Wednesday, May 05, 2021

DOD Experts Say There's More Work to be Done to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction

 May 5, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

A critical mission of the Defense Department is to dissuade, deter and defeat actors who threaten to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and its interests, four WMD experts told a House Armed Services Committee panel.

A Defense Threat Reduction Agency weapons of mass destruction crime scene operations course is shown.

Testifying before the HASC's subcommittee on intelligence and special operations were: Jennifer C. Walsh, who is performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for policy; Brandi C. Vann, acting assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs; Navy Vice Adm. Timothy G. Szymanski, deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; and Rhys M. Williams, acting director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The hearing addressed DOD's fiscal year 2022 budget request for counter-WMD, or CWMD, strategies, policies, priorities, programs and state of readiness.

"[DOD] continues to improve its ability to dissuade, deter and defeat these threats while maintaining the ability to respond to and mitigate the effects of WMD use," Walsh emphasized. "We are taking action to meet WMD challenges, and, as the nature of WMD threats is evolving, we know we have more work to do."

DOD has three lines of effort to organize its WMD work to counter such threats: prevent acquisition, contain and reduce threats, and respond to crises, she added.

"As the department increases its focus on competition among great powers, developing the capabilities necessary for us to fight and win in a cyber-contested environment in those theaters becomes critical," Walsh said.

"As administration officials direct and develop new national and departmental strategy reviews and guidance documents, DOD's CWMD stakeholders will be focused on addressing the dynamic CWMD threat and ensuring that it gets space in [strategy reviews and guidance documents], including posturing the department to mitigate biological threats more effectively and improving readiness for … challenges in Europe and Asia," she said.

Soldiers board a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

Vann said the Nuclear Chemical and Biological Defense office, including the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is responsible for ensuring the department maintains the capability and readiness to counter WMD across the threat landscape. She also said NCD is aligning to meet the direction given by the president's interim national security, strategic guidance, and the secretary's priorities. "Our efforts will enable us to close today's gaps rapidly, mitigate vulnerabilities, anticipate emerging threats, and strengthen our domestic and international partnerships," she said.

But the pace of technology continues to move faster and faster, Vann pointed out.

"As a result, the players on the world stage are shifting; the conflict landscape is changing and so are the hazards that we all face — making our jobs ever more complex," she told subcommittee members. "Overcoming these changes and the emergence and reemergence of unique [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] threats requires the department to first understand the emerging threats landscape and then develop adaptive capabilities to respond to these threats as they arise. In doing so, we can ensure that the joint force can fight and win in CBRN-contested environments, prepare for surprises from emerging threats, and reduce the risks that they pose."

Vann discussed modernizing the force, and she said fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, additive manufacturing and rapid medical countermeasure development provide an opportunity to adapt DOD's defense capabilities quickly and effectively. "We should embrace the technological revolution within the private sector and lead game-changing technology advancements to ensure our warfighters are best prepared for the future threat," she added.

"We will continue to remain behind the warfighter and ahead of the threat to ensure joint forces' ability to survive, operate and regenerate combat power in the future," Vann said.

National Guard members board a boat during an exercise.

"Clearly, WMD are complex transregional challenges that demand the application of specialized expertise and authorities across our government, as well as our foreign allies and partners," Szymanski testified. "The Department of Defense plays a unique and critical supporting role to our interagency colleagues, especially at the departments of Energy, State, Treasury and Commerce [and] our law enforcement entities to prevent and contain WMD threats, even as we prepare to respond to WMD crises."

The vice admiral said U.S. Special Operations strives to improve its methodology and ensure it provides timely, reliable, relevant and actionable information to support senior department decision-making. "Our aim is to better support senior leaders charged with employing our joint force today, developing and preparing for tomorrow and helping to design a military that is ready to fight and win against both current and future web threats," Szymanski said.

"There are few greater challenges to U.S. national security than those posed by WMD in emerging threats," Williams said. "As the globalized threat landscape evolves, DTRA's uniquely skilled workforce and robust, collaborative network of partners are ready to evolve with it, continuing to safeguard the lives and interests of the United States and our allies abroad."

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Second Member Of "Boogaloo Bois" Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to Hamas

 WASHINGTON – A Minnesota man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to provide material support and resources, namely property, services and weapons, to what he believed was Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, for use against Israeli and U.S. military personnel overseas.

According to court documents, Michael Solomon, 31, of New Brighton, Minn., was a member of the “Boogaloo Bois,” a group of individuals who espouse violent anti-government sentiments. In late May 2020, the FBI initiated an investigation into Solomon and co-defendant Benjamin Ryan Teeter, both members of the “Boogaloo Bois,” and a sub-group called the “Boojahideen.”

According to court documents, on June 10, 2020, Solomon and Teeter met with a confidential human source (CHS), whom the defendants believed to be a member of Hamas. During this meeting, Solomon and Teeter proposed assisting Hamas as a means of furthering the goals of the Boogaloo Bois. Throughout the course of the conspiracy, Solomon used encrypted messaging applications to communicate with Teeter and the CHS about various aspects of the conspiracy.

On June 28, 2020, Solomon, Teeter and the CHS met an undercover employee of the FBI (UCE) that Solomon believed was a member of Hamas. During this meeting, Solomon and Teeter proposed manufacturing suppressors, untraceable firearms and fully automatic firearms for Hamas.

On July 6, 2020, Solomon and Teeter purchased a drill press for the purpose of manufacturing suppressors for Hamas. Solomon admitted that he and Teeter had planned to use the drill press to also manufacture suppressors for members of the Boogaloo Bois. Solomon and Teeter brought the drill press to Solomon’s home and later used the drill press to manufacture five suppressors.

On July 30, 2020, Solomon and Teeter delivered the suppressors to the CHS and UCE believing those devices would be used by the militant wing of Hamas. During that meeting, the defendants agreed to manufacture additional suppressors for Hamas believing that the next batch of suppressors would be used against Israeli and U.S. military personnel overseas.

