In a news bulletin Tuesday by the Islamic State’s (ISIS) official radio station, Al Byyan, which broadcasts out of Mosul, the Islamist jihad organization claimed responsibility for the May 3 shooting in Garland, Texas by radicalized Muslims and Phoenix, Arizona roommates, EltonSimpson and Nadir Soofi.
Federal investigators have found there was substantive advance notice of what the two avowed jihadists intended to do on various social media postings.
On March 29, American ISIS operative with the alias Abu Khalid Al Amriki claimed on Twitter he was in contact with ISIS supporters in the US and that one of them was prepared to carry out an operation.
Only minutes before and after their attempted attack was thwarted — when law enforcement shot both men dead — Abu Hussain Al Britani appears to have had foreknowledge of the attack. He tweeted from his “AbuHussainAlBritani” Twitter account just before the attack that, “The knives have been sharpened; soon we will come to your streets with death and slaughter! #QaribanQariba [soon, soon].”
Immediately after the attack, he tweeted, “Allahu Akbar! Two of our brothers just opened fire at the Prophet Muhammad art exhibition in Texas! #TexasAttack." He also advocated and threatened further attacks, tweeting, "Kill Those That Insult The Prophet – #GarlandShooting.”
Another tweet stated, “They Thought They Was Safe In Texas From The Soldiers of The Islamic State #garlandshooting #TexasAttack.”
Still another tweet stated, “If there is no check on the freedom of your speech, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions #GarlandShooting #TexasAttack."
The tweets have raised questions over whether Simpson, at least, was in direct contact with UK resident Al Britani, whose real name is Junaid Hussain. Before traveling to Syria to fight jihad with ISIS, he’d been jailed for three years in 2012 for stealing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s personal details, including his email address and national insurance number. He’s known to post social media messages urging violent jihad and urging all Muslims to become engaged in jihad.
Before the shooting, Simpson’s Twitter account, "Mutawakil" (one who places his faith in Allah) with the subhead, “Shariah is Light” and bearing the picture of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Islamist jihadist recruiter Anwar Awlaki, who was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen in 2011, urged fellow jihadists to follow “AbuHussainAlBritani.”
“Follow @_AbuHu55ain,” was tweeted from his Twitter account about an hour before the attack.
“In his last tweet, he claimed both attackers had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and used the hashtag #texasattack just hours prior to the event itself,” said the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors jihadi social media. “His Twitter account shows him to be an online supporter of ISIS whose account had been frequently shut down for spreading jihadi content. He was followed by over 1,000 accounts, and tweeted regularly.
MEMRI said, “His social media contacts include several known ISIS operatives. One possible direct contact, the Minnesotan Somali-American Mohamed Abdullahi Hussein, known as Mujahid Miski, who is currently fighting with the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab Al Mujahedeen in Somalia, tweeted immediately following the attack, ‘I’m gonna miss Mutawakil, he was truly a man of wisdom. I’m gonna miss his greeting every morning on Twitter.’ Miski added, ‘I’m gonna miss how he always used to talk speak of the Hoor Al Ayn [virgin of paradise promised to martyrs]. How he always said he wanted to meet her.’ In a May 4 tweet, Miski wrote, ‘Our brother Mutawakil in 2008 wanted to Make #Hijrah to Somalia but a Murtad spied on him. Allah swt was preparing him for something better.’”
MEMRI further noted that Miski claimed awareness of what [Simpson and Soofi] had dreamed about prior to the attack.
He wrote, "Mutawakil saw himself in a dream walking in a road and a woman looking from the sky with a niqab. He was frightened the interpretation of his dream was that the #hoor Al Ayn [virgins in paradise] were waiting for him eagerly and that he should hasten to meeting them too."
“Such dreams are commonly told by jihadi fighters, and are often used to reinforce the operatives’ morale and resolve before they embark on suicide missions,” MEMRI said.
