The FBI has arrested a Saudi Arabian college student in Texas who was reportedly trying to construct an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). 20-year-old Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who attended South Plains College near Lubbock, was arrested and charged with “knowingly and unlawfully attempt[ing] to use a weapon of mass destruction.” Based on emails he sent to himself, Aldawsari’s potential targets included hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, twelve reservoir dams in Colorado and California, and former president George W. Bush’s Dallas residence. Aldawsari is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. in Lubbock. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted.
According to the affidavit filed with the case, Aldawsari entered the United States in September of 2008 on a student visa. Upon the completion of an English as a Second Language program, he transferred to Texas Tech University with a major in chemical engineering, and studied there until January 2011, when he transferred to South Plains college. His education and living expenses were funded by a Saudi Arabian industrial corporation.
On February 1, 2001, officials representing the Carolina Biological Supply (CBS) company in Burlington, North Carolina notified FBI agents in Charlotte to report what they considered a “suspicious purchase” of concentrated phenol via the company’s website. Phenol is a toxic chemical with legitimate uses, but one which can also be used to created trinitrophenol, aka, T.N.P., or picric acid which can be used in explosive devices. Aldawsari then called Con-way Freight office to let them know he was shipping a package to them, and he requested they hold it until he picked it up. Con-way told him that the package had already arrived, but that they had returned it to CBS. The freight company then contacted the Lubbock, Texas Police Department who contacted the FBI. Con-way freight told the Feds they had no relationship with Aldawsari that would allow any kind of arrangement, and CBS said company policy prevents them from shipping phenol to an individual or personal residence.
The FBI has CBS contacted Aldawsari and ask him why he needed the chemical. He lied and said he was an associate with Texas Tech and wanted the chemical for “off-campus personal research.” In a subsequent call on Feb. 8, an undercover agent posing as an employee of CBS inquired as to the exact nature of that use. Aldawsari claimed he was conducting research into reducing the odor of cleaning products so he could get into a bigger college. Three days later, Aldawsari, displeased with answering questions, cancelled the order.
During an authorized search of his Aldawsari’s apartment on Feb 14, agents discovered the handwritten name, Abu Zidjan Al Nadji and the email address [email protected] where Aldawsari emailed himself instructions for making ”Plastique Explosive from Aspirin,” a lesson on how to booby trap a vehicle, a step-by-step process for turning a cell phone into a remote detonator, and how wire for electronic circuits used in an IED “can be obtained from household items such as ornamental light strings.” The search revealed a string of Christmas lights in the apartment. Further surveillance revealed that he used various email accounts to store information about the aforementioned “targets, explosives and explosive components,” as well as components and hardware items used to bring them together.
It was also discovered that in December 2010, he successfully purchased concentrated nitric acid from QualiChem Technologies, after giving them a phony business address when QualiChem advised him of haz-mat restrictions banning shipping to personal residences, and three gallons of sulphuric acid shipped directly to his apartment by Amazon.com. Boxes of both acids were found in his apartment during the February 14th search.
In an Internet search, using Aldawsari’s name as one of their keywords, the FBI also discovered a blog by him writing as “fromfaraway90.” In it, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the “passivity and pacifism” of Muslims, and his promise to take the “path of jihad and martyrdom.” ”If this is the West’s version of freedom and their peace policies, we have our own..and it is war…until the infidels have been defeated,” he wrote.
The FBI also found a handwritten notebook in Arabic which they believe is his personal journal or diary. The notebook revealed Aldawsari had been planning to commit a terrorist attack in America “for years,” and that everything he had done from learning English and attending college, to purchasing equipment and downloading how-to instructions, was geared toward that eventuality. The journal further stated that the time for such an attack was drawing near, and that he was doing his best to produce an “intelligent bomb.” More emails revealed Aldawsari was looking for realistic-looking baby dolls likely to be used as bombs, and numerous Internet searches he made containing particular keywords led the FBI to conclude that he was considering “targeting a nightclub with an explosive concealed in a backpack.”
“[Wednesday’s] arrest demonstrates the need for and the importance of vigilance and the willingness of private individuals and companies to ask questions and contact the authorities when confronted with suspicious activities,” said James T. Jacks, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. ”Based upon reports from the public, Aldawsari’s plot was uncovered and thwarted. We’re confident we have neutralized the alleged threat posed by this defendant. Those reports resulted in the initiation of a complex and far-reaching investigation requiring almost around the clock work by hundreds of dedicated FBI agents, analysts, prosecutors and others. Their effort is another example of the work being done to protect our country and its citizens. These individuals are deserving of our respect and gratitude.”
Robert E. Casey Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Dallas Field Division reminded us why they were successful in thwarting the plot. “This arrest and criminal charge is a result of the success of the FBI’s counterterrorism strategy, which is to detect, penetrate, and disrupt terrorist plots in the United States and against U.S. interests abroad. In this case, FBI Agents and other FBI experts worked tirelessly to neutralize the imminent terrorist threat described in the criminal complaint. The public can be justifiably proud of the national security expertise shown by the FBI in this investigation.”
This writer has often been critical of federal government security lapses with regard to terrorist activities, most notably with respect to Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to bring down a jetliner two Christmases ago. Yet if one can be critical, one should also be willing to give credit where credit is due. In this case, the FBI appears to have done a great job. For that every American should be grateful.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.