Most Of The 'Evidence' Against Philadelphia Woman/ISIS Wannabe Is Tweets She Made

from the thought-crimes dept

So we just had a story about the FBI uncovering yet another of its own plots for some hapless Americans talking about plans to commit terrorism with the support of an FBI agent. This morning, the DOJ announced the arrest of a Philadelphia woman, Keonna Thomas, who also went by Fatayat Al Khilafah and "YoungLioness." This one doesn't appear to involve an FBI informant, but rather Thomas's own willingness to reveal her support for ISIS on Twitter, which (unsurprisingly) got the Justice Department to take a closer look at her private messages, in which she communicated more directly with someone claiming to be an ISIS member, who told Thomas he could help her become a martyr. The evidence of those communications and her apparent plan to travel to Europe and on to Turkey seem like they could be more damning, but what's striking about the full complaint against Thomas is that nearly all of it is about random stuff she posted on Twitter in support of ISIS -- much of which appears to just be retweets. Here are just a few examples, but there are many more in the complaint:
On or about August 18, 2013, KEONNA THOMAS. a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," re-posted on Twitter a photograph of a young male child wearing firearm magazine pouches and camouflage attire, with the following caption: "Ask yourselves, while this young man is holding magazines for the Islamic state, what are you doing for it? #1S1S."

On or about October 16, 2013, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," posted on Twitter a picture of U.S. Currency, with the following captions; "US Dollar notes donated by Kuwait nationals to the ISIS brothers;" and "Allahu Akbar [God is great]!! Support the Muslims by giving sadaqah [charity]."

[....]

On or about December 17, 2013, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," re-posted on Twitter the following statement by another Twitter user; "'Happiness is the day of my martyrdom' -- Sheikh Khalid al Husainan."

On or about December 23, 2013. KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," re-posted on Twitter a video along with text advising that the video constitutes "a message to #muslims in the west from a British brother with #ISIS #Mujahideen [violent jihadi fighter] #Syria." The video is titled, "A message from a mujahid," and is accompanied by the following description: "ISIS mujahid gives some advice. Rayat al Tawheed. Official Media of the mujahideen."

On or about January I, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," posted on Twitter the following statement: "I see why the mujahideen [violent jihadi fighters] Sacrifice Dunya [life on earth] for Akhirah [the afterlife] there's no comparison."

On or about January 4, 2014, KEONNA a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," posted on Twitter the following statement: "Only thing I'm jealous of is when I see the smiles of shuhadaa [martyrs]"

On or about January 15, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," posted on Twitter the following statement: "I want these to be my last words." Accompanying this statement was a photograph of the following text: "By the Lord of the Kaaba [a shrine in Mecca] I have succeeded."

On or about January 30, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," re-posted on Twitter a photograph of an individual carrying an AK-47 weapon, with the following text: "Sponsor a Mujahid [violent jihadi fighter]." Accompanying the photograph, THOMAS re-posted the following statement by another Twitter user; "Did you know... For as little as $100 you can provide a #Mujahid with his basic necessities for 1 month?"

On or about April 10, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a "Fatayat Al Khilafah," a/k/a "YoungLioness," posted on Twitter the following statement, followed by images of a skull, flames, and a gun: "I need a permanent vacation that can only mean one thing." In response, another user of Twitter posted the following statement: "istishhaadi [martyrdom]"
There's a lot more like that. No doubt, Thomas was clearly publicly expressing her views in support of ISIS and other such things. It should be no surprise that such speech resulted in a further investigation. And the other stuff -- concerning her communication with someone in ISIS, her booking a flight to Barcelona and even getting a visa (in her own name) to Turkey would trip some alarms leading to these charges of "providing material support." In fact, such charges may be perfectly reasonable given those other actions -- though, it's unclear what "material support" was actually provided. It really does seem concerning how much of the evidence is based on tweets and retweets.

We already noted that some in the DOJ consider retweeting ISIS tweets to be material support of ISIS. The charges against Thomas may be perfectly reasonable because of the other issues and her actually planning to travel overseas (and, if she truly did intend to join ISIS and become a martyr as implied by some of the tweets, she sure didn't consider that announcing her intentions publicly might not have been the smartest of moves). But it does seem somewhat worrisome that so much of the evidence is based on her tweets and retweets, given the possible First Amendment implications. Actually sending money to terrorist groups is one thing. But retweeting idiotic sayings in support of crazy terrorist groups? Should that really be illegal?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 12:54pm

    Better Question

    Which warrantless, "collect it all" government surveillance program served as the irreplaceable intelligence source that helped them round up this imminent threat to American lives?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agonistes, 3 Apr 2015 @ 1:44pm

    To answer the question posed: no.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 1:59pm

    As disturbing as it is that someone could be swayed by the message ISIS is putting out rather than trying to censor and set dangerous precedence that preclude the diminishing of all rights.. We have to ask ourselves..

    What are we doing wrong? And make no mistake, when religious extremists begin making sense to individuals raised on western values - we are obviously doing something wrong.

    Additionally, one has to ask.. If the terrorists hate us because of our "freedoms"? Isn't the government's attempt to eliminate said freedoms nothing more than surrendering to their demands?