MEMRI also pointed out that, “Abu Khalid Al Amriki, upon learning of the attack on Twitter, praised the attempt and threatened more to come. He tweeted, ‘This one should hit the front page! Dawlah [ISIS] is in America! Allahu Akbar … How much do you love the Prophet? I’m sure the brothers earned their spot next to the messenger of Allah … The drawn Sword on the one that Insults the messenger of Allah. Let this be a wakeup call for all cartoonists. We are coming for you.’”
MEMRI said, “Online ISIS supporters immediately reacted to the Texas attack by praising the perpetrators and elevating them to the rank of martyrs in the cause of jihad. For example, ISIS supporter ‘Australi Witness,’ who recently called for targeting Australian cartoonists, tweeted: ‘May Allah reward the Garland Mujahedeen with a seat right next to the Prophet in Jannah [heaven].’”
"Two of the Caliphate’s soldiers attacked an exhibition in the American [town of] Garland, Texas” which “staged a competition of cartoons that were insulting to the Prophet Muhammad,” the broadcast stated. “The brothers opened fire on the exhibition, and as a result one of the police officers in charge of protecting the exhibition was injured. The brothers were killed in the exchange of fire. We pray Allah to accept them in the highest paradise.”
In concluding, the ISIS broadcast said, “We say to the protector of the Cross, America, that what is coming will be more bitter and calamitous. The soldiers of the Islamic State will show you what will harm you, Allah willing. Tomorrow draws near."
Although an Islamic State fighter earlier claimed the attack was carried out by two supporters of ISIS, it wasn’t until Tuesday that the jihadist organization officially claimed responsibility.
Evidence quickly was unearthed tying the two shooters – but especially Simpson — to radical Islamist social media – including a suspected ISIS member in Syria — following the attack on the Curtis Culwell Civic Center in Garland, Texas where Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted a contest for the best cartoon of Prophet Muhammad. However, Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Jeh Johnson stated “law enforcement authorities continue to investigate the deceased assailants’ motives and all the circumstances surrounding the attack in Garland, Texas.”
Don’t forget Nadir Soofi
While considerable focus has been put on Simpson, his partner in the attempted attack, Nadir Soofi also appears to have become radicalized.
MEMRI said, “Some insight into [him] can be gleaned from his Facebook account.”
According to Soofi’s Facebook profile, he graduated from the International School of Islamabad in 1998, and his “timeline is filled with posts condemning President Obama’s Middle Eastern policies, specifically his drone program. Many of his posts are also anti-Israel and decry its allegedly abusive policies towards Arabs.”
“On July 21, 2014,” MEMRI said, “he posted a meme criticizing Obama’s Middle East policy, ‘On Israel: No country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens! Except for Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. They don’t have a problem with it.’”
Earlier, “On July 9, 2013, he posted video of American musician and activist Yasiin Bey being force-fed according to the standard procedure at Guantanamo,” MEMRI said, adding that he wrote, ‘This is the force feeding torture the Guantanamo Bay prisoners/hunger strikers endure twice a day. May Allah punish the oppressors severely, ameen!’”
Perhaps more importantly, in recent years, Soofi’s appearance took a dramatic change. He began wearing more traditional Muslim garb and grew a beard. His transformation was so significant that friends said on his Facebook page that they didn’t even recognize him.
“While all the facts are not in yet,” Johnson said, the “attack serves as a reminder that free and protected speech, no matter how offensive to some, never justifies violence of any sort. This attack also underscores the importance of close collaboration between federal, state and local authorities in our nation’s homeland security efforts, as well as public awareness and vigilance.”
Johnson said, “Initial word of the planned program at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland was passed from local law enforcement and the community to federal authorities days before the event, and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were then able to disseminate information about the planned event to law enforcement and first responders across the country.”
“At this point,” Johnson said, “it does seem clear that an officer of the Garland Police Department acted quickly and decisively and thereby likely saved a number of innocent lives. We are also relieved to hear that the one security officer who was wounded did not suffer life-threatening injuries.”
With local law enforcement forewarned that the event could be the target of an attack, the two jihadists – wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles – tried to storm the building’s entrance, where they were engaged.
