So we just had a story about the FBI uncovering yet another of its own plots for some hapless Americans talking about plans to commit terrorism with the support of an FBI agent. This morning, the DOJ announced the arrest of a Philadelphia woman, Keonna Thomas, who also went by Fatayat Al Khilafah and “YoungLioness.” This one doesn’t appear to involve an FBI informant, but rather Thomas’s own willingness to reveal her support for ISIS on Twitter, which (unsurprisingly) got the Justice Department to take a closer look at her private messages, in which she communicated more directly with someone claiming to be an ISIS member, who told Thomas he could help her become a martyr. The evidence of those communications and her apparent plan to travel to Europe and on to Turkey seem like they could be more damning, but what’s striking about the full complaint against Thomas is that nearly all of it is about random stuff she posted on Twitter in support of ISIS — much of which appears to just be retweets. Here are just a few examples, but there are many more in the complaint:
On or about August 18, 2013, KEONNA THOMAS. a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” re-posted on Twitter a photograph of a young male child wearing firearm magazine pouches and camouflage attire, with the following caption: “Ask yourselves, while this young man is holding magazines for the Islamic state, what are you doing for it? #1S1S.”
On or about October 16, 2013, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” posted on Twitter a picture of U.S. Currency, with the following captions; “US Dollar notes donated by Kuwait nationals to the ISIS brothers;” and “Allahu Akbar [God is great]!! Support the Muslims by giving sadaqah [charity].”
On or about December 17, 2013, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” re-posted on Twitter the following statement by another Twitter user; “‘Happiness is the day of my martyrdom’ — Sheikh Khalid al Husainan.”
On or about December 23, 2013. KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” re-posted on Twitter a video along with text advising that the video constitutes “a message to #muslims in the west from a British brother with #ISIS #Mujahideen [violent jihadi fighter] #Syria.” The video is titled, “A message from a mujahid,” and is accompanied by the following description: “ISIS mujahid gives some advice. Rayat al Tawheed. Official Media of the mujahideen.”
On or about January I, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” posted on Twitter the following statement: “I see why the mujahideen [violent jihadi fighters] Sacrifice Dunya [life on earth] for Akhirah [the afterlife] there’s no comparison.”
On or about January 4, 2014, KEONNA a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” posted on Twitter the following statement: “Only thing I’m jealous of is when I see the smiles of shuhadaa [martyrs]”
On or about January 15, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” posted on Twitter the following statement: “I want these to be my last words.” Accompanying this statement was a photograph of the following text: “By the Lord of the Kaaba [a shrine in Mecca] I have succeeded.”
On or about January 30, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” re-posted on Twitter a photograph of an individual carrying an AK-47 weapon, with the following text: “Sponsor a Mujahid [violent jihadi fighter].” Accompanying the photograph, THOMAS re-posted the following statement by another Twitter user; “Did you know… For as little as $100 you can provide a #Mujahid with his basic necessities for 1 month?”
On or about April 10, 2014, KEONNA THOMAS, a/k/a “Fatayat Al Khilafah,” a/k/a “YoungLioness,” posted on Twitter the following statement, followed by images of a skull, flames, and a gun: “I need a permanent vacation that can only mean one thing.” In response, another user of Twitter posted the following statement: “istishhaadi [martyrdom]”
There’s a lot more like that. No doubt, Thomas was clearly publicly expressing her views in support of ISIS and other such things. It should be no surprise that such speech resulted in a further investigation. And the other stuff — concerning her communication with someone in ISIS, her booking a flight to Barcelona and even getting a visa (in her own name) to Turkey would trip some alarms leading to these charges of “providing material support.” In fact, such charges may be perfectly reasonable given those other actions — though, it’s unclear what “material support” was actually provided. It really does seem concerning how much of the evidence is based on tweets and retweets.
We already noted that some in the DOJ consider retweeting ISIS tweets to be material support of ISIS. The charges against Thomas may be perfectly reasonable because of the other issues and her actually planning to travel overseas (and, if she truly did intend to join ISIS and become a martyr as implied by some of the tweets, she sure didn’t consider that announcing her intentions publicly might not have been the smartest of moves). But it does seem somewhat worrisome that so much of the evidence is based on her tweets and retweets, given the possible First Amendment implications. Actually sending money to terrorist groups is one thing. But retweeting idiotic sayings in support of crazy terrorist groups? Should that really be illegal?