War on Terrorism

Friday, April 21, 2017

Justice Department Secures the Denaturalization of a Senior Jihadist Operative Who Was Convicted of Terrorism in Egypt



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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ohio Man Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Murder of U.S. Military Members



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.

Florida Resident Sentenced to Life in Prison for Attempting to Possess a Weapon of Mass Destruction and Provide Material Support to a Terrorist Organization



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.