“The Garland Police Department was able to contain this situation at the perimeter of the event,” the department said Monday in a statement, explaining that, “As Sunday’s Muhammad Art Exhibit event at the Curtis Culwell Center was coming to an end, two adult males drove up to the front of the facility perimeter in a car. Both males were armed with assault weapons and began shooting at a Garland ISD security officer. Garland Police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed. The security officer, Bruce Joiner, sustained a wound to his ankle. He was treated and released.
“He [police officer] did what he was trained to do and under the fire he was put under, he did a very good job, and probably saved lives,” Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said of the officer who shot the two jihadists at a news conference. “We think their strategy was to get into the event center and they weren’t able to get past the perimeter we had set up that was part of that security.”
Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the shootings may have been "an attempted terrorist attack" but said it was too early to say whether the attack is tied to ISIS.
"This is still under investigation by the FBI and other members of the Intelligence Community to determine any ties or affiliations that these two individuals may have had with ISIL or other terrorist organizations around the world," Earnest said.
"We’re very vigilant about the efforts that are under way by ISIL and other extremist organizations to try to radicalize some individuals in the United States," Earnest said. "We’re working closely with community leaders, law enforcement officials, of course, to try to counter that threat."
More to come?
On Wednesday, Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki, a shadowy US-born jihadist, posted a threat to the West on a site jihadists have used in the past. Al Ameriki was featured in a 2009 propaganda video released by a group calling itself the "German Taliban Mujahedeen” — or the Islamic Jihad Group, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — based in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
“To our brothers and sisters fighting for the Sake of Allah, we make dua for you and ask Allah to guide your bullets, terrify your enemies, and establish you in the Land,” Al Ameriki, the message stated. “As our noble brother in the Phillipines said in his bayah, ‘This is the Golden Era, everyone who believes … is running for Shaheed.’”
“The attack by the Islamic State in America is only the beginning of our efforts to establish a wiliyah in the heart of our enemy,” the message said, noting, “Our aim was the khanzeer Pamela Geller and to show her that we don’t care what land she hides in or what sky shields her; we will send all our Lions to achieve her slaughter. This will heal the hearts of our brothers and disperse the ones behind her. To those who protect her: this will be your only warning of housing this woman and her circus show. Everyone who houses her events, gives her a platform to spill her filth are legitimate targets. We have been watching closely who was present at this event and the shooter of our brothers. We knew that the target was protected. Our intention was to show how easy we give our lives for the Sake of Allah.”
Pamela Geller is founder of Stop Islamization of America, also known as the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
Continuing, Al Ameriki’s posted message stated, “We have 71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire. Out of the 71 trained soldiers, 23 have signed up for missions like Sunday. We are increasing in number bithnillah. Of the 15 states, 5 we will name … Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, California and Michigan. The disbelievers who shot our brothers think that you killed someone untrained, nay, they gave you their bodies in plain view because we were watching.”
“The next six months will be interesting, To our Amir Al Mu’mineen make dua for us and continue your reign, May Allah enoble your face,” the message continued. “May Allah send His peace and blessings upon our Prophet Muhummad and all those who follow until the last Day.”
It’s jihad, stupid
While administration officials tried to tamp down ISIS’ claim of responsibility Tuesday, past and present counterterrorism intelligence officials said it makes no difference if they were “directed” by ISIS or not.
Echoing what Homeland Security Today has repeatedly reported, (see, for example, the report, Past, Present Officials at Odds on Extent, Seriousness, Understanding of Islamism, and, Islamic State-Inspired Terrorist Incidents Highlight Growing Threat of Returning Jihadists) “It’s the ideology; it’s radicalized Muslims or the newly converted who’ve bought into Islamist jihad that’s the problem,” one of the officials told Homeland Security Today on background.
“So, yes, to the extent that ISIS, or Al Qaeda’s outreach through social media helped inspire or convert them to jihad,then, yes, these groups are responsible … they don’t have to actually be in direct contact and be directing them … there have been plenty of calls by ISIS and Al Qaeda to believers and supporters of jihad to do exactly what these two clearly radicalized men did," the official said. "And that’s the problem. It’s Islamist jihadi ideology; it doesn’t have to be jihadists under the direct control of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or some other jihadist group; that’s what people aren’t getting!”
