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[liberationtech] Alleged terrorists in Mobile, Alabama

Gregory Foster gfoster at
Sat Jan 19 01:26:20 PST 2013

This story begins with a new Twitter account I began following today, 
@IntelGirl111. I thought the Hello Kitty icon mysteriously resembled the 
Hello Kitty icon of @CustosDivini.  Both accounts are worth following.

Five hours later it's odd to see where this little bit of text has led.

> Terrorism suspect arrested in Augusta pleads not guilty 

I wondered if that was Augusta, Georgia (it is) and so began looking 
around. What follows is what I've been able to piece together, and is 
intended as background should others find this interesting.

One of the two young men involved is Rasheed/Randy Wilson, and he's a US 
citizen from Mobile, Alabama. His mother married a man from Egypt when 
Randy was five, and the family adopted the Muslim faith. He grew up 
attending Muslim schools and was recognized for his scholarship and 
devotion. It appears he intended to emigrate to Africa with his family.

The other young man (they are both 25) is Mohammad Abdul Rahman 
Abukhdair, and according to the FBI Criminal Complaint filed on December 
10th with the United States District Court for the Southern District of 
Alabama in pursuit of a warrant for arrest (and signed by The Honorable 
Katherine P. Nelson, United States Magistrate Judge) Abukhdair is a US 

> ...born in Syracuse, New York on October 3, 1987. Abukhdair moved to 
> Cairo, Egypt in February 2007 to study Arabic. In February 2010, 
> Abukhdair moved from Cairo to Alexandria, Egypt. In November 2010, 
> Abukhdair and his roommates in Alexandria were arrested by Egyptian 
> authorities on suspicion of being involved with a terrorism group in 
> Egypt. Abukhdair was imprisoned in Egypt for two months and then 
> deported back to the United States in January 2011. Upon his return to 
> the United States, Abukhdair lived in South Carolina and Ohio, before 
> coming to Mobile, Alabama in late October 2011. Abukhdair is not 
> married, has no children, and is unemployed.

Regarding Abukhdair's scholarship in Egypt and subsequent Arab Spring 
connection, the aseerun project has this to say:

> Abukhdairs status as a foreigner and a student of the Arabic language 
> became an attractive prospect to both American and nervous Egyptian 
> intelligence, and the latter abruptly arrested him, along with many 
> other foreign students and journalists, during the tumultuous months 
> that led to the Arab Spring uprising.
> Following two months of torture under the tail-end of Mubarak’s 
> tenacious rule, Abukhdair was hastily deported to America in January, 
> 2011.

The relationship between these two young men seems strange.  Perhaps not 
as strange as their relationships with an "FBI Undercover Employee 
(UCE)" and a "Confidential Human Source (CHS)" influential in this 
case.  Maybe we'll get to them later, or maybe that will be unnecessary.

Perhaps more important, the author of the FBI's December 10th 
affidavit---filed to enable the FBI to arrest Wilson and Abukhdair in 
Augusta, Georgia---is Steven E. Sorrells.  In the affidavit, Sorrells 
describes himself and his work on the case as follows:

> I, Steven E. Sorrells, being of sound mind and body, do solemnly state 
> as follows:
> 1. From August 1998 through the present, I have been employed as a 
> Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. From June 1999 
> until August 2010, I served as a Special Agent assigned to the Joint 
> Terrorism Task Force in the New York Division.
> 2. Since August 2010, I have been assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task 
> Force in the Mobile[, Alabama] Division serving as either a Special 
> Agent or an Acting Supervisory Special Agent. In this capacity, my 
> primary duty is investigating matters of international and domestic 
> terrorism. I have been a lead investigator, on more than fifty 
> international terrorism investigations in the United States and 
> overseas, and have received extensive training in this area. For 
> approximately one and a half years, I served as the Acting Supervisory 
> Special Agent for the squad currently handling the Randy Wilson and 
> Mohammad Abukhdair investigations. I currently serve as a Special 
> Agent on the same squad.

That's pretty serious, right?  What led this guy to Mobile, Alabama?

