Tattling on a Terrorist

Alligator, a common site in Florida, the location of Pulse Nightclub
Tattling on a Terrorist
by Susan Basko, Esq.

If someone you know is a terrorist wannabe, are you required to report them?  From several recent cases, the answer would seem to be, "Yes."  Federal law does not require you to report them, but if a terrorist act takes place, the FBI will sure come knocking on your door to find out what you knew and when, how your finances were shared, and whether you gave any encouragement.  If you tell investigators you did not know, and it looks like you had reason to know, they will probably say you lied to them about whether you knew.  This is all very tricky, so let's look at three examples of cases where family or friends of the terrorist have been charged with crimes, and one case where that has not happened.

The first example is of Noor Salman, the widow of Omar Mateen. Mateen terrorized a gay nightclub, killing many.  He was killed by police, so he is not around to be put through a trial.  Instead, his wife is being put on trial for aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. It sounds like she did not actually know exactly what he was going to do, but that there were enough major red flags that she should have alerted some authority.  Reporting on him would likely have broken up their marriage and would likely have put her in personal jeopardy.

From a distance, Omar Mateen probably looked very good:  He was a U.S. citizen, as is his widow, Noor Salman; he was very handsome; he was employed in a responsible job; he was of her same background and culture; he was her husband.  That's a whole lot to give up. 

The U.S. law enforcement stance at this time does expect someone to read the warning signs and report in advance to avert a terrorist act.  Let's look at this expectation more closely.

Noor Salman, the wife of Omar Mateen, has been indicted on Obstruction of Justice and other charges.  She was the wife of Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and injured nearly 70 people in June 2016 at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Her indictment is below for you to read.  The first Count claims that Noor Salman aided and abetted her husband's material support for ISIS. Count Two claims Noor Salman made misleading statements to police and FBI agents.

If Noor Salman is convicted, she will face life in prison.  There is no trade-off to make in exchange for testimony, since her husband is dead. It sounds like Noor Salman made a huge error in answering FBI questions and signing a statement written by an FBI agent, all without a lawyer present. It sounds very much like the agent put words into her mouth and false meanings into her words.  Let's wait and see what develops in this case.

Update March 30, 2018:  Noor Salman acquitted by federal jury in Florida.  That means the jury did not believe Noor Salman aided her husband in his attack on Pulse Nightclub.  You can read a detailed account of this at the linked New York Times article.

The second example is Joseph Meek, who was a friend of Dylann Roof, the young man who gunned down nine Black people at a Church Bible study in Columbia, South Carolina. Dylann Roof attended the Bible study, pretending to be interested.  Then, Roof pulled out a gun and started killing the people who had warmly welcomed him to their learning circle.

The FBI claims that Joseph Meek knew about Dylann Roof's plan to kill the church people, and offered him a lesser sentence in exchange for testimony.  In the weeks before the killings, Dylann Roof was living at Joey Meek's house. The FBI claims that three men got drunk and high together and played cards --  Dylann Roof, Joey Meek, and another man.  During that long night of drinking, Dylann Roof told the other two men his plan to kill people at the Church.  After the Church attack, the third man wanted to call police immediately and alert them that Roof was a suspect, but was stopped by Joey Meek from making that call.  Meek has been sentenced to two years in prison.

According to the Guardian, "In a deal with prosecutors, Meek pleaded guilty to concealment of a crime and lying to the FBI.  Meek was not charged for failing to tell police about the impending attack, since that is not a crime under federal law. Instead, he was prosecuted for stopping a friend immediately after the attack from calling the police to report Roof as a suspect."

The third example is Enrique Marquez, Jr., who was friends with a married couple who went on to commit a terrorist massacre shooting in 2015 in San Bernardino, California.  The married couple,  Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and injured many others who were at a holiday party held by Farook's employer.  Farook left the party, went and picked up his wife, Malik, and returned to the party armed to kill his co-workers. After the attack, they fled in an SUV and were later stopped and both were killed.

Enrique Marquez, who was a friend and neighbor of the couple, was charged with "material support of terrorism and making false statements in connection with purchase of a firearm."  Marquez purchased the 2 guns used in the attack and had given them to Farook. Shortly after the shootings, Marquez said that he was staying with his mother, who told him to get the guns out of the house, so he gave them to Farook for safekeeping.  That may have been true, but the prosecutors called it a "straw purchase," meaning Marquez bought the guns with the intention of passing them to Farook.  

