International Terrorism Prosecutions: From Ohio to Libya

By Nora Ellingsen
Thursday, November 10, 2016, 12:57 PM

We barely made it though one week of November without new material support charges. On Tuesday, Justice Department announced that Aaron Travis Daniels, a 20 year old from Columbus, Ohio was arrested at the airport while trying to board a flight for Trinidad—his first stop en route to Libya to join ISIL.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about several counterterrorism subjects from Ohio. In August, in the same district, Christopher Cornell pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including attempting to provide material support, after the FBI disrupted his plot to conduct an attack during the State of the Union. Meanwhile, in the Northern District of Ohio, Yahya Farooq Mohammad, a defendant previously indicted on material support charges, attempted to have a judge kidnapped and murdered. Finally, earlier this summer, Erick Jamal Hendricks was also arrested in the Northern District and charged with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL.

According to the criminal complaint, Daniels began expressing an interest in violent jihad as early as September 2015. Details are sparse, but the complaint indicates Daniels sent several “electronic communications” to unnamed individuals, requesting logistic and financial support to travel to Afghanistan or Syria and engage in violent jihad.

In January 2016, Daniels sent $250 to an ISIL recruiter and attack planner, Abu Isa Al-Amriki, via a third person conduit in Beirut who was known to the FBI. Several months after Daniels sent the money, Al-Amriki (an American as his name suggests) was killed in an airstrike in Syria along with his wife, Umm Issa Al-Amrikiah, a well-known ISIL recruiter on social media.

During this time, Daniels was also in contact with an FBI online undercover employee, which helped the FBI confirm that he was aware of Al-Amriki’s position within ISIL. Daniels told the employee that he had wanted to travel to Syria, but Al-Amriki had warned him it was “closed” and suggested Libya instead. (Ironically, in June, another defendant, Akram Musleh, was charged with material support when he attempted to travel from Indianapolis to Libya to fight with ISIL—after hearing that reaching Syria without raising suspicions from law enforcement would be difficult.)

On November 2nd, Daniels bought a ticket to Trinidad, explaining to the employee that the U.S. authorities would be too suspicious if he flew to Tunisia. The FBI arrested Daniels five days later at the airport in Columbus, Ohio. After being Mirandized, Daniels admitted that he was planning on traveling to Ohio to join ISIL and admitted to sending the money to Al-Amriki.

If convicted, Daniels faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.