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FBI Claims Disrupted Plot Against ‘Military Installation’ But No Plot Existed Before Agent Impersonated ISIS Fighter

Hasan Edmonds (left) and Jonas Edmonds (right) accused of plotting attack on US military installation

The FBI announced in a press release that it had stopped a US Army National Guard soldier and his cousin from carrying out a terrorism plot against a “military installation” in Illinois on behalf of the Islamic State. The men were charged with conspiracy to “provide material support” to the terrorist organization and arrested as part of a sting operation.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, a black US citizen, allegedly planned to travel to Egypt to join the Islamic State. Jonas Edmonds, Hasan’s cousin and also a black US citizen, allegedly planned to remain in the US to carry out an attack against a “military installation” in Hasan’s uniform and with information Hasan “supplied” on how to access the “installation.”

John P. Carlin, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security for the FBI’s Chicago Division, declared, “They plotted to attack members of our military within the United States. Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack. I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for disrupting the threat posed by these defendants.”

Is there any reason to be skeptical of the idea that these two men posed a threat, particularly before the FBI had undercover agents interact with them? Did the FBI provide the means, opportunity and desire to commit an attack as undercover agents and paid informants have done in previous sting operations?

There are a set of questions worth asking any time the US government claims the FBI has “disrupted” a terrorism plot, according to Mike German, a former special agent for the FBI and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice.

First, did either of the men engage in any direct action with the terrorist organization?

Did either of the men obtain weapons prior to the FBI’s decision to intervene? If they had weapons, what type of weapons were obtained?

Following those questions, did the men have the resources or capabilities to carry out this plot or attack without government assistance? And were plans for an attack formulated before a government agent was introduced?

Undercover FBI Employee Contacted Hasan on Facebook, Impersonated Islamic State Fighter

According to a “special affidavit” filed by an FBI special agent [PDF], it does not appear the men had any interactions with any alleged members of the Islamic State prior to an undercover FBI employee (“UC1”) contacting Hasan on Facebook.

UC1 impersonated an Islamic State fighter “located in countries outside the United States.” The agent sent a friend request to Hasan in late 2014.

On January 19, Hasan communicated with UC1 about leaving the United States and taking the “plunge” by giving his all to his faith or the religion of Islam. [Note: What happened in between 2014 and January 19 between Hasan and UC1 is not included in the affidavit. The affidavit says UC1 represented himself as an Islamic State fighter in “subsequent communications” but doesn’t state whether UC1 claimed to be a fighter in any communications before January 19.]

It does not appear either of the men had the weapons to carry out an attack, although Jonas allegedly told a second undercover FBI agent (“UC2”) the men met with in person in March that he would “purchase weapons, including AK47s and grenades, from a third-party.”

Jonas allegedly told UC2 he had “access to firearms.” Hasan also allegedly took a photo of himself in a military uniform while holding a rifle and sent it to UC1. This rifle may have been left for Jonas, however, Jonas allegedly was going to get the weapons for the attack from a “third-party.” He did not have weapons for an attack before talking to any FBI agents.

UC1 contacted Hasan on January 27. It is unclear what prompted the statement, but Hasan allegedly replied, “I can own handguns shotguns and rifles but no automatic weapons or heavy machine guns. We have plenty people here who have them and hide them so we will do the same.” This would seem to indicate Hasan had no weapons either.

Undercover FBI Employee Advises Hasan on Safe Travel Routes

There is reason to be skeptical of whether Hasan had the resources or capabilities. Hasan did not appear to be raising funds for traveling to fight with the Islamic State until he communicated with UC1, who he believed was an Islamic State fighter.

On January 30, UC1 directly asked if plans were finished (though it is unclear what plans are being referenced). Hasan answered, “Plans have been made. Now we need to get the funds for our travels and build our arsenal here. That’s what we are working at now.”

Hasan did not know of a “safe travel route” to get to Egypt, where he could join the Islamic State. Both Hasan and Jonas were afraid that they might be stopped while traveling. So, Hasan asked UC1 for help on March 1. It’s around this same time that UC2 offered to use his “connects” to help them with travel too.

The affidavit states, “UC1 advised that the two routes to Syria were through Turkey and Egypt and that UC1 could assist Hasan Edmonds with traveling to Syria if Hasan Edmonds took the route through Egypt.” But, Hasan is still concerned, “I know several Muslims have been caught attempting the Turkey route so tell me why not many Americans take the Egypt route. I am open to either way. I think it would raise less alarms on my end if I take the second route…either way I’m still coming.” Without guidance from UC1, it seems to be unclear if Hasan would have the confidence to go through with traveling.

