UPDATED: Iraqi Refugee Charged in Ariz. IED Bombing had Arms Cache, Bomb Materials in Home; ICE Didn’t Deport After Earlier Felony, But Said Reassessing Under Terrorism Statutes

When 47-year-old Abdullatif Ali Aldosary, an Iraqi refugee admitted into the US in 1997 and later convicted of a felony, was identified as a suspect in connection with the detonation of an IED on the morning of Nov. 30 at the back door of a Social Security Administration office in Casa Grande, Ariz., federal agents with the Phoenix Division FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) swiftly executed a search warrant on the suspect’s Coolidge, Ariz. home, where they found alleged evidence of bomb manufacturing and a small cache of guns and ammunition.

Numerous witnesses had described a nearly identical car leaving the scene, including a police officer who obtained the vehicle’s license number, which authorities said is owned by Aldosary.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents were seen joining FBI and local law enforcement officers when the FBI served Aldosary with the search warrant at his home, where FBI agents found him washing his car in an alleged attempt to destroy evidence of the bombing. The explosion allegedly occurred before Aldosary had driven away, according to the criminal complaint against him.

Following the stunning discoveries made at his residence, the criminal complaint and “Affidavit of Probable Cause” was issued Dec. 1 charging Aldosary with two felonies: alleged use of “fire and explosives” to damage a building, and felony possession of a firearm.

It’s unclear whether the FBI or ICE HSI are investigating Aldosary for links to domestic terrorism, or whether they intend to continue to treat the case as a simple domestic explosives crime as outlined in the criminal complaint. Nevertheless, the blogosphere has been abuzz with claims that this is another instance in which the Obama administration is refusing to call a bombing an act of terrorism by a Muslim. But there’s so far been no evidence presented that Aldosary is a Muslim or an adherent of jihadi ideology.

“This thing is fluid,” FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson told reporters Friday, noting that other agencies were involved in the investigation and that “at this point it would be premature to speculate.”

John Lopez, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office, declined to comment.

Aldosary appeared in federal court Monday but said nothing and entered no plea, causing the judge to question whether he understood the English language, although attorneys and federal officials assured the judge that, for a variety of reasons, they are confident he understands English.

Aldosary appeared for a Detention Hearing and Status Hearing regarding Preliminary Hearing and Counsel on Wednesday before US District Court-District of Arizona US Federal Judge David Duncan. He’s been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of maliciously damaging federal property by means of explosives and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and is scheduled for arraignment in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Although federal and other law enforcement authorities are tight lipped about the on-going investigation, the criminal complaint against Aldosary raises scores of disturbing questions, including questions about whether Aldosary, who previously served time in prison for aggravated assault, may have had unidentified accomplices given certain evidence found at his home, sources familiar with the case told Homeland Security Today.

The evidence may also indicate that Aldosary was planning additional bombing plots.

According to the affidavit of three-year JTTF veteran, FBI Special Agent Carey Cooper, investigators found evidence Aldosary may have been planning to manufacture a powerful military grade explosive known as “RDX” that has been used in “many bomb plots, including terrorist plots,” the criminal complaint stated.

Two 1-gallon containers of muriatic acid, nitric acid, 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, one pound of smokeless powder, mace and solid fuel cubes were found inside Aldosary’s home, as were “two pieces of paper with handwritten notes … located on the floor [and] behind a dresser in the master bedroom" that "referred to ‘AN’ and how to obtain ‘AN’ from cold packs," according to the criminal complaint.

Special Agent Cooper explained “that AN commonly refers to ammonium nitrate … a common precursor used in the making of explosives.”

In addition, “numerous documents were found secreted behind a photograph hung on the wall in the study” of Aldosary’s home that included “several Internet printouts describing materials and equipment needed to make RDX (cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine), homemade nitroglycerine, ammonium nitrate from homemade chemicals, how to make a bomb from homemade chemicals and recipes from the Anarchists Chemical Cook Book,” the complaint stated.

Also found was “a piece of paper containing handwritten notes labeled ‘materials needed’ … located with the aforementioned Internet printouts,” the complaint added. And “on the back of one of the documents were handwritten notes pertaining to mixing potassium nitrate with sugar and baking soda, then adding an organic powdered dye.”