Solomon admitted that he and Teeter again met the UCE on Aug. 29, 2020. During this meeting, the defendants gave the UCE a 3-D printed “auto sear” believing that the auto sear would be used by Hamas to convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic rifles. At this time, Solomon and Teeter agreed to obtain, and did obtain, another order of auto sears for the CHS and the UCE.

Solomon pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Solomon faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk for the District of Minnesota; Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; and Special Agent in Charge Michael Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis accepted the plea.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating the case, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Trial Attorneys George Kraehe and Felice John Viti of the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew R. Winter of the District of Minnesota are prosecuting the case.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

 April 28, 2021


The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Staff Sgt. Christopher F. Pantos, 55, of Richmond, Virginia, died Apr. 26, 2021, at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, as the result of a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation.

Pantos was assigned to 55th Sustainment Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

For more information about Staff Sgt. Christopher F. Pantos, members of the media may contact Capt. Matt Cline or Ms. Angele Ringo, 377th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs, at 910-771-8118, or by email at angele.p.ringo2.civ@mail.mil.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

DHS Announces New Guidance to Limit ICE and CBP Civil Enforcement Actions In or Near Courthouses

 Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses.  Acting Director of ICE Tae Johnson and Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller have issued a memorandum to ICE and CBP personnel pertaining to the limited circumstances in which civil immigration enforcement actions may be carried out in or near a courthouse. The interim guidance is intended to balance the importance of preserving access to courts in the fair administration of justice with legitimate civil immigration enforcement interests.  Additional guidance will be forthcoming following the release of updated immigration enforcement priorities.  This policy supersedes an ICE Directive issued in 2018 and marks the first time CBP has ever had formal policy guidance regarding civil immigration enforcement in or near courthouses.


“Ensuring that individuals have access to the courts advances the fair administration of justice, promotes safety for crime victims, and helps to guarantee equal protection under the law,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “The expansion of civil immigration arrests at courthouses during the prior administration had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement. Today’s guidance is the latest step in our efforts to focus our civil immigration enforcement resources on threats to homeland security and public safety.”

A civil immigration enforcement action may be taken in or near a courthouse only in certain limited instances, including the following: (1) it involves a national security matter, (2) there is an imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any person,  (3) it involves hot pursuit of an individual who poses a threat to public safety, or (4) there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to a criminal case. The interim guidance also makes clear that civil immigration enforcement is permitted against public safety threats in the absence of hot pursuit where necessary and with prior approval.

The memorandum directs supervisors to ensure that all employees are trained annually on this policy and that such training is documented and reviewed by agency counsel. ICE and CBP will each provide a monthly report to Secretary Mayorkas, and to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties upon request, detailing all planned or executed civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses, including the basis under this policy for each enforcement action.

DHS Announces Extension of REAL ID Full Enforcement Deadline

 WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity. DHS will publish an interim final rule in the coming days to effectuate this enforcement date change.

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.” 

Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.  

All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with REAL ID security standards and are issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. However, many state licensing agencies have extended the deadline for renewing expiring licenses due to a widespread shift to appointment-only scheduling protocols during the pandemic that has significantly limited states’ capacity to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. As a result, only 43 percent of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently REAL ID-compliant.  DHS and various states also need time to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, including changes that will streamline processing by allowing the electronic submission of certain documents.

DHS continues to work closely with all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories to implement REAL ID Act requirements. For more information on REAL ID, visit www.dhs.gov/real-id.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to Foreign Terrorist Organizations

 Defendant Planned to Travel to Syria to Wage Violent Jihad

WASHINGTON – A New York man pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front, both designated by the U.S. Department of State as foreign terrorist organizations.

According to court documents, Elvis Redzepagic, 30, of Commack, New York, began communicating in early 2015 with an individual he believed to be both the commander of a battalion in Syria and a member of ISIS or the al-Nusrah Front, and made attempts to join that individual’s battalion to engage in violent jihad. In July 2015, Redzepagic traveled to Turkey and made multiple unsuccessful attempts to cross the border into Syria. Unable to enter Syria from Turkey, Redzepagic traveled to Jordan in August 2016, but was stopped and deported by Jordanian authorities. 

“Redzepagic has admitted to travelling overseas to try to join and provide material support to ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front, two foreign terrorist organizations that were engaged in fighting in Syria,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.  “The threat from these terrorist organizations has not ended, and we will continue to work to stem the flow of fighters and bring to justice those who provide material support to these groups.”

“Redzepagic, a Long Island resident, admitted that he attempted to travel to Syria on several occasions to wage jihad on behalf of ISIS and other organizations dedicated to violence and mass destruction,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko for the Eastern District of New York. “This Office is committed to preventing the spread of terrorism by stopping individuals like the defendant in their tracks and prosecuting them before they are able to harm the United States and its allies.” Acting U.S. Attorney Lesko praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies. 

In Facebook messages from October 2015, Redzepagic explained that “jihad” is when “you fight for the sake of God” and “die for the sake of Allah.”  Redzepagic stated that he traveled to Turkey to “perform Jihad and join Jabhat Al-Nusra.” He predicted, “there will come a time where people will only know to say Allahu Akbar.”  In subsequent interviews with law enforcement, Redzepagic admitted that at the time he attempted to enter Syria, he was prepared to strap a bomb to himself.  

Redzepagic pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI’s New York Field Office is investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Stephanie Sweeten of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Saritha Komatireddy and Artie McConnell are prosecuting the case.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for ISIS-inspired Bombing in New York City Subway Station in 2017

 WASHINGTON – A New York man was sentenced today to life in prison for detonating a bomb in a New York City subway station. He admitted that he conducted the terrorist attack on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn, New York, and a lawful permanent resident of Bangladesh, was convicted by a federal jury of offenses related to the detonation and attempted detonation of a bomb in a subway station near the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on Dec. 11, 2017. According to court documents, on Dec. 11, 2017, at approximately 7:20 a.m., Ullah detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his chest in a subway station near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. Shortly after the blast, first responders located Ullah lying on the ground in the station where he had detonated the improvised explosive device, and he was taken into custody. Surveillance footage captured Ullah walking through the station immediately prior to the explosion and then detonating the bomb.

