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Texas Terror Case Gives Rare Glimpse Inside Encrypted Jihadist Social Media

Researchers, journalists and anyone honestly seeking to understand modern Islamic terrorism need look no further than the now-vast trove of American court prosecution records. The Department of Justice has prosecuted 157 U.S. homegrown terrorism cases in 30 states just since 2013, and 220 since 9/11.

Say what you will about the politicized upper echelons of the FBI. But the front-line special agents in FBI joint terrorism task forces are doing what we pay them to do in terms of cuffing jihadists. They deserve respect and thanks.

Collectively, the court records reveal the true motives, ideology, tactics, and methods of the terrorists. Unfiltered by the few media accounts of such cases, the unadulterated court records show terrorists saying exactly why they did it in transcribed testimonies from interrogations, sentencing hearings, and wiretapped conversations.

The media’s artful academic theories about what motivates jihadists simply do not survive the weight of this sworn motherlode of evidence.

The U.S. Northern District of Texas case against the Jordan-born Texas resident Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim is one such illuminating case. Rahim is set to go on trial December 3, 2018, on six counts of lying to the FBI and one count of providing material support to ISIS. He is a U.S. citizen who owns a convenience store. The investigation centered around Rahim’s life as a moderator in the Austin social media application Zello. There, on a mobile phone channel, he would broadcast incitement to mobilize killers and other kinds of direct support for ISIS.

We've known for a number of years that Islamic terrorists use these encrypted online safe spaces to hide their fellowship, incitements to kill, and plotting. But the Rahim case is unique in that it fully reveals the grotesque degree of venality of those who participate.

FBI Special Agent Dwayne Golomb’s sworn affidavit provides some contextual background laying out how ISIS came to develop a well-oiled online machine to incite violence globally among connected, interested American sympathizers like Rahim. The agent wrote that the FBI became aware of an unnamed social media application used by jihadists to promote attacks and then executed search warrants on the application. The warrants enabled the FBI to gain exceptionally rare access to conversations within a community whose members believed they were shielded from infidel interlopers, an ultimate safe space for such dangerous talk.

In January 2017, observing agents found Rahim inside an app chat room, and what they witnessed clearly set them on edge. Rahim was urging other like-minded souls in the chatroom "to solicit violence, support ISIS and encourage others to join the terrorist group in Syria." For an entire year, up until the day they thought Rahim was to fly out to join ISIS in January 2017, they were privy to Rahim's alleged exhortations to death and violence for Allah.