Video: NY pizza shop owner admits recruiting for ISIS

This case originally started in May 2014, when counterterrorism investigators arrested Mufid Elfgeeh on charges relating to terror recruitment. CNN reported on it more than a year later, in September of this year. The case has concluded with a plea deal, but the timing of the arrest should give pause. ABC’s video report says Elfgeeh was arrested in May, but their supporting article confirms that the arrest took place in May 2014:

A New York man has plead guilty to providing material support to ISIS after being caught trying to convince two people to join the terror group’s fight.

Mufid Elfgeeh, 31, was arrested in May 2014 and just accepted a plea deal, authorities said. The Justice Department and Elfgeeh’s attorneys have struck a deal for a sentence of 270 months in prison, which equates to 22 and a half years behind bars. His sentencing date has not been set. …

“In late 2013, Elfgeeh wanted to be a source of support for violent jihad and serve as a facilitator for violent jihadists who wanted to travel overseas and fight,” the plea deal states.

Some of his actions included arranging travel, making connections for, and arranging the purchase of weapons for two individuals who he believed wanted to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State, the deal states.

Elfgeeh, however, did not know that both of those individuals “were cooperating with” the FBI, so the government was able to detail how Elfgeeh helped procure passports and give advice to the individuals ahead of their alleged trip.

The Hill’s report offers the same time frame for the arrest:

The man, 31-year-old Mufid Elfgeeh, used the Internet to find potential supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), send them propaganda and support their efforts to join the extremist group in Syria, officials alleged.

To spread his message, Elfgeeh used a combination of three Twitter accounts, 23 Facebook accounts and one WhatsApp account, which he used to seek out funding and support radical fighters, according to details in his plea agreement.

From late 2013 to early 2014, Elfgeeh. a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen, began communicating with two people who appeared willing to travel to Syria and join the jihadist fight. …

He was arrested in May of 2014, after retrieving the two handguns purchased with his $1,000.

So why is the timing so interesting? For one thing, it took 19 months to arrange this plea bargain, and they only announced the indictment three months ago. Elfgeeh cooled his heels in federal custody for a long time before getting charged on the terrorism allegations (presumably held on weapons charges in the meantime), or at least before prosecutors were willing to speak publicly about it. Maybe he was talking about his contacts, which might explain why he’s getting 22 years and not 222 years.

But the other reason the timing matters is because in May 2014, the Obama administration still considered ISIS the “jayvees” of terrorism. ISIS didn’t begin its sweep across Syria and Iraq and erupt into the public consciousness until June 2014. It wasn’t until ISIS captured cities and essentially erased the international border that the US acknowledged that ISIS was a significant danger. It took the beheadings of two American journalists for Obama to start working on a strategy to “degrade and eventually destroy” ISIS, which Obama rolled out in September 2014.

That makes the timing of this case rather interesting, no? The FBI, at least, knew that ISIS was trying to recruit in the US. The DIA had sent up warning flares ever since 2012 and especially in late 2013, when then-Gen. Flynn went to Congress to brief them on the threat. That seems to be an awful lot of red flags that were popping up for the White House to remain in the dark about the threat, including the threat here at home.

And here’s another fun fact from the DoJ’s filing in the plea agreement:


The State Department recognized ISIS as the same organization as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in May 2014. How many warnings did the Obama administration provide about this rapid and dangerous rise of an AQ affiliate in the area that Obama abandoned three years earlier? The administration has spent the last year and a half trying to distinguish ISIS from AQ, while the DoJ and State recognize that it’s just another branch of the same network — given lots of room to operate in the vacuum left behind from our departure from Iraq.

There certainly were “jayvees” in the rise of ISIS, but they weren’t all over in Syria and Iraq.

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