“Ullah constructed a pipe bomb and detonated it in a mass transit hub in the heart of New York City to harm and terrorize as many people as possible - and he admitted that he did it on behalf of ISIS,"  said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “This case reminds us that the threat of ISIS-inspired terrorism remains real. This sentence holds Ullah accountable, as he will spend the rest of his life in federal prison for his crimes. I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors whose outstanding work made this result possible.”

“Akayed Ullah, previously convicted in a New York federal court of carrying out a lone-wolf bombing attack on behalf of ISIS at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a bustling transit artery in New York City, admittedly intended to murder as many innocent Americans as possible,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York. “Ullah’s motive was clear and unambiguous: a deeply held ideological hatred for America. Ironically, Ullah’s actions resulted only in reaffirming the greatness of America by displaying the fairness and impartiality for which our justice system stands. Ullah received a speedy, fair, public trial, and was convicted by a jury of his peers. Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired; his just sentence of life in prison only exemplifies that cowardly acts of terrorism will be met with law enforcement’s unwavering resolve to protect our core values of freedom and democracy.”

“The defendant sought to attack innocent Americans who were going about their daily lives," said Acting Assistant Director Patrick Reddan for Counterterrorism at the FBI. “He will now spend the rest of his life in prison, where he will not be in a position to attempt another attack. While the terrorism threat continues to evolve in this country, groups like ISIS remain committed to attacking America, and the FBI will continue to work with our JTTF partners across the country in our commitment to track down and disrupt terrorists who seek to harm our homeland.”

According to court documents and the evidence presented at trial, Ullah began radicalizing in approximately 2014. Ullah disagreed with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and began seeking out online materials promoting radical Islamic terrorist ideology. In particular, Ullah was inspired by ISIS propaganda, including a video in which ISIS instructed supporters to carry out attacks in their homelands if they were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS. Ullah began researching how to build a bomb about a year prior to his attack. He built his pipe bomb in the weeks leading up to the attack at his Brooklyn apartment.  

Following the attack on Dec. 11, 2017, law enforcement located remnants of the pipe bomb on Ullah’s person and strewn across the attack site in the subway station. Law enforcement found, among other things: (i) a nine-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket, which he used as the power source for triggering the bomb; (ii) wires connected to the battery and running underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iii) plastic zip ties underneath Ullah’s jacket, which he used to strap the bomb to his body; (iv) several fragments of a metal pipe, which Ullah had filled with an explosive substance that he made using sugar and match heads; (v) fragments of Christmas tree lightbulbs attached to wires, which Ullah used to ignite the explosion; and (vi) numerous metal screws. Ullah filled his pipe bomb with dozens of metal screws to function as shrapnel, for the purpose of causing maximum damage.

On the morning of the attack, shortly before detonating his bomb, Ullah posted a statement on Facebook referring to the then-President of the United States, stating: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.” Ullah also posted an ISIS slogan so that ISIS would know that he had carried out the attack on behalf of the foreign terrorist organization.

After Ullah was taken into custody following the attack, he waived his Miranda rights and spoke to law enforcement. Ullah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the Dec. 11 attack, and stated, among other things, “I did it for the Islamic State.” He also said that he chose a busy weekday morning for the attack in order to “terrorize as many people as possible.” One commuter who was inside the station when Ullah detonated the pipe bomb suffered a shrapnel wound to his leg, and two other victims partly lost their hearing as a result of the blast. Ullah’s attack caused the Port Authority subway station and bus terminal to shut down temporarily, disrupting the lives of commuters across the New York City area.

After the attack, law enforcement searched Ullah’s apartment pursuant to a search warrant. Agents recovered, among other things, Ullah’s passport, which contained the handwritten statement, “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.” Less than two weeks before carrying out the attack, Ullah had watched and drawn inspiration from a particular ISIS propaganda video that proclaimed, “die in your rage, America,” with an image of the U.S. Capitol in the background.

Later in December 2017, while in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on the charges in this case, Ullah began chanting “more is coming” at a correctional officer, and then told the officer: “You started this war, we will finish it. More is coming, you’ll see.”

Assistant Attorney General Demers and Acting U.S. Attorney Strauss praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). Ullah’s conviction is the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebekah Donaleski and George D. Turner for the Southern District of New York prosecuted this case with assistance from Trial Attorneys Jason Denney and Felice Viti of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office

 WASHINGTON— To equip frontline operators with radiological detection equipment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) awarded the Helium-3 Alternative Implementation Backpack Program (HAIBP) Phase Three Full Rate Production contract to Target Systemelektronik/FLIR Systems. The $6.5M production order will equip CWMD’s Mobile Detection Deployment Program (MDDP) and DHS Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with HAIBP backpacks to deliver advanced radiation detection capabilities.

Configured into the size of a standard backpack, this program is easily deployed to our frontline operators to efficiently detect potential threats during wide-area searches. HAIBP expands these wide-area search and detection capabilities to detect potential radiological threats and even identify the detected radioisotope. HAIBP includes data transfer capabilities that enable the new solution to perform both primary and secondary screening functions. This award will enhance the established capability with operational suitability, a data streaming capability, and system survivability.

“In an evolving threat landscape, it is our mission to rapidly equip frontline operators with the latest and most advanced detection equipment to protect our Nation from potential radiological threats,” said Karin Clarkson, CWMD’s HAIBP Program Manager. “We could not provide the latest capabilities to our operators if it were not for the relationship we have with industry partners.”

While many state and local law enforcement agencies maintain their own capabilities to counter radiological and nuclear (R/N) threats, CWMD supplements agencies in need of more extensive capabilities. CWMD’s MDDP deploys a mobile trailer package with additional specialized R/N detection capabilities. This capability assists law enforcement and other first responders to detect, interdict, and report WMD threats. The new suite of radiation detection backpacks does not rely on He-3 to detect potential threats.

