents and analysts who made this result possible.”

“Christian Ganczarski, a German national, allegedly provided critical support to the most prolific terrorists of our time,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “Today we publicly announce charges against Ganczarski alleging that he participated in the planning of plots to kill Americans with high-level al Qaeda terrorists Khaled Shaikh Mohammad, Usama bin Laden and others. The unsealing of the indictment exemplifies this Office’s commitment to the relentless pursuit and prosecution of those who seek to harm Americans.”

“As alleged, Ganczarski willingly supported the goals of al Qaeda, immersing himself in social circles that included the likes of Usama bin Laden and one of the future hijackers in the September 11 attacks, among others,” said Assistant Director Sweeney. “He allegedly participated in efforts to kill Americans by providing technological support and guidance, and arranged meetings between senior officials in the organization and other like-minded individuals bent on future attacks against U.S. interests. While he’s spent the past fifteen years behind bars in France, we haven’t forgotten his allegiance to those who have threatened our interests both at home and abroad. We will continue to work with our international partners to mitigate the threat of global terrorism, bringing to justice everyone who participates in or materially supports this crime.”

“As alleged, Christian Ganczarski worked for al-Qaeda, lived in its camps and guest houses,” said Police Commissioner O’Neill. “He rubbed shoulders with Osama Bin Laden and the men who planned and executed plots from the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 225 people, to the 9-11 attacks that cost 3000 lives, most of them here in New York City. Ganczarski allegedly provided al-Qaeda with expertise in logistics, computers, radio communications and the maintenance of weapons systems that would be used against Americans soldiers after the 9/11 attacks. This case is another example of the work of the FBI agents and NYPD detectives of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. There is no time too long, or place to far, or suspect out of reach when it comes to bringing terrorists, or those who aid them to justice.”

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment unsealed in federal court:

Al Qaeda is an international terrorist organization dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. The organization was founded by Usama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef, aka Abu Hafs el Masri (Abu Hafs el Masri), and was headquartered in Afghanistan since approximately 1996. Bin Laden served as the leader or “emir” of al Qaeda until his death on or about May 2, 2011.

Al Qaeda has a command control structure that included a majlis al shura (or consultation council) that discussed and approved major undertakings, including terrorist operations. Bin Laden and Abu Hafs el Masri sat on the majlis al shura of al Qaeda, as did others, including Saif al Adel. Khaled Shaikh Mohammad, aka Mukhtar, devised, planned, and facilitated terrorist operations for al Qaeda, and he also assisted in the preparation of promotional media used by al Qaeda to advertise its terrorist agenda and attract recruits.

Ganczarski, a German citizen born in Poland, traveled from Germany to Pakistan and Afghanistan on at least five separate occasions between 1999 and 2001. During these trips, Ganczarski became associated with al Qaeda and developed personal relationships with bin Laden, Abu Hafs el Masri, al Adel and Mohammad. Ganczarski lived at times with his family at al Qaeda’s fortified compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan. At other times, Ganczarski lived in guest houses and other facilities operated by al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Ganczarski participated in al Qaeda’s efforts to kill Americans in a number of ways, such as providing al Adel and other al Qaeda members with technological guidance and hardware, including computers, radios and other communications equipment.

In approximately January 2000, Ganczarski attended a speech delivered by bin Laden at al Qaeda’s headquarters in Kandahar. The January 2000 speech was attended by at least 100 men, including, among others, many significant al Qaeda leaders and terrorists, such as at least one of the plotters in the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in East Africa, and one of the future hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States (the September 11 Attacks). During the speech, Ganczarski sat in the front row with al Adel’s son in his lap.

In approximately March 2000, Ganczarski attended a meeting in Karachi, Pakistan, between Mohammad and a member of Jamaah Islamiyah (CC-1), a Southeast Asia terrorist organization, at which U.S. and Israeli targets for terrorist attacks were discussed. Following the meeting, Ganczarski helped transport CC-1 and a written communication from Mohammad to al Qaeda’s fortified compound in Kandahar, where Ganczarski spoke to bin Laden and took CC-1 to meetings with al Adel and Abu Hafs el Masri at which potential attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests were further discussed.

