A 21-year-old Pennsylvania man has been indicted on terror-related charges for allegedly using the Internet to encourage violence against Americans.
Emerson Winfield Begolly, of New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was charged on July 14, 2011, with soliciting crimes of violence, including acts of terrorism, and with posting bomb-making materials online.
Begolly had been arrested on January 4, 2011, and charged the next day with assaulting FBI agents and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. After two FBI agents approached Begolly, he allegedly reached for a concealed loaded gun in his jacket and bit both FBI officers, drawing blood.
Begolly had been an active member of several jihadist forums, where he posted comments and various multimedia. He identified himself as a Muslim in his posts and pontificated on a range of issues, often praising acts of violence and expressing his "desire to be a martyr." Many of his messages were explicitly anti-Semitic, calling for the death of all Jews. According to the FBI, he even indicated that his own mother would burn because she is not Muslim.
As a moderator on the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF), a popular jihadist forum where members post and exchange extremist propaganda, media, publications, information and news, Begolly posted comments calling for attacks on U.S. targets, "such as police stations, post offices, synagogues, military facilities, train lines, bridges, cell phone towers and water plants," as well as "civilian planes, financial institutions… Jewish schools, and daycare centers."
In another post, he wrote, "Let your voice speak forever, write your autobiography with blood."
In December 2010, writing under one of his pseudonyms, Begolly posted a 101-page instruction manual on bomb-making. He also posted security and operational warnings, instructing his readers to maintain their anonymity when downloading the manual by not saving it to their computers.
The government's evidence against Begolly includes photos recovered from his computer, one of which shows him dressed in camouflage, holding a grenade and wearing a Shahada (Islamic declaration of faith) head band. Begolly previously posted several pictures of himself on his MySpace page dressed as a Nazi.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil McBride, asserted that the allegations against Begolly "demonstrate how young people in the United States can become influenced by – and eventually participate in – jihadist propaganda that is a serious threat to the safety of us all."
Begolly faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the new charges, and life imprisonment if convicted of the earlier charges.
Begolly, who was active on several jihadist forums, used various aliases online, including Asadullah Alshishani, Abu Nancy, Goat Lee and Goatly. Begolly also communicated with others by instant message. Some of these conversations, which Federal investigators were able to recover, demonstrate Begolly's militancy and bigotry.
During the recovered conversations, Begolly said "if america were not at war with islam i would not hate it but i am angry." He said that if he were to "act now," he would "go down like [Oklahoma City bomber Timothy] McVeigh" and asked "have you ever considered shooting up ur schooling and taking revenge on those who wronged u?" He also said "most brothers objected to targeting kids but the reason i am for it is because first they r easy targets and second because the public will want a reaction…plz dont think im a psycho ;)."
Some of Begolly's forum posts were praised online by other extremists, including Zachary Chesser. Chesser himself had an extensive online history before he was arrested in July 2010 for attempting to travel to Somalia and join the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al Shabaab.
Many of Begolly's most popular messages took the form of nasheeds (Islamic songs), which were circulated by others on various jihadist forums. For example, a moderator of the Al Shabaab affiliated Al Qimmah forum described Begolly as "The Nasheed Master" and dedicated an English translation of an Urdu language nasheed specifically to him.
Below is a sampling of nasheeds and poetry Begolly wrote and recorded:
Below are excerpts from Begolly's comments to the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum:
Begolly pleaded guilty to solicitation of acts of terrorism and weapons charges.
Begolly posted comments calling for attacks on U.S. targets, "such as police stations, post offices, synagogues, military facilities, train lines, bridges, cell phone towers and water plants," as well as "civilian planes, financial institutions… Jewish schools, and daycare centers."