United States v. Mohamed (M.D. Fla.)

* United States v. Mohamed (M.D. Fla. Dec. 19, 2008)

Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed was given a fifteen-year sentence today, following his guilty plea (in June 08) on one count of providing material support in violation of 18 USC 2339A.  This is the 1994 version of the material support statute, then one that requires proof that the defendant knew or intended that the support would assist any of several dozen predicate criminal acts (in contrast to 18 USC 2339B, which requires no link to any anticipated crime, but which attaches only to aid rendered to specifically-designated groups).

This is a rather important case as an illustration of the substantive scope of federal criminal law relating to terrorism (particularly its preventive aspect), though the case has received little attention nationally.  Mohamed and another defendant were arrested when police found all sorts of bombmaking material in the vehicle during a traffic stop.  Mohamed, it turned out, had posted a videoclip on youtube providing instruction regarding remote-controlled detonation.  According to the plea agreement, posted here, Mohamed admitted to investigators that his purpose in creating the video was to “support attempts by terrorists to murder employees of the United States, including members of the uniformed services, while such persons were engaged in or on account of the performance of their official duties” (agreement at 10).  Such attempts would constitute violations of 18 USC 1114, and that statute in turn is one of the predicate offenses for a 2339A material support charge.

Here is the key thing to appreciate about the scope of this 2339A charge: there was no claim that Mohamed knew or could have known the identity of the persons who might download and make use of his video, let alone the specifics of any particular plan of attack that the video might facilitate.  His intentions and actions were enough, without this, to establish liability.

The press release is here: http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2008/December/08-nsd-1127.html

Lead Author

Robert M. Chesney
Robert M. Chesney is Charles I. Francis Professor in Law at UT-Austin School of Law. Chesney is a national security law specialist, with a particular interest in problems associated with terrorism. Professor Chesney recently served in the Justice Department in connection with the Detainee Policy Task Force created by Executive Order 13493. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security, a senior editor for the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, an associate member of the Intelligence Science Board, a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the American Law Institute. Professor Chesney has published extensively on topics ranging from detention and prosecution in the counterterrorism context to the states secrets privilege. He served previously as chair of the Section on National Security Law of the Association of American Law Schools and as editor of the National Security Law Report (published by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security). His upcoming projects include two books under contract with Oxford University Press, one concerning the evolution of detention law and policy and the other examining the judicial role in national security affairs.
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