Ganczarski was in Germany at the time of the September 11 Attacks, and he indicated after the attacks that he had been aware that a significant event was about to occur. In approximately early October 2001, Ganczarski returned to Afghanistan and met with other members of al Qaeda, including al Adel. In approximately November 2001, Ganczarski and others attempted to repair anti-aircraft missiles controlled by al Qaeda that were not functioning, so that the missiles could be fired at U.S. military aircraft flying in the area at the time.

Ganczarski was arrested in France in 2003, and subsequently convicted of offenses under French law relating to a 2002 al Qaeda attack on a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. Ganczarski has been incarcerated in France since being convicted.

* * *

The Superseding Indictment charges Ganczarski, with four counts: one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; two counts of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and provision of material support and resources to terrorists, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on each count; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization (al Qaeda) which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge. The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Berman praised the extraordinary investigative work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD – for the critical role they played and continue to play in the investigation of Ganczarski and his co-conspirators. In addition, Mr. Berman thanked the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Amanda L. Houle of the Southern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Smith of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Advertisements

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Lee (E.D. Va. Jan. 16, 2018) (arrest of former CIA officer who spied for China, apparently resulting in execution of many in China)

January 16, 2018

This one’s is a counterintelligence rather than counterterrorism development, but so significant I felt I should pass it along:

Critical context from NY Times here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/us/politics/cia-china-mole-arrest-jerry-chun-shing-lee.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

DOJ’s press release is here:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer was arrested last night on charges of unlawful retention of national defense information.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, aka “Zhen Cheng Li”, 53, was arrested after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. Lee, who is a naturalized United States citizen, currently resides in Hong Kong, China. According to court documents, Lee began working for the CIA as a case officer in 1994, maintained a Top Secret clearance, and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at CIA.

According to court documents, in August 2012, Lee and his family left Hong Kong to return to the United States to live in northern Virginia. While traveling back to the United States, Lee and his family had hotel stays in Hawaii and Virginia. During each of the hotel stays, FBI agents conducted court-authorized searches of Lee’s room and luggage, and found that Lee was in unauthorized possession of materials relating to the national defense. Specifically, agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities.

Lee made his initial appearance this afternoon in the Eastern District of New York. He is charged with unlawful retention of national defense information and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom and Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Ullah (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2018) (indictment in NYC port authority bomb / IS material support case)

January 11, 2018

From DOJ’s press release:

Today, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment (the Indictment) against Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, in connection with Ullah’s detonation and attempted denotation of a bomb in a subway station near the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on Dec. 11, 2017. Three people were injured as a result of the detonation. The Indictment charges Ullah with one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization; one count of using and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction; one count of bombing and attempting to bomb a place of public use and a public transportation system; one count of destruction and attempted destruction of property by means of fire or explosives; one count of conducting and attempting to conduct a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system; and one count of using a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York made the announcement. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Richard J. Sullivan.

“As alleged in the indictment Akayed Ullah constructed a pipe bomb and detonated it in a mass transit hub in the heart of New York City to terrorize as many people as possible and to bring ISIS-inspired violence to American soil,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the law enforcement community, the defendant was safely apprehended at the scene of the attack that injured three people, and will now be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The National Security Division remains steadfast in its mission to pursue justice against those who seek to harm our country and our citizens in the name of terrorism.”

“Less than one month ago, during the holiday rush hour, Akayed Ullah allegedly detonated a bomb in a major transit hub of New York City,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “In selecting this time and place, Ullah’s alleged purpose in the Port Authority bombing was painfully clear: to inflict as much damage as possible, and to strike fear into the hearts of New Yorkers in the name of ISIS. Ullah’s alleged plot failed, and he is now charged with federal terrorism offenses and facing life behind bars.”

Ullah was initially arrested on a Complaint and presented before the Honorable Katharine H. Parker on Dec. 13, 2017. Ullah was ordered detained and has been in federal custody since his arrest. He will be arraigned before Judge Sullivan on Jan. 11, at 3:00 p.m.