“Henna red hair dye, yellow egg dye, sugar and baking soda were located in the kitchen cabinet adjacent to the stove,” and “all items were located on the same shelf,” the complaint stated.

The complaint further said that a Russian-made Saiga 7.62 AK-style semi automatic rifle and 9mm Ruger were found “secreted in the attic,” along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition – including “approximately 200 rounds of Russian-made ball and hollow point ammunition” — and extended capacity rifle magazines.

According to the complaint, Aldosary had a Bank of America checking account with a balance of $21,642. An inquiry with the “Arizona Department of Economic Security (AZDES) … revealed … Aldosary has no wages reported through AZDES," the complaint said.

Aldosary purchased his 1,866 square foot home, which was built in 2007, for $95, 990 on Aug. 12, 2008, about four months before having been arrested on charges of aggravated harassment on April 14, 2008, according to records and the criminal complaint. He was sentenced to two months in jail and three years of probation for aggravated harassment, according to the complaint.

According to Arizona corrections records, Aldosary began serving a sentence for aggravated harassment on April 24, 2009, given supervised released in Dec. 2009, and completed his sentence the following Jan. The criminal complaint, however, stated that his probation was revoked on April 24, 2009, at which time he was sentenced to one year in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

State records for the period of Aldosary’s probationary period show he held down 12 separate low-paying jobs such as “groundskeeper,” “paid labor pool,” “store room assistant,” and “kitchen semi-skilled.”

On March 20, 2009, the criminal complaint stated, Aldosary was found in felony “violation of court order” by the Coolidge, Ariz. Police Department.

Police records reportedly also show Aldosary was arrested Aug. 29, 2009 at Casa Grande Fitness for disorderly conduct and assault. Police said he displayed pornographic pictures and strucka man.

State records indicate that on April 29, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) obtained what appears to have been an ICE immigration “detainer warrant.” An immigration detainer serves to advise the law enforcement agency holding a person of interest to ICE that ICE may “seek custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency, for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien.” An immigration detainer is a request by ICE to state or local law enforcement to detain an individual after he or she is eligible for release to enable ICE to assume custody.

Authorities said such detainer warrants do not necessarily mean, though, that an individual will be deported by DHS pending investigation.

According to records, the detainer warrant was cancelled in Dec. 2009, coinciding with Aldosary being released on supervised probation that same month, records indicated. However, according to reports, ICE has issued another detainer-warrant for him, meaning the Fed’s have requested that he be remanded to their custody for possible deportation if he’s convicted for the Nov. 30 bombing.

Similar detainer warrants reportedly were issued in the case of three members of an Iraqi refugee family living in Phoenix who in Nov. were sentenced to probation for their roles in the abuse of a female family member who refused an arranged marriage. They pleaded guilty in October, 2011 to disorderly conduct, unlawful imprisonment and domestic violence, and misdemeanor assault.

ICE officials said Thursday that Aldosary’s previous arrests and probation violation weren’t considered deportable offenses, and that he had reapplied for a green card, according to ICE spokesman Gillian Christensen. In short, ICE said its legal review of Aldosary’s criminal record determined he wasn’t removable. But ICE officials also acknowledged that he has now been flagged for a potential re-review of his status in the US following his arrest and indictment on the charges stemming from his alleged bombing of the Social Security Administration office.

Homeland Security officials also have declined to confirm whether Aldosary is in the United States on a temporary visa or whether he’d orginally been given refugee status.

Several months after Aldosary’s application for a green card was denied, immigration officials reportedly reopened his application pursuant to a review of cases involving immigrants allowed into the US who may be exempt from post-9/11 immigration laws that are supposed to prohibit persons who have engaged in "terrorism-related activities" under the "Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Grounds" as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Officials said Aldosary was denied a green card for that reason. His re-application for a green card has been pending ever since, officials said.

Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) chief legal counsel, Thomas Van Flein, wrote to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chief James McCament on Wednesday, Nov. 5, asking for an explanation regarding Aldosary’s status, and was told his case had been put on hold "pursuant to the terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility" under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

According to Van Flien’s letter, McCament’s office had informed Gosar in response to an inquiry his office made about Aldosary in Nov. 2011 that "Mr. Aldosary was not eligible for permanent status ‘pursuant to the terrorism related grounds of inadmissibility’ explaining that ‘individuals who engage in terrorism-related activity … are barred from receiving various immigration benefits.’ The denial of citizenship to resident aliens who engage in terrorism related activity is, of course, common sense. As should be thier prompt deportation."