Homeland Security Today reported Tuesday that ISIS has been “lethally effective” in targeting the Somali-American community in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, for example – a place which has been described as a terrorist pipeline to the Middle East.
ISIS’ recruiting success in the Twin Cities presents a grave threat to US security, as radicalized youth continue to travel to Syria and then back home to conduct an attack, according to a report for DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate prepared by Erroll Southers and Justin Hienz.
Southers was President Obama’s first nominee for assistant secretary of the Transportation Security Administration. Today, he’s Managing Director for Counterterrorism and Infrastructure Protection at TAL Global and Director of Transition and Research Deployment for DHS’s National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE). He’s also an adjunct professor of homeland security and public policy at the University of Southern California.
Hienz is a counterterrorism analyst and scholar of religion working with CREATE.
“What the world is dealing with here is a snowball becoming an avalanche,” Hienz said. “The more people who travel to Syria, the more recruiters ISIS has, in turn expanding its potential to recruit even more people. There is simply no question that ISIS presents an enormous threat to US security.”
Although the increasing possibility that jihadi recruits will return to the US from Syria or Iraq to carry out attacks on the homeland, many government agencies are not taking the threat seriously, according to Souther and Hienz’s report.
“After speaking with colleagues in several three-letter agencies, it is clear that while there are some professionals who understand just how dangerous ISIS is, there are many who do not,” Hienz said. “Some of the questions being asked behind government doors are laughable for their simplicity. There is a distinct absence of a sense of urgency. And the administration’s overall strategy to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS’ needs a lot more meat on its bones … What is it going to take for us to get serious about defeating ISIS?”
Officials Homeland Security Today has interviewed parroted these concerns in the report, Past, Present Officials at Odds on Extent, Seriousness, Understanding of Islamism.
One Texas shooter on FBI’s radar nearly a decade ago
According to federal prosecutors, as of 2009, the FBI Phoenix office had an open criminal investigation into whether Elton Simpson and certain of his associates were planning to travel to foreign countries, in particular Somalia, to fight jihad.
A convert to Islam, Simpson attracted the FBI’s attention in 2006 – on October 10, 2006, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division issued the “Intelligence Assessment,” The Radicalization Process: From Conversion to Jihad — when he turned up as an acquaintance of Phoenix native Hassan Abu Jihaad. Jihaad was then a US Navy sailor under investigation for having leaked details about the movements of the Navy destroyer USS Benfold on which he served as a signalman to operators of an organization that ran numerous jihadi websites that promoted violent jihad against the US.
According to Jihaad’s March 21, 2007 indictment, on or about March or April 2001, he “provided Azzam Publications classified information about a United States Navy Battle Group which was scheduled to move from California to the Persian Gulf region in March and April 2001, and which was charged with enforcing sanctions against the Taliban and engaging in missions against Al Qaeda.”
Based in the United Kingdom, Azzam Publications “was established and operated to recruit individuals to become Mujahedeen and to solicit and raise funds and assistance for jihad, including for the Taliban and Chechen Mujahedeen,” the indictment stated.
Azzam Publications ran websites in Connecticut, Nevada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Malaysia and elsewhere “which were designed and intended to recruit Mujahedeen, raise funds for violent jihad, recruit personnel for the Chechen Mujahedeen, the Taliban and associated groups, and give instructions for travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight with these groups, provide instructions for the surreptitious transfer of funds to the Taliban, and solicit military items for these groups, including gas masks and night vision goggles,” the indictment stated.
Furthermore, the indictment stated, “various e-mail accounts associated with the websites [were used] to communicate with other individuals also involved in the operation and administration of the websites, communicate with members of the Taliban, Chechen Mujahedeen and associated groups, communicate with members of the public who sought to support violent jihad activities depicted on the websites, communicate with those who responded to the internet solicitations for material support and individuals who wished to join these groups, solicit donations to support violent jihad and coordinate the transfer of money, and communicate with and provide to those who sought to purchase items advertised on the websites,” which included “videotapes depicting and promoting violent jihad in Chechnya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and other lands of jihad.”
