A 21-year-old Georgia man is in custody on suspicion of planning to blow up the White House. Hasher Jallal Taheb, of Cumming, Ga., was arrested on Jan. 16 in a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation that traces back to last March.
Authorities say Taheb, who did not know how to fire a gun, planned to use a shoulder-fired AT4 anti-armor weapon on the White House to gain entry and then inflict as much damage as possible with assault rifles and backpacks laden with explosives.
“Because the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and numerous Federal, state and LE partners are active participants in the JTTF, all potential threats have been neutralized and under control from the inception of this case,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak in a statement. “Again, I want to clarify that there were no threats posed to any targets located in Northern District of Georgia, nor was the upcoming Super Bowl a target of his alleged activity.”
According to an FBI affidavit, federal authorities were notified by local law enforcement of Taheb last March, and made contact in August when he listed his car for sale. The complaint against him states that he had become radicalized, changed his name and was making plans to travel abroad, despite losing his passport.
In October, according to the affidavit, he again met one of the undercover officers and allegedly said that he wanted to conduct attacks against the White House and the Statue of Liberty. Then in December, Taheb allegedly showed the undercover officer a hand-drawn layout of the West Wing of the White House and described his plan and discussed selling his car for weapons. On Dec. 14, he allegedly said he wanted to attack the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and a synagogue.
“He said he had never shot a gun but could learn easily,” notes the FBI affidavit. “He added that his plan was to go in and take down as many (people) as they possibly could. … Taheb later noted that he wanted to drive on the road located behind the White House, pull up in a car, cause a distraction, and keep going until the full house was cleared or until they could no longer proceed. Taheb stated the backpacks were for destruction and ‘martyrdom.’”
It was not clear if Taheb claimed an affiliation with a specific extremist group, although he allegedly shared a video of late al-Qaeda cleric and recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki with an undercover agent.
On Jan. 12, Taheb allegedly met with an undercover agent bearing floor plans he drew in a composition notebook. “The sketches included floor plans of the White House, with the Secret Service and Homeland Security areas notated with stars on his drawings,” the affidavit notes. “Rather than [the undercover agent] having to draw his own sketches, Taheb told [the agent] to take the notebook with him.”
Taheb was arrested in Buford, Ga., on Jan. 16, after allegedly trading his car for the explosives, assault rifles and AT4. He allegedly entered a tractor-trailer to discuss how to detonate the devices and use the weapons, and then after trading his keys for the weapons left the trailer, got into a rental car that was to be taken to Washington, D.C., and was arrested as soon as he closed the door.
“It is important to point out that this investigation and arrest were the direct result of a tip from the community, another example of how important it is to contact law enforcement if you see or hear something suspicious,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI in Atlanta. “Taheb is charged as the result of a year-long investigation by FBI Atlanta’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. We want to thank the Forsyth County Sheriff Office and Gwinnett County Police Department for assisting us with his arrest. The investigation is continuing, but at this stage it is believed Taheb was acting on his own.”