    Could it not be said that the "counter-terrorism" fervour that has gripped our post-9/11 agencies and the distrust that has been created between the USG and it's people, allies, and trade partners - is giving these extremists exactly what they want?

    I very much understand the anger and desire to react on 9/11 - but surely 14 years out - we can begin to start thinking with our brains once again.. I don't see how we can afford to continue on this road we found ourselves on. The toll being paid is simply not worth the trip.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 3 Apr 2015 @ 11:32pm

      Re:

      your letting your government terrorize the world with indiscriminate military attacks against sovereign countries. Bombing cities of civilians gets nothing but hate in return. Deliberatly targeting emergency first responders in drone missile strikes. Your leaders are charged with war crimes by the international court from Clinton through to Obama.

      People hate and attack America because of what your foreign policy has been doing for decades. Personally I wish there wasn't any war, all it does is regress and make the world worse.

      lets face it America is viewed as the evil Empire. As flawed as that analogy is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 6:55am

        Re: Re:

        People hate and attack America because of what your foreign policy has been doing for decades.

        However ISIS/Al-Qaeda/Al-Shabab/Boko Haram mostly attack other faith groups in their own region. They actually very rarely target America or even Europe. You are at almost zero risk in the US - whereas if you are a Christian/Jew/Hindu/Atheist/Buddhist/Sikh/the wrong kind of Muslim/ in the Middle East, North Africa or the subcontinent then you are at very real risk. I don't totally buy the theory that it is all the West's fault. It is true that US/European policies have been destructive not constructive in the region - but mostly what we have done (wrong?) is to kill the cats (Soviet Union/Saddam/Gaddafi/Assad) that were controlling the rats rather than anything directly bad.

        Most of the chaos in the region is locally produced and very few have suffered directly at our hands.

        No the real problem is that petrodollars have revived a very nasty and destructive ideology that had been dormant for many years (as a result of its own failure) and our leaders don't seem to have any clue about how to deal with it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Richard (profile), 4 Apr 2015 @ 6:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          your letting your government terrorize the world with indiscriminate military attacks against sovereign countries. Bombing cities of civilians gets nothing but hate in return.

          An interesting theory - but if it is the whole story then why did we NOT see Serbian terrorism after we bombed Belgrade?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 6 Apr 2015 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re:

        Your leaders are charged with war crimes by the international court from Clinton through to Obama.

        Do you have a reference for that?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 8:36am

      Re:

      What are we doing wrong? And make no mistake, when religious extremists begin making sense to individuals raised on western values - we are obviously doing something wrong.

      Religious extemists are capable of making sense to many people who should realise that it is against their own interests see: http://www.faithfreedom.org/the-muslims-who-shouldnt-be/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 3 Apr 2015 @ 11:27pm

    sounds like they arrested and charged her in one of those constitution free zones they keep setting up.

    Where the mayor or police declare that in this area you have no rights because security or terrorism and whatever buzzword they think will make people stop thinking and just obey.

    People only have constitutional rights if those in charge acknowledge them. when they decide you have no right to free speech what are you going to do? the ones you would turn to help are the ones telling you they have decided you no longer have that right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 12:55am

    What's wrong with going to fight for ISIS

    Hemingway, Orwell, Laurie lee all did it and came back to write books that are not exactly pro war. Are we worried that these Isis fighters will come back and torture children with new books added to their curriculum?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2015 @ 12:41am

    Back in the real world

    Would this be illegal if she stood up and said those words in public in the US, showed the ISIS video, carried a placard with the photo captioned, "Sponsor a Mujahid. Did you know... For as little as $100 you can provide a #Mujahid with his basic necessities for 1 month?" etc?
    Should it be different on Twitter?

    I expect she had some idea from the start that in trying to persuade others, she would end up going full ISIS herself. It's lucky for us and her that she was apparently too half-hearted, dim or deranged to do it properly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 5 Apr 2015 @ 2:19am

    Missed targets

    For all of their paranoia about tweeting support of ISIS, it's sure strange that the DOJ never did catch the Boston Bombing suspects before they did the deed.

    They certainly do know how to look for potential criminals, not actual ones.

    Although in this case, the person in question is not very bright to be tweeting such stupid stuff. Didn't she know or understand that Twitter is not private and that everyone who needs an account gets one?

    Or perhaps she didn't realize that ISIS is a terrorist group? Definitely not the Girl Scouts.

    Of course law enforcement is going to be monitoring social media about this-you know, like preventing criminal acts before they become actual ones?

    Freedom of speech does not extend to proposing becoming a member of an illegal group or supporting them in such a public fashion.

    It's been a law since about 9/11-you know, the Patriot Act.

    Or in simpler terms: Ignorantia juris non excusat

    Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 6 Apr 2015 @ 11:40am

      Re: Missed targets

      Freedom of speech does not extend to proposing becoming a member of an illegal group or supporting them in such a public fashion.

      It's been a law since about 9/11-you know, the Patriot Act.


      I hope you're wrong but... do you know what part of the Patriot Act bans this type of speech?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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