As evidence that Marquez would materially support terrorism, the FBI pointed to Marquez's admissions of shit-talking with Farook when they were both in community college, where they talked about shooting up the cafeteria and attacking people in rush hour traffic.  The FBI also claims that Marquez joined the mosque Farook attended and spent time at Farook's house watching terrorist indoctrination videos.  

Marquez was also charged with immigration fraud because he was in a sham marriage with a woman who was a relative of the two married killers.  Allegedly, Marquez married the woman so she could live in the U.S., and in exchange, he received a monthly payment. She did not live with Marquez and had a different man who was her "real boyfriend."

Enrique Marquez entered into a plea agreement, which can be read in full at the link The charges against him regarding the sham marriage were dropped, though the other people involved in the sham marriage were charged and sentenced.   Sentencing for Enrique Marquez is scheduled for February 26, 2018.

From these three examples, we can get a handle on what is expected and of what is wise and unwise:

1. It is unwise to speak with FBI agents without having your own lawyer present.  No matter what you say, they will make it into what they want it to say.

2. Number two contrasts with number one.  If you know someone that is planning a terrorist attack or other killing, you should report it, because that can prevent people being killed.  You are not legally required to report an upcoming crime, but you are not allowed to lie to FBI or police about knowledge of a crime, either before or after the crime takes place.

3. It is unwise to talk stupid with anyone, even a good friend, about terroristic plans, even if it seems like you are just shit talking or shooting the breeze.  If you don't mean it, don't say it, and don't take part in such discussions.  That goes for online discussions, too.

4. It is unwise to give a gun to anyone else, for any reason, unless you check out the laws behind gun transfer and transfer it officially with required paperwork.

5. It's unwise to hang out watching terroristic videos, unless you want to be perceived as a person planning an attack.

6. If someone wants to report something to police or FBI, don't try to stop them.

LET'S LOOK NOW at how to decide if you should report what seems to be someone planning some kind of attack on others.  Obviously, the closer the person is to you -- a family member or close friend -- the more difficult it will be to make that decision.  I think the decision-making factors can be listed in three simple steps:

1. Has the person said they are going to attack a place or a person or a group?

2. Does the person own or have access to weapons, including a gun(s), ammunition, a knife, bomb-making materials, poisons or acids?


3. Has the person not said they plan an attack, but it seems likely they might have such a plan because they are stockpiling guns, ammunition, buying a large quantity of fertilizer, buying a big knife, or doing other things that seem like preparation for an attack?

In those instances, you may be saving lives by making a report.  You may also be saving yourself from criminal charges and prison.

 The instances where you might make a report of suspected terrorism or suspected planned terrorism fall into five general categories of people you might report:

1. People you know well, such as family members, close friends, people living or staying with you.  These are the most gut-wrenching to report and the most likely to get you charged with crimes if you do not report it.

2. People with whom you are acquainted, but are not close with.  This may include co-workers, fellow students, neighbors.  In these instances, you are probably reporting to keep yourself and others safe, but you probably don't want your name known as the one who reported.

3. Strangers you see out in public - on a street, bus, train, public building, park, parking lot.  Go with your gut. The more factual details you can provide, the more likely it is that the situation can be effectively investigated.  The closer in time you report it, the more likely your report is to be useful.  If you can say, "I just saw this -- minutes ago," your report is much easier to check out than if you are reporting something you saw out in public last week. But, if that event from last week is still on your mind, do report it.

4. People you see on the internet making statements about their plans or actions. Their "statement" might be a tweet, a post, a video, a picture, audio, email, etc.   It helps to get screen shots and the URL where it is happening.  If it actually looks like a threat, you can report it to https://tips.fbi.gov/

Making reports to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media does not help in getting information to any law enforcement agency.  In fact, Facebook or Twitter are likely to tell you the post does not violate their rules; just ignore that and make your report to law enforcement.