CWMD serves as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s focal point for counter-WMD efforts. By supporting operational partners across federal, state, and local levels, CWMD coordinates and manages the detection effort for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and health security threats. CWMD is committed to enhancing domestic law enforcement and first responder detection, interdiction, response, and reporting of these threats.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced

 April 13, 2021


The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on April 20, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj (ISN - 1457).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to osd.pentagon.pa.mbx.gtmo-press@mail.mil.

All requests must be received no later than noon ET April 15. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request. Multiple names from the same organization may be submitted.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at https://www.prs.mil/.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Man Sentenced to 162 Months in Federal Prison for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIS

 WASHINGTON – An Illinois man was sentenced today to 162 months, the equivalent of 13 ½ years, in prison for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization.

Edward Schimenti, 39, of Zion was convicted by a federal jury in 2019 on one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to ISIS, and one count of making false statements to the FBI. According to court documents, Schimenti advocated on social media for violent extremism in support of the terrorist group. In 2015, Schimenti began meeting with undercover FBI employees and individuals who, unbeknownst to Schimenti, were cooperating with law enforcement. During the meetings, Schimenti discussed his devotion to ISIS and his commitment to ISIS principles. 

In 2017, Schimenti furnished cellular phones to one of the cooperating individuals, believing the phones would be used to detonate explosive devices in ISIS attacks overseas. On April 7, 2017, Schimenti drove with the cooperating individual to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, with the understanding that the cooperating individual would be traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS.

Co-defendant, Joseph D. Jones, 39, of Zion was also convicted of a conspiracy charge and sentenced last month to 12 years in federal prison.

U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois, Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office made the announcement.

The Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and David Rojas of the Northern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Alexandra S. Hughes of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section prosecuted the case.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Man Sentenced to 12 Years for Attempting to Purchase Chemical Weapon on the Dark Web

 WASHINGTON – A Missouri man was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison without parole today for attempting to purchase a chemical weapon, capable of killing hundreds of people, on the dark web with Bitcoin.

Jason William Siesser, 46, of Columbia, Mo., pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to acquire a chemical weapon and one count of aggravated identity theft on Aug. 4, 2020. According to court documents, Siesser admitted that he attempted to acquire a chemical weapon on two occasions between June 14 and Aug. 23, 2018. He provided a shipping address in the name of a juvenile, whose identity he used without authorization, to place the orders for a highly toxic chemical in amounts capable of killing many people. Siesser paid for the chemical weapon with the digital cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin.

Siesser ordered two 10 mL units of the chemical on July 4, 2018, and paid with Bitcoin. The seller did not ship the chemical weapon at that time. Siesser continued to contact the seller. On July 19, 2018, Siesser told the seller that, “I plan to use it soon after I receive it.”

Siesser ordered three 10 mL units of the chemical weapon on Aug. 5, 2018. Siesser again paid for the order with Bitcoin, the equivalent of $150, and provided a shipping address in the name of a juvenile. This quantity of the chemical weapon has the capacity to kill approximately 300 people.

A controlled delivery of a package that contained an inert substance was made to Siesser’s residence on Aug. 23, 2018. Siesser believed the package contained the chemical weapon he had ordered, signed for the package and took it inside the residence.

Law enforcement officers then executed a search warrant at Siesser’s residence. On top of a shelf in the garage, officers located the inert substance Siesser believed to be a chemical weapon. Officers also located two separate and seemingly unopened shipping boxes on the shelf next to it. They contained approximately 10 grams of cadmium arsenide, a toxic compound, which can be deadly if ingested or inhaled; approximately 100 grams of cadmium metal; and approximately 500 mL of hydrochloric acid. An invoice for these products showed they had been ordered together on March 30, 2018.

Writings located within the home articulated Siesser’s heartache, anger and resentment over a breakup, and a desire for the person who caused the heartache to die.

Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Casey prosecuted the case. The FBI with assistance from the Columbia Police Department investigated the case.

Knoxville Man Arrested For Attempting To Provide Material Support To ISIS

 Benjamin Alan Carpenter, also known as “Abu Hamza,” 31, was arrested on March 24, 2021, in Knoxville following the return of a federal grand jury indictment charging him with attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.  A detention hearing was held today, April 5, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra C. Poplin.  Carpenter remains detained pending the outcome of the detention hearing.  Carpenter’s trial is set for June 1, 2021, before United States District Judge Katherine A. Crytzer.

Carpenter is a United States citizen who resides in Knoxville.  According to documents filed with the Court, Carpenter is the leader of Ahlut-Tawhid Publications, an international organization dedicated to the translation and publication of pro-ISIS and official ISIS media in English.  Carpenter was also in contact with an individual who he believed was associated with ISIS; however, unbeknownst to Carpenter, the individual was a covert FBI employee.  Carpenter provided English-language translations of ISIS media content to that individual for use by ISIS.

The indictment and arrest were announced by John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice, Francis M. Hamilton III, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee; and Joseph E. Carrico, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Knoxville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The case was investigated by the Knoxville Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Clinton Police Department, and Knoxville Police Department.  

If convicted, Carpenter faces up to 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the assigned judge.  In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty; indictments merely contain allegations supported by probable cause.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey T. Arrowood of the Eastern District of Tennessee and Trial Attorneys George C. Kraehe and Felice John Viti of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.  

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until his/her guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Monday, April 05, 2021

DHS Announces Ten-Fold Increase in Vaccinated Workers Through Operation VOW

 Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that DHS’s Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce (Operation VOW) has vaccinated more than 58,000 DHS mission-critical 1A and 1B employees—up from 5,074 employees at the beginning of February. On January 6, there were a total of 8 Veterans Administration Medical Centers providing vaccines to DHS employees. As of April 5, that number has increased significantly to 163 participating centers. DHS and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) continue to closely coordinate multiple vaccination events across the country for frontline and public-facing DHS employees.

“There is no higher priority than the health and safety of our workforce,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “I am proud of the incredible progress that Operation VOW has made in just two months, thanks to the dedication of the DHS and VHA personnel leading this effort. DHS is committed to protecting our employees by ensuring they have access to the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”

Recently, Operation VOW and VHA facilitated several events along the southwest border to vaccinate frontline and public-facing employees.