"In light of the IED planted outside the Casa Grande Social Security Administration Office that was detonated on Nov. 30, 2012," Van Flein said in his letter to McCament that "the Congressman raised serious concerns about how an alien who was denied permanent citizenship on the basis of ‘terrorism related grounds’ was not detained and being processed for deportation already one year ago … It appears to the Congressman that a known terrorist was allowed to travel freely in Arizona and was allegedly able to engage in terrorism more than a year after DHS had already determined he engaged in terrorism activity."

McCament told Gosar in December 2011 that roughly 4,400 immigration cases are on hold because no exemption applies. However, he also noted that "Since 2006, USCIS has not applied the terrorism related inadmissibility grounds in approximately 11,000 cases under existing exercises of the [Homeland Security] Secretary’s discretionary authority."

Since 2007, more than 64,000 Iraqi nationals were admitted into the United States as of March 12, 2012 who met refugee criteria, including a background security investigation, according to USCIS.

Conversely, from fiscal year 1999 through FY2012, nearly 200 Iraqi nationals were apprehended having illegally entered the United States between Ports of Entry on the Southern border, according to Customs and Border Protection statistics provided to Homeland Security Today. It’s unclear how many, if any, sought political asylum in the US or were treated as refugees.

In July, 2011, Iraqi refugees were rechecked for terrorism ties due to officials’ concerns about lax refugee status immigration security checks. The Los Angeles Times reported that “Officials fear lapses in immigration security may have let insurgents and potential terrorists enter the country” following US counterterrorism intelligence having “warned that Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and Yemen had tried to target the US refugee stream, or exploit other immigration loopholes, in an attempt to infiltrate the country with operatives.”

According to immigration authorities, DHS initially provided the FBI with the names of about 300 Iraqi refugees that were identified as needing further investigation. The FBI has declined to comment on the results of its investigations or whether any of the Iraqis pose a homeland security threat.

In August, the US Department of Justice said Iraqi citizen Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who authorities said entered the United States in July 2009, pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges in US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Hammadi’s co-defendant, Waad Ramadan Alwan, pleaded guilty to all counts of a 23-count indictment.

Having entered the United States in April 2009, Alwan was charged with conspiracy to kill US nationals abroad; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against US nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of IEDs; attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to Al Qaeda in Iraq; as well as conspiracyto transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles."

"We are committed to conducting the most rigorous screening in order to ensure that those being admitted through the refugee program are not seeking to harm the United States," USCIS stated in April, adding, "In May 2007, DHS announced and implemented an Administration-coordinated, enhanced background and security check process for Iraqi refugees applying for resettlement in the United States."

USCIS said "The security check regime, including both biographic and biometric checks, has been enhanced periodically over the last several years as new opportunities and interagency partnerships with the law enforcement and intelligence communities have been identified. These enhancements are a reflection of the commitment of DHS and other agencies to conduct the most thorough checks possible to prevent dangerous individuals from gaining access to the United States through the refugee program."

"The latest enhancement to the refugee security check regime," USCIS said, "involves a new ‘pre-departure’ check shortly before refugees are scheduled to travel to the US. It is intended to identify whether any new derogatory information exists since the initial checks were conducted. These pre-departure checks went into effect in late 2010. No case is finally approved until results from all security checks have been received and analyzed."

Gosar said in an earlier statement that “The alleged bomber, Abdullatif Aldosary, is … an Iraqi refugee who was given the privilege to live in our country, but has apparently repaid our generosity and kindness with repeated violence and aggression,” Gosar said. “The FBI reports the use of a high explosive called ‘RDX’ that is often used in terrorist plots. It is my expectation that this case will be fully investigated and the full weight of law enforcement brought to bear. The recent bombing in Casa Grande reminds us that we have to all have a responsibility to be vigilant and to alert authorities of any threats in our communities.”

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told the Washington Times that Aldosary’s background will be carefully scrutinized. King has long had concerns about security issues involving the US’s Iraqi refugee programs. “I assume that’s how he got in,” King was quoted saying, adding, “It should be and will be looked into … absolutely. It’s a real concern we have here.”

King told the Washington Times that authorities should “definitely track down and figure out how he got in here and what his background was.”

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