Hamilton Legal: Legally Fighting Terrorists

Hamilton Legal: Legally Fighting Terrorists

One of the primary goals in targeting the Islamic State has been preventing its recruitment of individuals in Western countries. There are currently about 12 Americans fighting in Syria with rebel groups. On Saturday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a 19-year-old man as he prepared to leave Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to allegedly join the Islamic State. Federal prosecutors on Monday charged the teenager Mohammed Hamzah Khan with violating Title 18 US Code, Section 2339B(a)(1).   

According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, his offense involved “knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources, namely personnel, to a foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization and that organization had engaged in and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism.”

Austrian Airlines provided information to the FBI that Khan had round trip tickets to travel on October 4 from Chicago to Vienna and from Vienna to Istanbul to arrive on October 5. He possessed a ticket to travel on October 8 from Istanbul to Zurich and back to Chicago, though he told agents he did not intend on returning. 

FBI agents also found a notebook in the home he shared with his parents that suggested he was planning a multiple-stop bus trip from Istanbul to Urfa, Turkey, which is near the border with the Syria. It included a drawing with arrows depicting routes from the U.S. into Turkey and across the Syrian border as well.

In the same notebook, a page had these words in Arabic: “Islamic State in Iraq and Levant. Here to stay. We are the lions of the war [unintelligible]. My nation, the dawn has emerged.” Another page also included in Arabic: “Come to Jihad.” Khan also left a letter for his parents that asked them not to contact the authorities and explained that he felt obliged to “migrate” to the “Islamic State” now that it has “been established.” He was upset that he had to pay taxes used to kill his “Muslim brothers and sisters,” and wrote, “We are all witness that the Western societies are getting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this.”

Due to this evidence and more, the FBI agent who wrote the criminal complaint concluded that there is probable cause that Khan did commit a crime. If he is found guilty of attempting to provide support for the Islamic State, he could face up to 15 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. In light of the Islamic State’s advancements, the U.S. must use all measures possible to target it, including powerful legal action.

Thus, if a jury finds Khan guilty, they must seek the maximum punishment for him. This type of case is not one where offenders should believe they can get off easily. Khan’s case should serve as a deterrence for Americans planning on joining overseas terrorist organizations in the future. Other Western countries must follow this heavy emphasis on punishment as well and continue strong domestic watch to ensure no citizens have the opportunity to leave their respective countries and escape prosecution.

Another legal measure that the government should actively pursue includes violations of Title 18 US Code, Section 2339B(a)(2). This law targets financial institutions that have possession of or control over funds in which a foreign terrorist organization has an interest. These financial institutions should be subjected to laws that mandate strict programs to assess whether any of their activities have a direct or indirect relation with terrorism. Attacking these groups financially is perhaps one of the most effective ways to diminish them.

When thinking about eradicating the Islamic State, many people immediately resort to military action. While I am not dismissing this option, legal tactics can also prove effective and the government should not ignore them. We can use them to prevent citizens from joining or aiding the Islamic State, as well as prevent it from gaining the finances necessary to carry

out terrorist actions.