As alleged in the Indictment and the Complaint:

Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham

ISIS is a foreign terrorist organization based in the Middle East and Africa whose publicly stated purpose is the establishment of an Islamic state or caliphate based in the Middle East and Africa that encompasses all Muslims worldwide. ISIS has pursued the objective of an Islamic state through, among other things, killing and deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions, persecution of individuals and communities on the basis of their religion, nationality, or ethnicity, kidnapping of civilians, forced displacement of Shia communities and minority groups, killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence. ISIS has recruited thousands of foreign fighters from across the globe to assist with its efforts to expand its so-called caliphate in Iraq, Syria and other locations in Africa and the Middle East, and has leveraged technology to spread its violent extremist ideology and for incitement to commit terrorist acts.

The Dec. 11, 2017 Attack

On Dec. 11, 2017, at approximately 7:20 a.m., Akayed Ullah detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated inside a subway terminal (the Subway Terminal) in or around the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal located at West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York, New York (the December 11 Attack). Shortly after the blast, members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD) located Ullah lying on the ground in the vicinity of the explosion. Surveillance footage captured Ullah walking through the Subway Terminal immediately prior to the explosion, and then falling to the ground after the explosion.

Ullah was subsequently taken into custody by law enforcement. During the course of Ullah’s arrest, law enforcement officers located on his person and in the surrounding area what appeared to be the components of an exploded pipe bomb (the Pipe Bomb). Specifically, law enforcement located, among other items, (i) a nine-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket; (ii) wires connected to the battery and running underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iii) two plastic zip ties underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iv) several fragments of a metal pipe, including pieces of a metal end cap, on the ground; (v) the remnants of what appeared to be a Christmas tree lightbulb attached to wires; and (vi) pieces of what appear to be plastic zip ties, among other items.

After Ullah was taken into custody, he was transferred to Bellevue Hospital, where he made statements to law enforcement officers after waiving his Miranda rights. During that interview, Ullah stated, among other things, the following:

  • Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb and carried out the December 11 Attack. Ullah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the December 11 Attack, and stated, among other things, “I did it for the Islamic State.”
  • Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb at his residence in Brooklyn (the Residence).
  • The Pipe Bomb was composed of a metal pipe, which Ullah filled with explosive material that he created. Ullah used Christmas tree lights, wires, and a nine-volt battery as a trigger to detonate the Pipe Bomb. Ullah filled the Pipe Bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage. Ullah used zip ties to secure the Pipe Bomb to his body.
  • Ullah carried out the December 11 Attack in part because of the United States Government’s policies in, among other places, the Middle East. One of Ullah’s goals in carrying out the December 11 Attack was to terrorize as many people as possible. He chose to carry out the attack on a work day because he believed that there would be more people.
  • Ullah’s radicalization began in at least approximately 2014. Ullah viewed pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands. He began researching how to build IEDs on the Internet approximately one year prior to the attack.
  • On the morning of Dec. 11, 2017, shortly before carrying out the attack, Ullah posted a statement on his Facebook account referring to the President of the United States, stating, in substance, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.” Ullah also posted a statement that he believed would be understood by members and supporters of ISIS to convey that Ullah carried out the attack in the name of ISIS.

Items Recovered from Ullah’s Residence

On Dec. 11, 2017, law enforcement agents conducted a search of the Residence pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant. Law enforcement agents recovered, among other items, (i) multiple pieces of metal pipes; (ii) pieces of wire and fragments of what appear to be Christmas tree lights; (iii) multiple screws consistent with the screws recovered at the scene of the December 11 Attack; and (iv) a passport in Ullah’s name with multiple handwritten notations, including: “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”

Three individuals were injured as a result of the December 11 Attack.

* * *

If convicted of the charges in the Indictment, potential maximum sentences could include: (i) 20 years in prison for providing and attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, ISIS; (ii) life in prison for using and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction; (iii) life in prison for bombing and attempting to bomb a place of public use and a public transportation system; (iv) a maximum of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for destruction and attempted destruction of property by means of fire or explosives; (v) life in prison for conducting and attempting to conduct a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system; and (vi) a consecutive sentence of 30 years to life in prison for using a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence. The potential sentences are all related to Ullah’s detonation and attempted detonation of an explosive device in New York City.

The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The charges in the Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn G. Crowley, Rebekah Donaleski and George D. Turner of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jerome J. Teresinski of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.