Babar Ahmad, the administrator of Azzam Publications, was extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States in October 2012. In 2013 he pleaded guilty to charges of “conspiracy and providing material to support to terrorism” and sentenced to more than 12 years on July 16, 2014.
Participants in the operation of Azzam Publications used certain email accounts associated with the websites to communicate with Jihaad while Jihaad was assigned to the USS Benfold.
Jihaad was convicted on March 5, 2008 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
At the same time, according to court records, “the FBI asked one of its informants, Dabla Deng, who was from Kenya and who knew Mr. Simpson from the mosque he attended … to become friends with Mr. Simpson and get to know him better by presenting himself as an individual who was new to Islam and who sought to learn more from Mr. Simpson. Mr. Deng began to meet with Mr. Simpson three to four times per week and recorded their conversations.
Deng had been working as an FBI informant since 2005.
According to the government’s trial memorandum, FBI agents investigating Simpson learned about Jihaad during a visit to his home in January 2010 to ask him questions. As the agents were preparing to leave, Simpson asked the agents about Hassan Jihaad. Specifically, he wanted to know about the status of Jihaad’s appeal of hisfederal conviction, saying “he was concerned about Abu Jihaad’s future,” according to trial memorandum, which stated Simpson and Jihaad “knew each other from Abu Jihaad’s previous time in Phoenix.”
Over the next few years, Deng’s covert conversations with Simpson resulted in 1,500 hours on 225 CDs covering 327 days, according to court records. In court, though, prosecutors presented only 17 minutes and 31 seconds.
“During meetings between defendant and Deng, a frequent topic was jihad and the obligation to fight jihad overseas,” the trial memorandum stated. “On July 31, 2007, in a recorded conversation, defendant spoke about fighting the kaffir (non believers) for Allah, while ‘going out’ from America, ‘because the brothers in like Palestine, and stuff they need help.’ Defendant noted that ‘just the whole thing is how you get there, though,’ and spoke about ‘wherever the Muslims are at,’ but first ‘Palestine’ because of Jewish oppression of Muslims; defendant also spoke of Afghanistan and Iraq. Defendant specifically criticized those people who ‘don’t believe that they should be over there fighting.’ On the subject of fighting, when Deng stated that ‘I know we can do it man. But you got to find the right people that,’ defendant stated ‘Gotta have connects.’”
In other recordings played during the trial, Simpson said, “it’s time to go to Somalia, brother,” and that the “kuffar” are “fighting against us it’s because they don’t want us to establish sharia.”
Simpson also “told Mr. Deng that Allah loves an individual who is ‘out there fighting [non-Muslims]’ and making difficult sacrifices such as living in caves, sleeping on rocks rather than sleeping in comfortable beds and with his wife, children and nice cars,” court records stated. “Mr. Simpson said that the reward is high because ‘If you get shot, or you get killed, it’s [heaven] straight away.’ Simpson then said ‘[Heaven] that’s what we here for … so why not take that route?’”
Simpson talked about Palestine, Iraq and Somalia “and stated that if ‘a brother’ in Palestine has his house bombed, you should feel like that bomb landed on your house,” court records state Simpson having said. "’You should feel for your Muslim brother no matter where he is.’ Mr. Simpson then stated that ‘they trying to bring democracy over there man, they’re trying to make them live by man-made laws, not by Allah’s laws. That’s why they get fought. You try to make us become slaves to man? No we slave to Allah, we going to fight you to the death.’”
Simpson further stated, "Some people they don’t believe that they should be over there fighting. That’s the problem. That’s like a disease in the heart, man … [I]t’s a small group of brothers who can see and understand why … Some brothers don’t have the same understanding."
On May 29, 2009, “Simpson told Mr. Deng ‘it’s time to go to Somalia, brother … we know plenty of brothers from Somalia.’ Mr. Simpson and Mr. Deng then discussed their possible contacts in Africa. Mr. Simpson then said ‘It’s time. I’m tellin’ you man. We gonna make it to the battlefield … it’s time to roll.’ Mr. Simpson and Mr. Dengthen discussed ‘jihad.’ In that conversation, Mr. Simpson explained why Muslims are fighting, the following way: ‘People fighting and killing your kids, and dropping bombs on people that have nothing to do with nothing. You got to fight back you can’t be just sitting down … smiling at each other…’ The two then discussed a video of a beheading.”
