Terrorism Investigations: Domestic

The Latest ISIL Support Prosecution Involving People Inside the United States

By Robert Chesney
Thursday, August 27, 2015, 4:12 PM

Another day, another ISIL material support case involving people within the United States. Like most such cases, the story of Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal's alleged offense conduct involves social media. Right now all that is out there is the DOJ press release plus an indictment that is thin on factual description, but from I can gather the charges seem largely to stem from the defendant’s role in facilitating a New York City man’s travel to train with and join ISIL. It is not entirely clear just what forms the facilitation allegedly took, but for what it is worth, it seems from the DOJ description (see below) that it may have amounted to, mostly, introducing the guy from New York to a point of contact who could help him get to ISIL, and then providing further encouragement and unspecified travel advice thereafter. Thus we have not just standard 2339B material support charges, but also charges relating to the illegal receipt of military-style training from a designated foreign terrorist organization. From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal, aka Jammie Gammal, 42, of Avondale, Arizona, was indicted today for providing and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as for aiding and abetting the receipt of military-type training from ISIL and conspiring to receive such training.

…As alleged in the indictment returned today and the complaint unsealed yesterday in the Southern District of New York:

In August 2014, a 24-year-old New York City resident (CC-1) learned via social media that El Gammal had posted social media comments that supported ISIL. Minutes later, CC-1 contacted El Gammal. Over the next several months, CC-1 and El Gammal continued corresponding over the Internet, although CC-1 deleted many of these exchanges.

In the midst of these communications, in October 2014, El Gammal traveled to Manhattan, New York, where CC-1 was enrolled in college, and contacted and met with CC-1. While in New York City, El Gammal also contacted another co-conspirator (CC-2), who lived in Turkey, about CC-1’s plans to travel to the Middle East. El Gammal later provided CC-1 with social media contact information for CC-2. Thereafter, El Gammal and CC-2 had multiple social media exchanges about CC-1 traveling to the Middle East. In addition, CC-1 began communicating with CC-2, introducing himself as a friend of “Gammal’s.”

In late January 2015, CC-1 abruptly left New York City for Istanbul. After CC-1 arrived in Turkey, El Gammal continued to communicate with him over the Internet, providing advice on traveling toward Syria and on meeting with CC-2. After CC-1 arrived in Syria, he received military-type training from ISIL between early February and at least early May 2015.

On May 7, 2015, CC-1 reported to El Gammal that “everything [was] going according to plan.”

El Gammal is charged with one count of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of conspiring to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the defendant’s sentence, if any, will be determined by a judge.

El Gammal was arrested on Aug. 24, 2015, in Avondale, and presented in federal court in the District of Arizona, pursuant to a criminal complaint. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York....