On March 10, UC1 offered to get “points of contact” for Hasan if Hasan shared when he was going to travel. Hasan apparently was waiting for the “best place to travel to before he purchased the ticket.”

Jonas Asks Undercover FBI Employee to Help Him Migrate

Throughout February, Jonas tried to plan his travel to allegedly join the Islamic State too. However, he could not get the proper documents he needed, such as a passport, for travel. He asked UC1 on February 9 for help with the “move of my family.” Jonas wants to migrate with his wife, five children, Hasan and possibly others to Mosul, Iraq.

Later, in the same communication on February 9, Jonas essentially tried to come up with how he could still be of value to the Islamic State if he cannot legally travel. He could “take advantage of being so close to the kuffar,” which is the “infidel” US military. “Do you know of brothers on this side. That are not looking to leave,” he wrote to UC1. Then, Jonas added, “Well, I bring to the table very little when it comes to resources. But whatever I have is for Allah.”

Jonas had very little capability or resources to carry out any sort of attack except for his religious faith. He did not even know of other people he could connect with to launch an attack if he was left alone when Hasan traveled to Egypt.

One key question is whether Jonas was trying to use the person he thought was an Islamic State fighter in order to simply help his family migrate because he no longer wanted to live in the United States. UC1 suggested “resources would be available to assist if Jonas’ intention was to travel for the purpose of fighting and not just for hijrah.”

At some point in the conversation on February 9, Jonas said, “The plans are made from two points. One consists of doing all I can to be able to make hijrah [migration] with my family. I already let you know that I would need for that. Two, if I can’t make hijrah then InshAllah. I can unleash the lion. What I would need…honestly nothing. I am prepared to go even if its with a rock. But a small team, no more than 5 hardware and maybe a fire cracker. I do have access to hardware.” Does this mean Jonas would have allegedly committed an attack if he could get help with migration?

On March 3, Jonas met with UC2 in Downers Grove, Illinois. Jonas apparently poured his heart out to UC2 while talking about what he was willing to sacrifice for his faith. (In the affidavit, Jonas seems desperate to prove himself to Allah and UC2 is a person who can help him answer Allah’s “call.”)

UC2 also allegedly told Jonas that Hasan could enter Syria by taking the “southern route” from Egypt to Syria. When Jonas said Hasan would abandon “his military obligation” to travel, UC2 advised Hasan on what route to take to “avoid government detection and that it might take longer to get to the final destination.”

Undercover FBI Employee Impersonating Islamic State Fighter Asks Hasan to Download ‘Military Training Manuals,’ ‘Weapons Specifications’

It is UC2, who provided Jonas with a list of items that Hasan would need to travel, “including camping type gear and clothing and specific types of electronic equipment.” Hasan apparently does not have the knowledge to equip himself for joining the Islamic State.

From the affidavit, it seems clear UC1 formulated the plan for Hasan’s travel abroad to join the Islamic State. UC1 requests Hasan obtain “military training manuals” and “weapons specifications.” He wants Hasan to “download the information” and carry it with him when he tries to fly out of Chicago Midway Airport (because that will help the government charge him with additional terrorism-related offenses). Hasan has no clue how to download information and plans to ask Jonas for help because he’s “skilled with computers.”

UC2 convinced both Hasan and Jonas to do conduct reconnaissance of the “military installation” that was allegedly to be targeted. The three drove to the “installation” together on March 24. Hasan allegedly describes the layout of the “installation” and what rooms to avoid during an attack.

There are no statements from the conversation included in the affidavit, but it does say the three discussed “purchasing weapons and how to conduct an attack.” [It seems like UC2 picked up Hasan and Jonas for the drive to the “installation.”]

*

Hasan and Jonas are just the latest FBI targets. In the past four years, the FBI has arrested Mohammed Hamzah KhanAbdella Ahmad TounisiShaker Masri and Adel Daoud in sting operations and charged them with terrorism-related offenses in northern Illinois.

Neither of the men have been charged with any offenses that involve the possession of weapons for the purpose of terrorism. That suggests that Hasan and Jonas probably never obtained any kind of an “arsenal” to commit any attack.

