Why federal prosecutors failed to indict a terrorist for a serious crime.
On June 29, 2017 the Department of Justice issued a press releases, Ohio Man Pleads Guilty to Providing Material Support to Terrorists.
Numerous politicians have proposed legislation that would strip an American of his/her citizenship if that American attended terror training overseas or fought on the side of terrorist organizations. This is entirely understandable and other countries have proposed similar laws be enacted.
Incredibly, in this case, this terrorist could have easily been stripped of his citizenship because he apparently acquired it by committing fraud in his naturalization application.
Yet, inexplicably, the federal prosecutors in this case failed to indict him for this crime even as they successfully charged him with other crimes relating to terrorism, for which he pleaded guilty. Adding this crime to his charges would have been a simple matter, indeed.
The “Ohio Man” was Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud a native of Somalia who, according to the information filed by federal prosecutors, entered the United States at the age of two.
The DOJ press release began with these two paragraphs:
Court records unsealed today reveal that Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 25, of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty to all counts alleged against him regarding a terrorist plot.
A federal grand jury charged Mohamud in April 2015 with one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization – namely, al-Nusrah Front – and one count of making false statements to the FBI involving international terrorism in an indictment returned in Columbus. Mohamud pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers on Aug. 14, 2015, and the plea was sealed because of an ongoing investigation.
According to the information provided in the press release and court documents (Revised Statement of Facts) filed on August 14, 2015 in the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, by federal prosecutors, the defendant did not become a naturalized citizen until 2014 when he was approximately 20 years of age.
Furthermore, the information contained in the documents made it clear that his motivation for becoming a United States citizen was not because of his love and respect for America but rather to enable him to acquire a U.S. passport to facilitate his travel to Syria to join his brother, Abdifatah Aden in fighting on the side of the al-Nusrah Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Lying on those applications constitutes fraud. As stipulated in federal law, Title 18 U.S. Code § 1425 (Procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully) when this crime is committed in conjunction with terrorism, the punishment is a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, a greater penalty that he faces for lying to an FBI agent.
However, the greatest incentive for this additional charge goes well beyond increasing his possible period of incarceration. By having Mohamud successfully prosecuted for this violation would result in his being stripped of his U.S. citizenship and consequently he would be subject to removal (deportation) from the United States.
This is of considerable importance considering that the DOJ press release reported:
According to a statement of facts supporting Mohamud’s guilty plea, while in Syria, Mohamud trained with al-Nusrah Front on fitness, and on the use of weapons and tactics. Mohamud also engaged in a firefight and expressed his desire to die fighting in Syria.
After his brother was killed while fighting for al-Nusrah Front, Mohamud returned to the U.S. According to the statement of facts, after returning to the U.S., Mohamud planned to obtain weapons in order to kill military officers or other government employees or people in uniform. Evidence seized by the FBI indicates that Mohamud researched places in the U.S. to carry out such plans.
Given that his goal, in returning to the United States, was to carry out terror attacks inside the United States, it is incomprehensible he was not charged with naturalization fraud to ultimately remove him from the United States upon completion of his prison sentence.
This excerpt from the previously noted Revised Statement of Facts provides clear and unequivocal evidence that the defendant procured United States citizenship unlawfully by concealing material facts in his application for U.S. citizenship:
1. Abdirahman Sheik MOHAMUD is a 23-year-old resident of Columbus, Ohio. MOHAMUD was born in Somalia but came to the United States (U.S.) when he was approximately two years old and became a naturalized U.S. citizen on February 18, 2014.
2. An overview of MOHAMUD’s criminal conduct is as follows:
3. In September of 2013, MOHAMUD sent his brother, Abdifatah ADEN, a private message praising his brother Abdifatah ADEN, who was fighting in Syria, for being a soldier and committing himself to join ADEN as a fellow foreign fighter.
4. From approximately January through April of 2014, MOHAMUD and ADEN coordinated MOHAMUD’s travel into Syria, planned MOHAMUD’s financial support for ADEN, and discussed MOHAMUD’s plans to obtain a communication device to provide to ADEN in support of terrorist activities. MOHAMUD’s planning included obtaining a U.S. passport and airline ticket, opening a bank account, gathering $1,000 of funds on ADEN’s behalf, and purchasing an internet-accessible device.
5. On February 18, 2014, MOHAMUD became a naturalized U.S. citizen. On February 25, 2014, MOHAMUD submitted a passport application to the U.S.
6. On April 8, 2014, MOHAMUD purchased a one-way ticket to Athens, Greece via Istanbul, Turkey.
7. MOHAMUD departed the U.S. on April 18, 2014 for the purpose of fighting in Syria and providing material support to the al-Nusrah Front (“al-Nusrah”), an organization that is designated by the U.S. Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). MOHAMUD did not fly to Athens, rather, he disembarked in Istanbul, Turkey and did not board his connecting flight. Around the time MOHAMUD departed the U.S., he knew ADEN was in Syria fighting with the terrorist organization al-Nusrah.
This case is far from unique. There have been numerous instances of foreign terrorists applying for United States citizenship as an embedding tactic and also to enable them to acquire U.S. passports which facilitate their entry into other countries as they go about preparatory functions relating to training, planning and conducing surveillance of potential targets in the United States and abroad.
“For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.” That statement appears in
Chapter 12 of the 9/11 Report under the subtitle, “What To Do? A Global Strategy.”
For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points.
In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected.
Yet USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) a component agency of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), adjudicates hundreds of thousands of applications for United States citizenship via naturalization every year. This only represents a small part of the more than 9 million applications filed annually for various immigration benefits.
This beleaguered agency and its employees are overwhelmed. Immigration fraud is not a “victimless crime” as I noted in a recent paper, “Immigration Fraud: Lies That Kill - 9/11 Commission identified immigration fraud as a key embedding tactic of terrorists.”
Furthermore, when aliens apply for naturalization they are able to legally change their names and their U.S. passports only reflect their new names. This enables criminals and terrorists to gain entry into countries that would bar them from entering under their original names but have no way of knowing that they have morphed into brand-new identities as U.S. citizens. This not only threatens America’s security but the security of our allies.
I have raised this issue at congressional hearings and elsewhere, but to no avail.
As I noted in a previous article, Terrorists Value U.S. Citizenship More Than Our Politicians Do.
Additionally, in another article I included an excerpt from a May 19, 2015 New York Times article, In Osama bin Laden Library: Illuminati and Bob Woodward, that described what American commandos discovered when they raided bin Laden’s compound.
Here is that excerpt:
He (bin Laden) also appeared to have maintained a keen interest in what the United States government thought of Al Qaeda. A copy of ‘The 9/11 Commission Report’ was found in the compound in Abbottabad, as were three reports on Al Qaeda by the Congressional Research Service. There was also an application for American citizenship (no word on whether it was filled out).
Clearly bin Laden had an interest in our immigration system.
Numerous terror suspects, to this day, have sought U.S. citizenship as an integral part of their strategies to move freely around the world in preparation for carrying out deadly attacks.
Criminal violations of our immigration laws must not be ignored but prosecuted aggressively to protect America and its citizens especially, in cases involving terrorists.