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South Carolina Man Convicted For Trying To Join ISIS

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A South Carolina teenager pleaded guilty on Wednesday to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Zakaryia Abdin, 19, of Ladson, South Carolina, was arrested by the FBI at Charleston International Airport on March 30, 2017 after he tried to board a plane to the Middle East with the intention of joining and supporting SIS.

“Abdin’s attempt to provide material support to ISIS by traveling overseas put American lives at risk,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “That is unacceptable, and I applaud the dedicated agents and prosecutors who stopped him and have achieved this successful outcome.”

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According to investigators, Abdin created a social media profile on January 3, 2017 which he used to connect with ISIS online. His profile caught the attention of investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force who met with him on January 20, 2017 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina regarding his online activities.

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During this interview, a Terror Task Force agent informed Abdin that it was illegal to support ISIS and any other foreign terrorist organizations, but despite the warning, Abdin continued his efforts and began arranging travel plans to the Islamic State.

Following his meeting with the agent, Abdin continued making contact online through his social media accounts in an attempt to join ISIS, eventually connecting with an undercover FBI agent who was pretending to be an ISIS handler.

According to the FBI, Abdin allegedly referred to Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub ISIS terrorist as his “brother”, and said “I heard all over the news when he did it…And I was going to do the same thing one month later…but I did not have weapons…So I saved and saved…Got weapons.”

Along with sending the undercover agent a picture of himself with weapons, Abdin also expressed his loyalty to ISIS.  He explained how he pledged  loyalty to the Caliphate in 2014 and filmed himself pledging allegiance to Commander Abu Baker al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. In the video, Abdin cited the Quran directly, pledging to “wage jihad against the enemy of Allah.”

Abdin believed the undercover agent was a member of ISIS, and he proceeded to book his travel.

According to the Department of Justice, Abdin communicated with the undercover FBI agent up until he was arrested.

“On March 23, 2017, Abdin made flight reservations aboard a commercial airline departing Charleston with a final destination of Amman, Jordan.  The date for travel was set for March 30, 2017 at approximately 7:30 PM.  Shortly thereafter on March 23, 2017, Abdin communicated to the undercover FBI employee that he was scheduled to arrive in Amman, Jordan on April 1, 2017, at approximately 2:05 AM.

On March 30, 2017, at approximately 4:17 PM Abdin arrived at the Charleston International Airport with one piece of luggage and a carry-on backpack.  Abdin proceeded to a commercial airline ticket counter where he provided the attendant with travel documents and received a boarding pass for international travel to Amman.  Abdin then proceeded from the ticketing counter toward the Transportation Security Administration’s security screening area where he was arrested. “

“The most important job of government is protecting the people of the United States from harm, whether it comes from criminals or terrorists,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon for the District of South Carolina .  This case is an example of law enforcement doing exactly that.  The threat to our safety continues to be very real.  The JTTF did a great job in preventing this defendant from joining ISIS.  He wanted to fight as a soldier committing acts of terror for ISIS and he didn’t care where he fought.”

Abdin, who is a U.S. citizen, is facing a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Big League National Security

U.S. Government Found Half-Dozen Chinese Military Researchers Who Lied About Their Visas Status

China is Keen on Exploiting America’s Mass Migration Policies

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So far in 2020, the U.S. government uncovered a half-dozen individuals connected to China’s People’s Liberation Army who lied on their student visa applications. These Chinese nationals were allegedly in the U.S. to pursue an education.

Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner stated that this is “just one of many statistics cited by the Justice Department related to charges against and prosecutions of Chinese Communist Party-linked individuals as it touted the success of its China Initiative on Monday.”

“In the last year, the Department has made incredible strides in countering the systemic efforts by the PRC to enhance its economic and military strength at America’s expense,” Attorney General William Barr declared. “While much work remains to be done, the Department is committed to holding to account those who would steal, or otherwise illicitly obtain, the U.S. intellectual capital that will propel the future.”

Earlier this summer, the Justice Department charged a number of members of the Chinese military for hiding their connections to China’s military, in addition to committing visa fraud while pretending to be students or researchers at American universities. Diplomatic tensions between the two countries have risen as the State Department recently closed the Chinese Consulate in Houston after allegations that it was conducting espionage in the U.S.

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“This year, the FBI and Department prosecutors also exposed six individuals, studying in the United States, found to be connected to People’s Liberation Army military institutes, who concealed their affiliations from the State Department when applying for research visas to study at U.S. universities. In one of those cases, the Department alleged that a PLA officer was being tasked by superiors in the PRC to obtain information that would benefit PLA operations. In another case, a PLA medical researcher stands accused of following orders to observe lab operations at a U.S. university, which received funding from the U.S. government, in order to replicate those operations in the PRC,” the Justice Department outlined. The Justice Department added, “after the FBI conducted interviews this summer that led to charges in those cases and the State Department closed the PRC’s Houston Consulate, a large number of undeclared, PLA-affiliated Chinese researchers fled the United States.”

The Justice Department claims that in the last year, it had pressed charges in three economic espionage cases where trade secret theft had the intention of benefiting the Chinese government. These recent cases of economic espionage brought the total to five since the China Initiative kicked off in 2018. Dunleavy observed “more than 10 total trade secret theft cases connected to China over the past two years and three such guilty pleas in the past year.”

“The Chinese Communist Party’s theft of sensitive information and technology isn’t a rumor or a baseless accusation. It’s very real, and it’s part of a coordinated campaign by the Chinese government, which the China Initiative is helping to disrupt,” FBI Director Christopher Wray stated. “The FBI opens a new China-related counterintelligence case nearly every 10 hours and we’ll continue our aggressive efforts to counter China’s criminal activity.”

The FBI director revealed that in July the federal agency has over 2,000 active investigations that point to Chinese government involvement in espionage and other activities that undermine American domestic affairs. Even more alarming, these cases marked a 1,300 percent increase from over a decade ago.

Of the researchers arrested, some were busted for hiding their connections to China’s Thousand Talents program while being the recipient of U.S. government grants. The U.S. government has arrested several American scientists for not being forthright about their work with the Chinese government, which includes Harvard’s chemistry department chairman, Charles Lieber.

“While membership in these talent programs is not per se illegal, and the research itself may not always be protected as a trade secret, we know the PRC uses these plans, such as the well-known Thousand Talents Program, as a vehicle to recruit individuals with access to U.S. government-funded research to work in the interest of the Chinese Communist Party,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Adam Hickey said.

The Justice Department recently announced that in the last year it had also charged 10 academics working at American research institutions for fraud, false statements, tax, smuggling, and other violations. There were three convictions included. Further, the DOJ claims to have opened a “record number” of overall Foreign Agents Registration Act investigations over the past year. These included a  “record number” of registrations from Chinese media companies.

American policymakers must start recognizing the cold, hard fact that China is an adversarial nation, who seeks to compete with the U.S. in underhanded ways. One way the U.S. can slow down China’s rise and keep it from destabilizing America is by enacting immigration restriction. Whether politicians get the memo is a different story. 

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