On June 16, 2009, six months before he was indicted, Simpson mentioned to Deng about "Getting up out of here.” Simpson said he was tired of living under non-Muslims, and that non-Muslims are fighting against Allah while his money and taxes are going towards their weapons.”
In the same conversation, Simpson discussed having sent someone a link to a video about the permissibility of doing martyrdom operations.
Simpson and Deng discussed connections with Somalia, to which Simpson stated, “It’s time (singing). I’m telling you, man. We gonna make it to the battlefield, akee, it’s time to roll.”
“At that point, Deng agreed he could leave America; [Simpson] advised Deng on how to pay for his travel by selling his car, ‘that’s a plane ticket right there. Bye-bye America,’” the trial memorandum stated.
On June 17, 2009, Simpson again met with Deng “and talked about his having sent to an associate a link discussing “the permissibility of doing the martyrdom operations,” and about “how they gonna use the car with bombs on it.”
On November 7, 2009, Simpson, Deng and another person “discussed fighting jihad.” Simpson also asserted he was “going to school.” When Deng pointed out you never know who is going to be a scholar or a mujahid, Simpson stated, “Yeah, that’s the whole point. School is just a front. School is a front, and if I am given the opportunity to bounce …” He later said if authorities stopped them, they’d have to “be real,” that they had to be “relaxed” and “I’m just trying, trying to travel, trying to see the world.”
As of January 7, 2010, the FBI confirmed Simpson had purchased a plane ticket to travel to South Africa through a Customs and Border Protection database, which maintains airline reservations. He’d also obtained a passport. Three FBI agents then visited Simpson at his residence in Avondale, Arizona to speak with him.
“Defendant was asked whether he had any plans to travel outside the United States,” according to the trial memorandum.” Defendant stated he planned to travel to South Africa to study Islam at a madrassa; according to defendant he would be gone for about five years and did not have firm plans for what he would do after he completed his studies. When asked whether, once in South Africa, defendant planned on staying in South Africa, defendant questioned why the FBI would ask him that. Defendant was asked whether he had discussed with anyone traveling to Somalia; again defendant questioned why he would be asked that.”
Madrassa schools are notorious for teaching Islamist jihad, counterterrorism authorities have told Homeland Security Today.
One of the FBI agents asked Simpson, in a yes or no question, whether he’d discussed traveling to Somalia, and Simpson said “no.”
“Because the defendant was being deceptive about the possibility of traveling to Somalia … the FBI became concerned that Mr. Simpson in fact did intend to go Somalia to engage in violent jihad. As a result, the agents attempted to prevent or disrupt the Defendant’s travels. The FBI tried, unsuccessfully, to place Mr. Simpson on the No-Fly list,” court records state. “Concerned that Mr. Simpson’s associates would be inspired by him and attempt to follow in his footsteps, the FBI also prepared to begin interviewing them in the same manner they interviewed Mr. Simpson. The FBI’s next step would have been to tell the South African government about Mr. Simpson, but before this happened, the FBI arrested Mr. Simpson and brought him up on charges.”
Set free with slap on his hand
But, with no other crimes to charge Simpson on, the FBI ended up charging him with making “a false statement” to the FBI agents “involving international terrorism,” and “that the false statement involves international or domestic terrorism,” thus making him “eligible for a sentence enhancement pursuant to” applicable federal law.
Simpson waived his right to a trial by jury and elected instead to have a bench trial, which took place on October 26 and 27, 2010.
US District Judge Mary H. Murguia ruled on March 15, 2011 that “the government has not established that defendant’s false statement ‘involved’ international terrorism is confirmed by the fact that even the FBI agents who heard the conversations with the informant that were played for the court, were unsure of the dangerousness of defendant’s expressed desire to go to Somalia until he denied having discussed traveling there. While the denial suggests a nefarious purpose, it does not serve as sufficient proof for this court that the defendant’s false statement involved international terrorism.”
