Last month, NBC News featured an interview with an American identified only as “Mo,” who had joined ISIS but regretted his decision after seeing the brutality of radical Islamic jihadists up close. Supposedly, he came back to face the music, and wanted to warn others about the lies and evil before they got caught up in it. However, a new report today from the Washington Post’s Adam Goldman tells a more nuanced story about the odyssey of Mohimanul “Mo” Alam Bhuiya, who wanted to come home — and begged the FBI to both rescue and exonerate him:
Bhuiya, then 25, had joined the Islamic State. Now the longtime Brooklyn resident was desperate and looking for a way out. He wanted the FBI to rescue him.
“I am an American who’s trying to get back home from Syria,” he wrote in his email, according to federal court documents unsealed last month. “I just want to get back home. All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter, and have everything back to normal with me and my family.”
He added: “I am fed up with this evil.”
The FBI was still verifying his identity when Bhuiya managed to escape about a week later. He returned to the United States, where he was promptly arrested and charged with providing material support and receiving military training from the Islamic State.
Here’s the e-mail, with some redactions:
— Program On Extremism (@gwupoe) June 30, 2016
The NBC News interview with Richard Engel shows Bhuiya offering frank assessments of his judgment, but leaves the impression that he went “straight to the American consulate” from a desire to accept responsibility for his actions. That’s not quite what the Post’s report suggests, although it doesn’t necessarily contradict it either:
Bhuiya had to go to an American consulate in Turkey out of necessity, regardless of his intentions. ISIS, as it does with other recruits, seized his passport and other papers, or what was left of them when he finally arrived in Syria and enlisted in the group. Once in Turkey, he would be unable to travel out of it without a new passport issued by the US or at least an agreement with Turkey to remove him.
As for his intentions to work with the FBI, the original e-mail shows that Bhuiya had other things on his mind. He needed a way out, and he wanted “complete exoneration” and a return to his old life without any strings attached. Perhaps one can understand such a request, especially as an opening bid, but that’s a little different than “I’m coming home to face the consequences of my actions.” If nothing else, it’s a clear demonstration that Bhuiya’s judgment is consistently unrealistic.
Either way, though, the point is more or less academic. Bhuiya pled guilty, and knows he’ll face serious consequences for his decision to betray his country and join its enemies, but he’s also still speaking out to prevent others from making the same treasonous decision. That’s worth something, but it’s not worth an exoneration.