  • On March 16, 175 Group 1A/1B DHS employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a southwest border vaccination event in Donna, Texas. The event was a coordinated effort led by Operation VOW and hosted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Donna Processing Center in partnership with the VHA. “The logistics and coordination of this inaugural southwest border event was made possible by the effective collaboration of all federal partners. Their diligent efforts ensured every DHS employee who wanted a shot, received a shot,” said Constance Johnson-Cage, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer and Operation VOW Vaccinations Events Lead.
  • On March 20, 294 Group 1A/1B DHS employees were able to receive a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event in El Paso, Texas. The event was a closely coordinated effort led by Operation VOW and hosted by the El Paso VA Health Care System. Dr. Herbert Wolfe, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Security at the DHS Office of the Chief Medical Officer, attended the vaccination event. “Protecting our workforce from COVID-19 by accelerating shots in arms remains a top priority for the Department. Today’s event was made possible through our continued and committed partnership with the Veterans Health Administration. The Operation VOW team is grateful for the steadfast support of world class health care professionals at the El Paso VA Health Care System. Thank you for your sustained efforts to expeditiously vaccinate our workforce.”
  • On March 23, 100 Group 1A/1B employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event co-hosted by CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Laredo International Airport in Laredo, Texas. “The Laredo Port of Entry is focusing on the health and safety of our workforce,” said Assistant Port Director-Mission Support Operations, Marcelino Rangel, III, Laredo Port of Entry. “Through coordinated efforts with DHS and the VHA, our goal is to provide our officers access to the COVID-19 vaccine to help curb the spread of the virus.”
  • On March 26, 218 Group 1A/1B employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event co-hosted by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), United States Secret Service (USSS), and CBP on the FLETC campus in Artesia, New Mexico. FLETC Artesia site director, Terry Todd, stated in reference to the vaccination event, “It’s a game changer having vaccinated students. It will greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread and allow more flexibility in our COVID-19 protective posture and protocols.”

Operation VOW prioritized these and other events to protect DHS employees managing the situation at the border. In the coming weeks, Operation VOW and the VHA will continue to hold vaccine events across the country for DHS employees.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Military Commissions Media Invitation Announced CANCELLED for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan Sentencing Hearing

 April 2, 2021


******CANCELLED*****

The military commission session scheduled for May 18-28, 2021 in the case of United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan has been cancelled. The next proceedings in the case will be scheduled in due course.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Original Press Advisory:

Military Commissions Media Invitation Announced for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan Sentencing Hearing

The Department of Defense and the Office of Military Commissions will allocate seats for news media aboard a military-chartered aircraft for travel from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) in Maryland to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) Cuba to cover military commission proceedings scheduled for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan, May 18 – 28, 2021.

Reporters are required to stay for the entire duration of scheduled hearings.

Currently, the tentative flight will be available as follows:

  • May 2 – Joint Base Andrews to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
  • May 29 – Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Joint Base Andrews

Please note that the flight schedule, to include departure and arrival locations, is subject to change. Media desiring to view this hearing from NSGB must complete the registration form. All requests must be received no later than noon EST, Friday, March 12. Multiple requesters from the same organization must register separately via the form.

Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at NSGB, selection is not guaranteed. Additionally, all traveling media shall have proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 viral test within three days prior to departing the national capital region, and media may be further required to be tested day of travel.

In accordance with Naval Station Guantanamo Bay policy, a Restriction of Movement (ROM)/Quarantine of 14 Days is required for media upon arrival at NSGB.

Additional viewing is available for media via Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) from a media work center at Fort George G. Meade, in Maryland. Regular COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing will apply at all locations, although media viewing from Fort Meade are not subject to COVID-19 testing or ROM requirements.

Media desiring to view this hearing from Fort Meade must send their requests via email to osd.mc-alex.OMC.mbx.omc-pa@mail.mil with the following information:

Subject Line: Khan 18-28 MAY 2021

  • Individual's full name
  • Individual's occupation/position
  • Sponsoring organization (News Outlet)
  • Contact information (cell phone and email)

NOTE 1: There are no tours of detention camps scheduled during military commissions. Requests for reporting on Guantanamo topics not related to the military commissions must be coordinated through OSD Public Affairs and the Joint Task Force Guantanamo public affairs office. The primary purpose of travel to Guantanamo Bay is courtroom reporting.

NOTE 2: All media must ensure their passports and visas (foreign press) are up-to-date and eligible to enter and exit the United States.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Biden Declares May 1 Deadline To Be Out of Afghanistan 'Hard to Meet'

 March 25, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

President Joe Biden said the upcoming May 1 deadline to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be "hard to meet," during his first press conference today since taking office.

The president cited "tactical reasons" for the delay, but emphasized it was not his intention "to stay there a long time."

President Joe Biden speaks at the Pentagon.

Biden said it is important for U.S. service members to leave in a safe and orderly manner, and added that he is in coordination with NATO allies who also have troops in the region.

The president has said before today that it would be difficult to meet the May 1 deadline to remove the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops. That deadline was set by former president Donald J. Trump in 2020, according to published news reports. 

The U.S. military has been in Afghanistan for 16 years, making the war there the longest conflict in U.S. history, spanning three presidential administrations.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

DHS Makes $20 Million in Funding Available for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grants

 WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is making $20 million available through the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program to help communities across our country develop innovative capabilities to combat terrorism and targeted violence.  

“Domestic violent extremism and targeted violence are two of the gravest threats facing our homeland today,” said Secretary Mayorkas.  “Over the past few years, the United States has experienced an increasing number of targeted attacks by disaffected individuals motivated by a combination of extremist ideologies and personal grievances. This investment in local communities will help our partners develop sustainable capabilities to address an evolving threat environment, including by preventing attacks and online radicalization.” 

Secretary Mayorkas established the following four priorities for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 TVTP Grant Program: (1) preventing domestic violent extremism; (2) enhancing local threat assessment and management capabilities; (3) implementing innovative solutions for preventing targeted violence and terrorism; and (4) challenging online violence mobilization narratives for the first time through this program. 

