United States v. Colleen LaRose (E.D. Pa. Mar. 9, 2010) (material support indictment)

March 9, 2010

* United States v. LaRose (E.D. Pa. Mar. 9, 2010) (indictment alleging conspiracy to use the internet to recruit in support of violent jihad)

Indictment attached (thanks to the folks at DOJ for taking care to attach the indictment to the press release!).

The charges include a conspiracy count under 18 USC 2339A (the 1994 material support statute) and an 18 USC 956(a) conspiracy count (956(a) criminalizes conspiracies to commit murder overseas), among others.

The pattern of alleged facts is fascinating: the defendant first drew attention from contacts abroad by posting comments on Youtube, generating responses from persons located in South Asia; subsequent emails ultimately led her to travel to Sweden in order eventually to locate and kill an unidentified Swedish individual (note, though, that the BBC reports that there were several arrests in Ireland today relating to a plot to kill a Swedish artist – see here).

Assuming these allegations bear up, it will be interesting to see whether this turns out to be an example of “decentralized” plotting in the fashion of a self-assembled cell or, instead, top-down plotting directed from al Qaeda or some other relatively organized source. And of course there will be much speculation regarding how LaRose came to be radicalized, and what if anything this signifies regarding the “homegrown” threat. Read the rest of this entry »

United States v. Ahmed (N.D. Ohio.)

January 16, 2009

* United States v. Ahmed (N.D. Ohio)

Another very interesting material support/conspiracy prosecution, resulting in two guilty pleas yesterday.


The defendants were cousins from Chicago who between 2004 and 2007 were involved in a plot to attack US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The interesting aspect of the case is its prevention-oriented, early-intervention nature.  It appears from the press release that the men did not have a particular plot in mind and were not involved with a specific terrorist organization, but rather that they were attempting on their own initiative to receive firearms training and other training that they might then put to use against US forces overseas in some unspecified way in the future.

The charge of conviction, was conspiracy to provide material support—including themselves as personnel—knowing or intending that the support would be used (by themselves, presumably) to commit a predicate crime of attacking US troops overseas.  This charge (18 USC 2339A) was used in a similar manner in the Hayat prosecution (Lodi, California), in which the defendant was convicted of providing himself as material support in connection with an unspecified attack that might take place in the future (in that case against civilians in the US, rather than troops abroad).

United States v. Mohamed (M.D. Fla.)

December 19, 2008

* United States v. Mohamed (M.D. Fla. Dec. 19, 2008)

Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed was given a fifteen-year sentence today, following his guilty plea (in June 08) on one count of providing material support in violation of 18 USC 2339A.  This is the 1994 version of the material support statute, then one that requires proof that the defendant knew or intended that the support would assist any of several dozen predicate criminal acts (in contrast to 18 USC 2339B, which requires no link to any anticipated crime, but which attaches only to aid rendered to specifically-designated groups).

This is a rather important case as an illustration of the substantive scope of federal criminal law relating to terrorism (particularly its preventive aspect), though the case has received little attention nationally.  Mohamed and another defendant were arrested when police found all sorts of bombmaking material in the vehicle during a traffic stop.  Mohamed, it turned out, had posted a videoclip on youtube providing instruction regarding remote-controlled detonation.  According to the plea agreement, posted here, Mohamed admitted to investigators that his purpose in creating the video was to “support attempts by terrorists to murder employees of the United States, including members of the uniformed services, while such persons were engaged in or on account of the performance of their official duties” (agreement at 10).  Such attempts would constitute violations of 18 USC 1114, and that statute in turn is one of the predicate offenses for a 2339A material support charge.

Here is the key thing to appreciate about the scope of this 2339A charge: there was no claim that Mohamed knew or could have known the identity of the persons who might download and make use of his video, let alone the specifics of any particular plan of attack that the video might facilitate.  His intentions and actions were enough, without this, to establish liability.

The press release is here: http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2008/December/08-nsd-1127.html

United States v. Bin Asman (D. Md.)

October 30, 2008

* United States v. Haniffa Bin Asman (D. Md. Oct. 30, 2008)

A judge today imposed a 37-month sentence on Haniffa Bin Asman for conspiracy to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers (in the form of various weapons and other forms of military equipment).  Details appear here.