There's another young man allegedly involved in this case, albeit 
apparently somewhat indirectly.  His name is Omar Hammami.  The first 
mention of Hammami occurs in the second sentence of Sorrell's 
description of Randy Wilson in the affidavit (a notably briefer 
description than Abukhdair's, cited above):

> 6. Randy Wilson, a.k.a. "Rasheed" Wilson, is a United States citizen 
> born in Mobile, Alabama on March 30, 1987. Wilson was a close friend, 
> and the former roommate, of Omar Hammami[1]. He resides in Mobile, 
> Alabama with his wife and two small children and works various jobs 
> around the Mobile area.

Who is this Hammami? Sorrell's footnote states:

> [1] Daphne[, Alabama] native Omar Hammami traveled to Somalia in 2006 
> where he allegedly joined the al Shabaab. On February 26, 2008, the 
> United States Secretary of State designated al Shabaab as a Foreign 
> Terrorist Organization ("FTO") under Section 219 of the Immigration 
> and Nationality Act, as amended, and as a Specially Designated Global 
> Terrorist under Section l(b) of Executive Order 13224, as amended. 
> Hammami has been indicted on terrorism charges in the Southern 
> District of Alabama. On November 14, 2012, Hammami was placed on the 
> FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list.

Daphne, Alabama is 11 miles east of Mobile.  So Wilson was allegedly a 
roommate and good friend of one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists who 
is still at large.  The Seattle Times had this to say about Hammami:

> Hammami was the president of the Muslim Student Association at the 
> University of South Alabama, the FBI said.
> Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he was quoted in a 
> campus newspaper talking about the attacks.
> "Everyone was really shocked. Even now it's difficult to believe a 
> Muslim could have done this," he told The Vanguard.
> Hammami later wrote in an online autobiography that he already had 
> turned toward radicalism by that time and privately praised Allah for 
> the attacks.
> Hammami later went to Egypt and joined Islamic insurgents, becoming a 
> spokesman in videos and blogs.
> He has since fallen out of favor with leaders of the Somalian terror 
> group al-Shabab, which issued a statement recently distancing itself 
> from Hammami, whom it accused of "a narcissistic pursuit of fame."

Oddly, it looks like the asserted relationship between Hammami and 
Wilson does not exist.  According to journalist Brendan Kirby, who has 
been reporting on the case for

> Contrary to an FBI affidavit, terrorism defendant Randy "Rasheed" 
> Wilson is not a former roommate of Daphne-born jihadist Omar Shafik 
> Hammami, an agent testified today in federal court.
> The criminal complaint that forms the basis of charges against Wilson 
> indicates that the defendant met Hammami in 2002 and lived with him in 
> Mobile from May of that year through December 2004.
> FBI Special Agent Tim Green acknowledged this afternoon in testimony 
> that that piece of information is incorrect. He said he is not certain 
> where it came from.
> Although Wilson and Hammami were not roommates, defense attorney Dom 
> Soto said in an interview that the pair did know each other before the 
> Daphne native joined an al-Qaida-linked terrorism group in the African 
> nation of Somalia.
> “It’s not really a large Muslim community here,” he said.

Since that's our first mention of Wilson's defense attorney Domingo 
Soto, it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge that he appears to be a 
pretty remarkable fellow.  I'll just point you to his website and his 
handy introduction to and map of the Mobile, Alabama justice system.,-88.049884&spn=0.026238,0.040169&z=15

The charges against the two young men are serious.  Both are accused of 
providing material support to terrorists.  Abukhdair is charged with 
making a false statement in his application for a new passport.  But 
there is a lot of uncertainty.

Both were arrested Tuesday morning December 11th in Augusta, Georgia 
(recall the warrant was signed on the 10th).  Wilson was arrested with 
his wife and two small children in the Atlanta, Georgia airport terminal 
past the security checkpoint before they boarded a flight for Morocco.  
The flight had been paid for by the FBI Undercover Employee.  Abukhdair 
was arrested at an Augusta, Georgia bus terminal as he prepared to 
travel to Montreal, Canada, allegedly to board a flight through Canada 
(also paid for by the UCE).  A Canadian flight was chosen as a 
precautionary measure as Abukhdair had been prevented from flying to 
Jordan from within the United States on October 7th, 2012.  On that 
occasion, he was interviewed by FBI agents for four hours (item 38 in 
the affidavit).

