WASHINGTON — A Metro Transit police officer was arrested and charged on Wednesday for attempting to support the Islamic State group — the first police officer to face federal terrorism charges.
Nicholas Young, 36, was fired from the police agency, which provides police protection for Metro property in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., after his arrest on Wednesday.
Here are several questions and answers about the terrorism-related case.
Is ISIS recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States?
Yes. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and is an alias of the group once known as al Qaida in Iraq, which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2004. The alias and several others were added to the list in 2014. The group’s primary name was amended to be Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. The Islamic State group is also sometimes referred to as Daesh.
When did Nicholas Young join Metro Transit Police?
Young graduated from the agency’s training academy in December 2003 with five other recruits. In a news release announcing their graduation, the agency’s then Chief Polly Hanson noted that they joined the department “in an era of increased attention to potential terrorist threats.”
With what is Nicholas Young charged?
Young is charged with a single count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Why did the investigation take years before any charges were filed?
Law enforcement sources say the case demonstrates how difficult it is to prove terrorism charges. Associations with people or stated support for an organization aren’t alone sufficient to bring charges. “Just because you know someone, doesn’t mean you’re plotting (something),” said WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green.
Metro Transit Police first went to the FBI with concerns about Young in 2009. The FBI interviewed Young four times since then. Last Thursday, he sent the codes for 22 gift cards to an individual he believed had joined ISIS. The gift cards were intended to help the group pay for new mobile messaging accounts that could then be used to communicate with potential militant recruits living in western countries, according to charging documents.
Has anyone else from Virginia ever faced terrorism-related charges?
More than a half-dozen individuals from Northern Virginia alone have been charged with terror-related crimes, mostly in government sting operations. The FBI says it has ongoing investigations in all 50 states. Young had connections to two of them.
Two others were arrested last month. Haris Qamar of Burke was charged with attempting to help the Islamic State by taking photos of possible targets in the D.C. area. Mohamed Jalloh of Sterling was charged a few days earlier with plotting to help ISIS and contemplating a Fort Hood-style attack against the U.S. military.
WTOP’s J.J. Green and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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