Hasan and Jonas were each charged with “conspiring to knowingly provide material support and resources, namely, personnel, to a designated terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization and that the organization had engaged in and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism.”

It is a conspiracy charge that is actually fairly easy for a prosecutor to prove in court. The fact that something more substantial or significant is not being charged may be a signal that these men are not really the terrorists the government wants the public to believe the FBI thwarted.

Trevor Aaronson, executive director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and contributing writer for The Intercept, has covered FBI sting operations in the war on terrorism extensively. These sting operations usually have the same template but often the FBI will change the “flavor,” the terrorist organization the agents will try to link to the target.

“The flavor is now the Islamic State. They’re finding people in sting operations and saying, hey, we caught them. They were arranging to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic State. And the sting operation now involves helping them procure travel documents and getting the money to get plane tickets,” according to Aaronson.

The FBI finds economically desperate and/or mentally ill men, who are typically Muslim, and then takes advantage of their faith and economic despair to entice them to plot terrorism.

Photo consists of image of Hasan from his Myspace page and image of Jonas from Georgia Department of Corrections

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

FBI Claims Disrupted Plot Against ‘Military Installation’ But No Plot Existed Before Undercover Agent Impersonated ISIS Fighter

Hasan Edmonds (left) and Jonas Edmonds (right) accused of plotting attack on US military installation

The FBI announced in a press release that it had stopped a US Army National Guard soldier and his cousin from carrying out a terrorism plot against a “military installation” in Illinois on behalf of the Islamic State. The men were charged with conspiracy to “provide material support” to the terrorist organization and arrested as part of a sting operation.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, a black US citizen, allegedly planned to travel to Egypt to join the Islamic State. Jonas Edmonds, Hasan’s cousin and also a black US citizen, allegedly planned to remain in the US to carry out an attack against a “military installation” in Hasan’s uniform and with information Hasan “supplied” on how to access the “installation.”

John P. Carlin, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security for the FBI’s Chicago Division, declared, “They plotted to attack members of our military within the United States. Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack. I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for disrupting the threat posed by these defendants.”

Is there any reason to be skeptical of the idea that these two men posed a threat, particularly before the FBI had undercover agents interact with them? Did the FBI provide the means, opportunity and desire to commit an attack as undercover agents and paid informants have done in previous sting operations?

There are a set of questions worth asking any time the US government claims the FBI has “disrupted” a terrorism plot, according to Mike German, a former special agent for the FBI and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice.

First, did either of the men engage in any direct action with the terrorist organization?

Did either of the men obtain weapons prior to the FBI’s decision to intervene? If they had weapons, what type of weapons were obtained?

Following those questions, did the men have the resources or capabilities to carry out this plot or attack without government assistance? And were plans for an attack formulated before a government agent was introduced?

Undercover FBI Employee Contacted Hasan on Facebook, Impersonated Islamic State Fighter

According to a “special affidavit” filed by an FBI special agent [PDF], it does not appear the men had any interactions with any alleged members of the Islamic State prior to an undercover FBI employee (“UC1”) contacting Hasan on Facebook.

UC1 impersonated an Islamic State fighter “located in countries outside the United States.” The agent sent a friend request to Hasan in late 2014.

On January 19, Hasan communicated with UC1 about leaving the United States and taking the “plunge” by giving his all to his faith or the religion of Islam. [Note: What happened in between 2014 and January 19 between Hasan and UC1 is not included in the affidavit. The affidavit says UC1 represented himself as an Islamic State fighter in “subsequent communications” but doesn’t state whether UC1 claimed to be a fighter in any communications before January 19.]

It does not appear either of the men had the weapons to carry out an attack, although Jonas allegedly told a second undercover FBI agent (“UC2”) the men met with in person in March that he would “purchase weapons, including AK47s and grenades, from a third-party.”

Jonas allegedly told UC2 he had “access to firearms.” Hasan also allegedly took a photo of himself in a military uniform while holding a rifle and sent it to UC1. This rifle may have been left for Jonas, however, Jonas allegedly was going to get the weapons for the attack from a “third-party.” He did not have weapons for an attack before talking to any FBI agents.

UC1 contacted Hasan on January 27. It is unclear what prompted the statement, but Hasan allegedly replied, “I can own handguns shotguns and rifles but no automatic weapons or heavy machine guns. We have plenty people here who have them and hide them so we will do the same.” This would seem to indicate Hasan had no weapons either. (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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