For FY 2021, Congress supported the Department’s request to double the investment in sustainable prevention programming from $10 million to $20 million. In December 2020, DHS finalized plans to better monitor and evaluate the success of the awards and share results to ensure other jurisdictions can replicate best practices. 

Today’s announcement builds upon DHS’s increased efforts to combat domestic violence extremism. In February 2021, Secretary Mayorkas designated for the first time combating domestic violent extremism as a ‘National Priority Area’ for the FY 2021 State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant programs. As a result, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments are required to spend 7.5 percent of their DHS grant awards combating this threat. Further, since Inauguration Day, DHS has increased the development, production, and sharing of intelligence and other information central to countering domestic violent extremism.  The Department is also increasing training opportunities for law enforcement partners, including through threat assessment and management programs related to domestic violence extremism.

The TVTP Grant Program application period will close on May 25, 2021.  State, local, tribal, territorial governments; non-profit organizations; and institutions of higher education are eligible to apply for funds to establish capabilities or fill gaps in their prevention capabilities.  Applying for this grant is a multi-step process and it is recommended that applicants begin that process early to allow sufficient time to complete interim steps.  Applicants should consult the Notice of Funding Opportunity for more specific information.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Press Conference in Afghanistan

 March 21, 2021

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

STAFF: OK. We don't have much time, so I'll let the secretary make a couple of opening comments, and then take some questions.

Go ahead, sir.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: OK. Is this on or off?

STAFF: Off, sir.

SEC. AUSTIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for making a trip out with us. Would just like to say I'm very grateful to President Ghani and Ambassador Wilson and General Miller for affording me a pretty good chunk of time today to talk about a number of issues. I'm here to listen and learn. This has been very helpful to me. In analytic form, my participation in the review that we're undergoing here with the president, and so, again, it's very helpful.

And the final thing that I'd just like to say upfront is I really am truly grateful for the continued sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our diplomats. And, you know, as we've worked together with our coalition partners here to help move things forward in the country of Afghanistan. They've done a great job over the years and they continue to do so each and every day.

And with that, I'll just take a couple of questions here.

STAFF: John, go ahead.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you think the Taliban have met the conditions to ensure U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

SEC. AUSTIN: You know, that process of reviewing conditions that have been met or not met is ongoing. And as you've seen with our efforts in Doha. And so, you know, I won't -- I don't care to comment on that. And I won't comment on that. But what I will say is that it's obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country.

We'd really like to see that violence come down. And I think if it does come down, it can begin to set the conditions for, you know, some really fruitful diplomatic work.

STAFF: Sylvie?

Q: Yes. Sir, I wanted to know what was your message to President Ghani. And also I wanted to know if you think it will be a good idea to set an end date withdrawal -- full withdrawal.

SEC. AUSTIN: Yes, so, hey, thanks, Sylvie. I didn't carry a message or convey a message to the president. Again, I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were, see the landscape through his eyes. And so -- and that's what we did. We -- I really had a chance to hear from him. And it was very helpful to me.

 And in terms of an end date or setting a specific date for withdrawal, that's the domain of my boss. That's the -- you know, the decision that the president will make at some point in time in terms of how he wants to approach this going forward. And I don't want to try to do my boss's job for him. He doesn't need for me to do that.

I will continue to participate in a very meaningful way in the review that's ongoing.

STAFF: Dan?

Q: Mr. Secretary, we hear a lot from Afghan officials who worry about this U.S. departure, what it could mean, what it could mean for their safety. What would you say to Afghan officials or U.S. citizens who are worried how this might end up going?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, what want to see is a responsible end to this conflict. I think that's a message -- I mean, I heard that from everyone as I talked to all of our partners here today that everyone is really desirous of a responsible end, a transition to something else.

So, you know, there's always going to be concerns about things one way or the other. But I think there's a lot of energy focused on, you know, doing what's necessary to bring about a responsible end, a negotiated settlement to the war.

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF: Last question -- last question to Laura.

Q: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. The Taliban warned on Friday against defying the May 1st deadline. Do you have a response to that? And also what concerns do you have about staying in Afghanistan past May 1?

SEC. AUSTIN: I won't endeavor to message the Taliban. I don't have a response to that. I will just tell you that, you know, I -- as I spent the day with General Miller, I'm confident in his ability to accomplish his mission with the resources he has, and I have great confidence in his ability to protect our troops. It's the right of every commander to defend his troops. And so there's no question that General Miller is more than equipped in terms of personal attributes and resources that he has on-hand to accomplish that.

So I have great confidence in him. Thank you.

Q: Well, what about the Afghan people and the Afghan security forces after we leave?

SEC. AUSTIN: What about the Afghan people?

Q: And the Afghan security forces.

SEC. AUSTIN: I mean, we've done a lot to, you know, work with the Afghan security forces. And I don't want to speculate on what could happen or could not happen going forward, Laura. That's -- you know, we'll continue to work the processes that we're involved in and hopefully we'll get to a point where we have a responsible transition to something else.

STAFF: OK. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thanks a lot, sir.

Austin Meets With Afghan, U.S., Coalition Leaders; Gathers Info to Aid Biden Decision on U.S. Effort

 March 21, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met Afghan, American and coalition leaders in Kabul to better understand the situation in the country and see the way forward to a just peace in the long-troubled land.

The Biden administration is conducting a review of the agreement with the Taliban and, even in the midst of COVID-19, the secretary wanted to hear firsthand from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan; and Ambassador Ross Wilson, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III talks with another civilian at a table in front of an Afghan flag.

"I am here to listen and learn," Austin said during a short meeting with reporters traveling with him. "It will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with the president. It's very helpful.”

Austin said he continues to be grateful for the sacrifices made by service members, diplomats, civilian employees and contractors serving in the country. 

Austin wouldn't comment on whether the Taliban has met the necessary conditions under the Doha agreement for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. "What I will say is that it is obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country. We'd really like to see that violence come down. If it does come down it can begin to set the condition for some really fruitful diplomatic work."