5. People with whom you have dealt in a business or professional capacity.  Examples: You work at a truck rental place and a suspicious person rents a truck.  You sell fertilizer and a suspicious person buys a lot of fertilizer.  You work in housewares and unlikely people buy a pressure cooker.  You work in a public building and someone is asking prying questions.  You run a flight school and a person inquires about pilot classes but says he does not need to learn how to land.  In such instances, you may have a professional obligation to make a report.

REPORTING SUSPECTED TERRORISM: Let's say you want to make an FBI report about what you think seems like a possible terrorist attack or possible terrorist activity. You can do that online here: https://tips.fbi.gov/  You can give as much or as little information about yourself as you want.  You do not have to fill out all the spaces, but I think it is a good idea to give them some means to contact you, such as an email or phone.

If you think you may need a record later to show you have made a report, you can save a copy of the report.  The FBI tipline no longer sends a receipt email - which is good, because it means you can make your report without risking that someone else might find out.

The reports sent to the FBI tipline will be read immediately and will be assigned as appropriate. There can be an immediate response if something seems urgent.  If something is in the process of happening, then give as much information as you can. Information that is useful includes such things as:

WHAT is happening.
WHERE it is happening. Name of street, city, state,  Name of building.  Name of bus or train line and car number.
WHO is doing it.  How many people? What does each one look like?
WHEN? Now? Two minutes ago? An hour ago? Last week? Last year?
NAMES of people, if known.  You might also see IDs, or hear people speaking to each other by name.
DESCRIPTIONS of people - what do they look like? What are they wearing? What kind of shoes are they wearing? What are they carrying?
VEHICLE license numbers, makes, models, descriptions.

NOW, LET'S LOOK AT A CASE where there is no apparent intent to charge any family or friends of the attacker with crimes.  That is the Las Vegas mass shooting by Stephen Paddock. Paddock rented a luxury suite in a casino, brought many guns into his hotel room, and shot through the windows at an outdoor concert below, killing 58 people and injuring about 550 other people.  Paddock then killed himself.

Stephen Paddock had a girlfriend, but there is no indication she is being charged with any crime. Paddock sent his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, to be with her family in the Philippines prior to the attack.  He wired her $100,000 to buy a house there.  She said she feared this was his way of breaking up with her.  She has stated, through her lawyer, that she had no knowledge that Paddock planned the attacks or was capable of such an act.

Make note of these factors: 1) Danley was far away during the attacks. 2) She had her lawyer prepare a statement and speak for her.  3) She said she had no knowledge he was capable of such an act and she knew Paddock as a quiet, kind person. 4) That she has a lawyer who has made her public statement indicates that she would have a lawyer present during questioning by authorities.  5) There are no known overtones of political, racial, or religious motive in the attack or in the lives of Stephen Paddock or Marilou Danley. 

Investigators in the Las Vegas killings have issued search warrants for many items, including email and phone records of Stephen Paddock and Marilou Danley.  If Ms. Danley had prior knowledge of Paddock's plans to kill, that would likely come to light.  The investigation is still ongoing,  A hearing is expected for mid-January 2018 with regard to news media requesting access to search warrants.

Update January 19, 2018: Sheriff issues report that states Marilou Danley will not face charges - but someone else might.

Update January 30, 2018: The second "person of interest" has been revealed as Douglas Haig of Mesa, Arizona, an Aerospace Engineer who ran a sideline business of selling ammunition. He has reportedly stated he sold tracer ammunition to Stephen Paddock.  Haig says he has no connection to the crime and no connection to Paddock, other than having sold him some ammunition.

Stephen Paddock's family -- his brothers and mother -- do not seem to have been knowledgeable about his recent life, other than knowing he had wealth and liked to gamble for high stakes and enjoyed traveling.  It is highly unlikely any of them would be charged with any crimes regarding his attack.

The motives behind Stephen Paddock's attack also appear to be unknown. No motive has been mentioned by investigators.  It has been discovered that Paddock had previously booked rooms in hotels overlooking major outdoor events.  That looks like he was planning a mass killing for quite some time. There has so far been no indication to the public that Paddock was motivated by politics or religion or race.  Since the investigation is still ongoing, more information on motive may come up later.

Update: March 30, 2018: Noor Salman has been acquitted by a federal jury in Florida. This means the jury did not believe she aided her husband in the attack on Pulse Nightclub.

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