Furthermore, the judge ruled, “Had the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the reason Mr. Simpson lied about discussing travel to Somalia was because he intended to engage in violent jihad there, even if he had no definite or concrete plan to do so, the court would have had a more solid basis for finding that Mr. Simpson’s false statement involved international terrorism.”
While “The possibility that the defendant did in fact intend to go to Somalia to engage in violent jihad exists, as the defendant never presented any alternative reason for going there,” the judge stated, she ruled “that is not the defendant’s burden and as stated, the government has not established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had such intentions. As it is, the government only established that Mr. Simpson discussed traveling to Somalia and later lied about discussing traveling to Somalia. The government also established that Mr. Simpson expressed sympathy and admiration for individuals who fight non-Muslims – possibly even those who engage in violent jihad in other countries including Somalia — that he would like to see Shariah law established, and that he believed that fighting non-Muslims would lead to heaven. However obnoxious, troubling or repugnant these beliefs and statements may be, this court cannot find that sufficient evidence exists to enhance the defendant’s sentence.”
The judge also ruled that, “The tapes [that] were played in court and Mr. Deng, speaking without the assistance of an interpreter, testified and confirmed that the conversations on the tapes were between him and Mr. Simpson and also confirmed that the statements were made.” However, the judge stated, “Mr. Deng … provided no testimony interpreting the statements, putting them into context or otherwise clarifying what he understood Mr. Simpson to be saying when he made these various statements about making it to the battlefield, expressing support for Muslim brothers all over the world and ‘going that route’ or why he wanted to go to Somalia. Nor did Mr. Deng explain what he understood the defendant to mean when he said school was a front and he would bounce.”
FBI Agent Jeff Hebert, who worked with the Deng and listened to the tapes that were played during the trial that “Simpson was making clear that he intended to go to Somalia to engage in violent jihad in order to establish Shariah law” and that his “statement that school was just a front and that he would ‘bounce’ if given the opportunity meant that Mr. Simpson’s plans to attend a madrassa in South Africa was a cover for his true intent – to go to Somalia to engage in violent jihad.”
Simpson’s legal counsel stated in their defendant’s trial memorandum that, “There is no controlling law in the 9 Circuit as to what evidence the government must show to prove that the false statement ‘involves international terrorism’ in order to increase the maximum sentence to eight years … in the case of an individual with no criminal history like Mr. Simpson.”
Judge Murguia found Simpson “guilty of making a false statement,” and “that there is insufficient evidence to support that the false statement ‘involved’ terrorism.” She sentenced Simpson to three months’ probation and a $500 fine.
"I have to say that I felt like these charges were completely trumped up, that they were just trying to cover up what had been a very long and expensive investigation and they just couldn’t leave without some sort of charges," Simpson’s attorney, Kristina Sitton was quoted saying.
In retrospect – just using the FBI’s own 2006 intelligence document outlining the indicators of radicalization – it was clear Simpson had become radicalized to the point of wanting to engage in jihad. Federal investigators likely are finding undisclosed additional evidence of his conversion and probable communications with jihadi recruiters in Syria or Iraq.
Simpson’s defense lawyers stated in their trial memorandum that, “The recordings do not contain even one instance wherein Mr. Simpson speaks about or even implies he knows anything about, believes in, is affiliated with, has connections to or wishes to fight with Al Shabaab, the Somalian foreign terrorist organization mentioned in the government’s trial memorandum. There is likewise no evidence wherein Mr. Simpson referenced Osama Bin Laden or his call for individuals to support jihad in Somalia.”
While all that may be true for purposes of the technical legalese required for his defense, the indicators of Simpson’s conversion to jihadism were very clear, the evidence indicated.
Indeed. As Judge Murguia stated in her order, prosecutors “established that Mr. Simpson expressed sympathy and admiration for individuals who fight non-Muslims — possibly even those who engage in violent jihad in other countries including Somalia — that he would like to see Shariah law established, and that he believed that fighting non-Muslims would lead to heaven.”