Apparently, there was a change in the relationship between Wilson and 
Abukhdair about this time.  According to journalist Theresa Seiger:

> "Even a preliminary inspection of the discovery shows as of October, 
> he [Wilson] had broken off contact with the co-defendant [Abukdair]," 
> defense attorney Dom Soto said.

Wilson's first court appearance was in Mobile on December 13th, two days 
after the arrests, where he was assigned Soto as his attorney. On the 
26th, he was indicted by a federal grand jury.  Oddly, Abukhdair doesn't 
appear on the scene again until January 14th. There appears to be no 
indication as to where Abukhdair was for a month after his arrest.

On January 11th, while announcing that Abukhdair would be arraigned in 
federal court on the 14th:

> ...prosecutors announced their intention to use evidence against the 
> defendants from electronic and physical surveillance conducted under 
> the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

The US Attorneys are moving to suppress the defense's ability to use 
that evidence, and the public's ability to see it.  Again, according to's Brendan Kirby:

> Prosecutors have asked for a court order severely restricting the 
> evidence, including information about an undercover government 
> employee and a confidential informant who helped make the case against 
> Randy "Rasheed" Wilson.
> ...
> Dom Soto, who represents Wilson, contends the prosecution’s request 
> goes too far and limits his ability to build an effective defense. In 
> addition to material like the names, Social Security numbers and 
> addresses of the informants, prosecutors want a blanket order 
> restricting dissemination of unclassified information that the 
> government deems "sensitive."
> That consists of any declassified or formerly classified information, 
> according to the court filing.
> The government "has a substantial and compelling interest in 
> preventing sensitive, but unclassified, discovery material from being 
> disclosed to anyone not a party to the court proceedings in this 
> matter," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Bodnar wrote in a court 
> filing. "Such material may include information relevant to ongoing 
> national security investigations and prosecutions."
> Under the proposal, the defense team would not be allowed to disclose 
> the information to witnesses in the case.
> As it relates specifically to the informant and the undercover 
> government employee, the measures are necessary to "protect ongoing 
> national security investigations and prosecutions," as well as the 
> safety of the undercovers, Bodnar wrote.

On January 14th, Abukhdair pled not guilty and was also assigned a 
court-appointed attorney, Rick Yelverton.

This is a particular perspective on information I've reviewed.  It 
doesn't go into the details of the allegations (read the affidavit, it's 
a remarkable story).  It doesn't talk about the FBI Undercover Employee 
(agent or informant?) who befriended Wilson two months before Abukhdair 
came to live with him.  It doesn't talk about the Confidential Human 
Source who was allegedly a friend of both Wilson and the FBI's most 
wanted Hammami, who was also prevented from traveling through use of the 
no-fly list, and 's/he was interviewed by the FBI and agreed to become a 
Confidential Human Source ("CHS") for the FBI.' (section 30 of the 
affidavit).  It doesn't talk about a lot of factors which are clearly 

So this is an act of speech.  Acts of speech play a large role in this 
case.  According to defense attorney Soto, "There's supposedly 40 to 100 
hours worth of undercover tapes."

> Soto said the case hinges on whether a person can commit a crime based 
> solely on speech, "even something [like] planning to go to Mauritania 
> and planning to go join a war [that isn't there]."
> "Can you be put in jail for saying something, or do you actually have 
> to do it?" Soto said.

This seems like an important case for many reasons.  One of those 
reasons is the connection to northern Africa.

Once arriving in Morocco, it seems that Wilson (and his family) planned 
to travel to Mauritania.  Mali is mentioned in the affidavit.  See 
sections 32, 41, 43.

For your reference, here's all of's articles on Wilson and Abukhdair:

Here's a December 13th video from the Mobile, Alabama Fox affiliate 
featuring the Obama-appointed US Attorney for the Southern District of 
Alabama, Kenyen Brown:

And finally, the highest profile media coverage I found:

ABC News (Dec 11) - "Former Roommate of Wanted Terrorist Among Two 
Charged in Terror Case":

ymmv, ianal, etc., etc.

Gregory Foster || gfoster at
@gregoryfoster <>

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