Austin did not bring or convey a message to Ghani. "I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were and see the landscape through his eyes. That's what we did. I really had a chance to hear from him and it was very helpful to me."

The objective is a responsible end to the conflict. American officials have been saying for years that there are no military solutions to the problems that plague Afghanistan. "I heard from all of our partners here today that everyone is really desirous of a responsible end and transition to something else."

Austin said he has complete faith in Miller. He said he is confident that Miller can accomplish his mission with the resources he has, "and I have great confidence in his ability to protect our troops. It is the right of every commander to defend his troops. There is no question that Gen. Miller has the attributes and resources on hand to accomplish that."

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

ODNI, DOJ and DHS Release Unclassified Summary of Assessment on Domestic Violent Extremism

 Note: An executive summary of the joint comprehensive report can be viewed here.

WASHINGTON – The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today released an unclassified summary of the joint comprehensive threat assessment on domestic violent extremism. The unclassified summary is attached and will be available on DNI.gov later today.

The assessment was prepared under the auspices of the DNI, in consultation with DOJ and DHS, and drafted by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and DHS with contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. All agencies involved are mindful of the duty to respect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties and to act within the authorities granted to them as they seek to put together as complete an intelligence and analytic picture as is possible. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced

 

March 16, 2021

The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on March 23, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Abd Al-Salam Al-Hilah   (ISN - 1463).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to osd.pentagon.pa.mbx.gtmo-press@mail.mil.

All requests must be received no later than noon ET March 18. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request. Multiple names from the same organization may be submitted.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at https://www.prs.mil/.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Domestic Terrorist Sentenced for Attempting to Set Fire to Raleigh Police Department Vehicle

 RALEIGH, N.C. – A Raleigh man was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment today for attempting to set fire to a marked police vehicle in Raleigh after a demonstration over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Jabari Devon Davis, of Raleigh, was arrested by special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) on June 4, 2020 and was charged with one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance. 

According to court documents, on  May 31, 2020, at approximately 12:31 a.m. a fire was discovered coming from the fuel filler area of a police vehicle owned by the Raleigh Police Department (RPD), that was parked at the Raleigh Police Southeast District Station (RPSDS) in Raleigh.  The fire was discovered and extinguished by an RPD Captain who was driving through the parking lot prior to the fire departments arrival.   The fire caused approximately $5,000 in damage to the police vehicle.  Investigators seized a charred sock located within the fuel filler of the damaged vehicle, a bottle with the odor of gasoline was located on the sidewalk, behind the damaged vehicle, and another charred sock located between the vehicle and the sidewalk.

On June 2, 2020, investigators were notified that a fingerprint was lifted from the seized bottle recovered at the scene and determined the fingerprint belonged to Davis.

On June 3, 2020, Davis was interviewed at his residence where he admitted to being the subject who intentionally set the police vehicle at the Southeast District on fire. DAVIS stated that after leaving the protest, he and his friend traveled to the RPSDS, where he retrieved the bottle of gasoline and poured a small amount of gasoline on a sock and put another sock in to the mouth of the bottle.  DAVIS placed the gasoline-soaked sock in the fuel filler of the police vehicle and set it on fire.  As DAVIS ran back towards his friend’s vehicle, he set the bottle with the sock on fire and threw it toward several parked police vehicles.  However, when he threw it, the burning sock fell out, catching the grass and straw on fire. 

G. Norman Acker, III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Raleigh Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel W. Smith  prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:20-CR-00433-D.

Dutchess County Man Sentenced for Mailing White Powder to Federal Offices Throughout New York

Sent Letters to Albany, Binghamton, Plattsburgh, Syracuse and Utica

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Jason Pantone, age 36, of Hyde Park, New York, was sentenced today to time served (more than two years in jail) for conveying false information and hoax letters. 

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon and Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon stated: “With these hoax letters, Jason Pantone intended to terrify federal employees throughout Upstate and Central New York.  Today’s sentence justly punishes Pantone for causing emotional distress to some letter recipients, and for consuming the valuable time and resources of our first responders.  I commend our law enforcement partners for quickly arresting Pantone shortly after his crimes began.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Relford stated: “Mr. Pantone's actions caused widespread panic and fear for employees who simply showed up to work that day, and he spent two years in jail as a result. The public should know the FBI will work diligently with our law enforcement partners to actively investigate and pursue prosecution of any individual who poses a threat to the safety of our citizens.”

Pantone was arrested on February 27, 2019, and had been in custody since that time.  As part of his guilty plea, Pantone admitted that in February 2019, he mailed several envelopes addressed to Social Security Administration Offices in Plattsburgh, Binghamton and Utica.  Additional letters were addressed to United States District Court offices in Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, and Plattsburgh.  All of the envelopes contained a typed note that read “ANTHRAX.”  Some of the letters included a smiley face with “X” in the place of the eyes, meant to indicate death. 

Pantone’s actions caused several locations to be evacuated and hazardous material teams to be deployed, to assess and clear the buildings. All samples of the white powder were tested and yielded negative results for anthrax or other hazardous material. 

United States District Judge Mae D’Agostino also imposed a 3-year term of supervised release.

This case was investigated by the FBI, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Protective Service, the New York State Police, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department, the New York State Department of Health, and the Department of Homeland Security. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Anderson.

 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Military Commissions Media Invitation Announced for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan Sentencing Hearing

 March 8, 2021


The Department of Defense and the Office of Military Commissions will allocate seats for news media aboard a military-chartered aircraft for travel from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) in Maryland to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) Cuba to cover military commission proceedings scheduled for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan, May 18 – 28, 2021.

Reporters are required to stay for the entire duration of scheduled hearings.

Currently, the tentative flight will be available as follows:

  • May 2 – Joint Base Andrews to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
  • May 29 – Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Joint Base Andrews

Please note that the flight schedule, to include departure and arrival locations, is subject to change. Media desiring to view this hearing from NSGB must complete the registration form. All requests must be received no later than noon EST, Friday, March 12. Multiple requesters from the same organization must register separately via the form.

Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at NSGB, selection is not guaranteed. Additionally, all traveling media shall have proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 viral test within three days prior to departing the national capital region, and media may be further required to be tested day of travel.

In accordance with Naval Station Guantanamo Bay policy, a Restriction of Movement (ROM)/Quarantine of 14 Days is required for media upon arrival at NSGB.

Additional viewing is available for media via Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) from a media work center at Fort George G. Meade, in Maryland. Regular COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing will apply at all locations, although media viewing from Fort Meade are not subject to COVID-19 testing or ROM requirements.

Media desiring to view this hearing from Fort Meade must send their requests via email to osd.mc-alex.OMC.mbx.omc-pa@mail.mil with the following information:

Subject Line: Khan 18-28 MAY 2021

  • Individual's full name
  • Individual's occupation/position
  • Sponsoring organization (News Outlet)
  • Contact information (cell phone and email)

NOTE 1: There are no tours of detention camps scheduled during military commissions. Requests for reporting on Guantanamo topics not related to the military commissions must be coordinated through OSD Public Affairs and the Joint Task Force Guantanamo public affairs office. The primary purpose of travel to Guantanamo Bay is courtroom reporting.

NOTE 2: All media must ensure their passports and visas (foreign press) are up-to-date and eligible to enter and exit the United States.

View Expeditionary Legal Complex – B-roll 2017

View Expeditionary Legal Complex – Photos 2014.

Further information including the media ground rules can be viewed at the Office of Military Commissions website at https://www.mc.mil.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Northern Colorado Man Pleads Guilty For Possessing Pipe Bombs

 Defendant failed to register the devices or comply with regulations

DENVER – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced that Bradley Bunn, 55, of Loveland, Colorado, pleaded guilty to one count of making destructive devices and four counts of possessing destructive devices in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 5861.  Each count carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.  Bunn was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals following today’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 3, 2021. 

According to the facts contained in the plea agreement, on May 1, 2020, the FBI executed two search warrants at Bunn’s home.  They found four explosive devices.  Each device consisted of galvanized steel pipe with end caps and a fuse.  The devices measured 2 inches in diameter and between 13.5 and 9.25 inches in length.  FBI Bomb Technicians concluded that each of the devices was filled with explosive materials.  Agents recovered additional bomb-making components in the house, including more steel pipes, end caps, primers, fuses, and bottles of smokeless powder.  The defendant had not registered the devices in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record and he had not complied with any regulations concerning the making of destructive devices. 

“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to making Colorado safer,” said Acting United States Attorney Matthew T. Kirsch.  “Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners and prosecutors, we were able to find and remove these dangerous devices before the defendant could cause serious harm.”

“The operation to remove and render safe the explosives discovered in Mr. Bunn's home averted a potentially hazardous situation from endangering innocent people in our community.  According to facts in the public record, Mr. Bunn knowingly and willingly assembled home-made explosives with the intent to use them against law enforcement,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider.  “The FBI and our partners stand ready to identify, disrupt, and dismantle any plans to inflict harm on our communities and hold individuals accountable for their criminal actions.”

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ATF, the Northern Colorado Bomb Squad, and the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney David Tonini is handling the prosecution. 

Case number:  20-cr-00158-CMA

Phoenix Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Planning to Release Stolen Radiological Materials in Scottsdale and Payson

 PHOENIX, Ariz. – Jared Trent Atkins, 27, of Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi to 15 years in prison, followed by twelve years of supervised release. Atkins previously pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

In the early morning hours of April 28, 2019, Atkins entered a gas station in Phoenix, Arizona, and stabbed the night clerk working inside. Atkins then fled the gas station and drove to his place of employment, where he stole three radiological devices containing Iridium-192 along with the tools to open the devices and expose the radiological material.  Approximately one hour after the stabbing and theft, Atkins set fire to a vehicle at a Mesa car dealership. 

Atkins texted his co-workers to inform them he had the radiological devices. He warned his co-workers to stay home until the devices were found. Security footage from Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall shows Atkins driving on Camelback Road adjacent to the Mall. Atkins later told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) he intended to have a “last stand” and considered conducting it at the Mall.

Atkins then drove to Mt. Ord in the Payson area and called his family to say goodbye.  Atkins opened one of the radiological devices. Atkins planned to commit suicide by irradiation, knowing he would harm anyone who tried to stop or arrest him. For unknown reasons, however, Atkins closed the radiological device and returned to Phoenix.

Later the same morning, Atkins drove back to his apartment, with the radiological devices and the bloody knife he used to stab the gas station clerk. The Phoenix Police Department and FBI agents responded to the scene, but Atkins barricaded himself inside his apartment. After roughly two hours of a standoff and working with a negotiator, Atkins agreed to surrender and was taken into custody without further incident. Law enforcement safely recovered all three radiological devices, including all stolen radiological material, from Atkins’s vehicle.

On April 28, 2019, Atkins was arrested on state charges in Maricopa County. He subsequently pleaded guilty to Aggravated Assault and Arson of Property, and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Atkins’s federal sentence will run consecutive to his state sentence.

“Today’s sentence sends a powerful message of deterrence to would-be criminal actors who plan to weaponize industrial technologies,” said Acting United States Attorney Anthony Martin. “As was done in this case, we stand ready to work alongside our federal and state partners to respond quickly to any threats to public safety.”

“This case is a prime example of how the FBI and our partners come together to keep our communities safe,” said Sean Kaul, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Phoenix Field Office. “From beginning to end, this investigation was truly a team effort. I commend the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Phoenix Police Department, which did significant work on this investigation from the day of the incident, to the weeks, and months that followed. I also commend the Phoenix Stabilization Task Force members, who played an important role in this case by finding and successfully securing the radiological material.”

The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Phoenix Police Department investigated the case, with support and assistance from the FBI Phoenix Stabilization Task Force, Laboratory, and Intelligence Analysts.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Brook of the District of Arizona, and Celeste Corlette and Jason Denney of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. 

CASE NUMBER:        CR-20-00344-PHX-JTT
RELEASE NUMBER: 2021-112_Atkins