The Suppressed Inspire-Ation for the Adel Daoud Investigation

According to an FBI 302 recently unsealed in the Adel Daoud case (see this post for background on Daoud), an FBI undercover counterterrorism team first targeted the 18-year old on May 10, 2012 in response to “unsolicited information” from an unknown entity, most of which remains redacted in the 302.

One piece of information legible in the 302, however, reveals that,

Adel David, believed to be an 18 year old male of Egyptian and Palestinian descent living in the greater Chicago area, has stated on web forum [redacted] that he has read an article on bomb making in Inspire Magazine and would make the bomb if he could find the required materials.

Compare that with the details in the September 15, 2012 Complaint used to arrest Daoud.

That narrative starts on October 9, 2011 (9 days after the CIA killed Awlaki in a drone strike), when Daoud sent himself “anwar al awlaki articles.” It also includes a number of subsequent emails with jihadist and anti-Israeli propaganda.  As email content, all this could have been obtained in a FISA physical search warrant on stored communication.

On February 6, 2012, according to the narrative, Daoud received an email regarding his registration to a jihad-related forum.

Then there’s this, dated the day before Chicago’s FBI office opened a full investigation into Daoud based in the referral, in part, based on Daoud’s forum claim to have Inspire in his possession.

On or about May 9, 2012, Daoud, using Daoud Account 1, sent himself (i.e., to Daoud Account 1) a link for Inspire magazines, issues on through nine.

Did Daoud download Inspire and immediately talk about it in that forum, that very same day, leading to a referral to the FBI, leading immediately to a full investigation?

We don’t know, because unless I’m mistaken, Daoud’s reference to Inspire in the jihadist forum that figures centrally in the unsolicited information sent to Chicago’s FBI office never appears in the complaint. It remains completely unmentioned, as if FBI has some reason to suppress it.

Mind you, a few days after May 14, 2012, Daoud did recommend one of the undercover officers, who presented himself to Daoud as a 17 year old Aussie with an interest in jihad, read Inspire. 

During their communications, Daoud recommended that OCE2 read Inspire magazine and sent OCE2 a website link to the publication, which OCE2 downloaded. Daoud characterized the magazine as “amazing” and remarked that he may use instructions from the magazine to carry out an attack.

The FBI did not quote Daoud purportedly stating he would use the magazine to carry out an attack.

And on May 31 — the FBI claimed — Daoud talked about using Inspire to conduct an attack. Here’s what he actually wrote, though:

The point is in this magazine they encourage Muslims in the West especially in the USA to attack IN America. By all means this is something i would consider. But in know that if i started attacking in American i would probably not be able to go to Yemen or anywhere else for Jihad in the Cause of Allah.

Is there a way i could do both, or what’s your opinion on that? i personally think it’s easier and more rewarding to go to Yemen but at the same time i hate the oppression of the USA and i would love to do something that would hurt it from the inside.

That is, a good 21 days after the FBI opened a full investigation of Daoud, he was still saying he’d prefer to go to Yemen. And the FBI’s claim he here said he’d use Inspire to launch an attack seems overstated based on the quoted language.

So the government made 3 claims Daoud said he’d use Inspire to launch an attack:

  • Sometime on or before May 10 (and possibly on May 9 or 10); the referring entity found this comment, and we don’t get to see that language
  • Sometime in the days after May 14, after FBI launched a full investigation; the FBI doesn’t show language saying he’d launch an attack
  • On May 31; at least in the quotation given, the FBI overstates the tie between Inspire and an attack

Now perhaps Daoud really did say it, in that forum comment that led immediately to a full investigation and potentially a FISA warrant. But the FBI isn’t showing it, either because the evidence doesn’t do what they say and/or because they need to hide that Daoud was under surveillance by an unknown agency before FBI got the investigation.

All this seems to suggest either that pre-May 10 forum comment launched the investigation and/or Daoud’s download of Inspire did. And that that’s precisely what the FBI is trying to hide with its refusal to tell how it got a FISA warrant against Adel Daoud.

This has further significance given the possibility it reflects either NSA tracking Inspire downloads (which I suspect it does as upstream collection), or a surveillance of forums under FISA. I’ll return to that in a future post.

10 replies
    • chronicle says:

      quote”It certainly looks like they’re exaggerating the evidence they actually have.”quote

      Hahahahahaha! The unwritten FBI training axiom. Christmas lights+batteries=WMD’s.

  1. orionATL says:

    and tamerlan?

    the fuccup bureau of instigation is all over daoud re “inspire”, but fails to pick up on tsanaraev?

    aside – “inspire” should have been named “aspire” from the fact that it was set up as a tool for entraping aspirational terrorists.

    how old does a young person have to be before they move from asperational to inspirational? tamarlan’s brother seems to have been a follower not a bombing designer. older bro was the designer.

    • orionATL says:


      “operational”, not “inspirational” – text should read “move from aspiratioal to operational”.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not sure I buy either of those things.

      First, the government is increasingly admitting that the brothers couldn’t have made their bombs out of the Inspire recipe. There’s good reason to believe Tamerlan had help (remember the taxi driver story describing their overloaded backpacks with apparently completed pressure cooker bombs), and help that was not AQAP. So the difference here — between both Tsarnaevs and Daoud — is in means available. The Tsarnaevs had access to means to become competent in a way Daoud did not.

      And unfortunately, the secrecy behind what they did have on Tsarnaev prevents us from engaging in a real debate: what is the best way to police this? Both are, in my opinion, failures. But because we’re not getting the real data, we can’t see why.

  2. orionATL says:

    i thought inspire had coded/special words embedded in its text, or at least words of text that would trigger u.s. counterterrorism action.

    • emptywheel says:

      My unconfirmed theory is that the government can do upstream searches on the decryption code that appears in it. It’d be sufficiently low hit to collect on, and (while I haven’t checked) the “safe” versions released by CT experts might have ways of avoiding that (not least that they’re not being downloaded across national boundaries).

      But that is just a theory, based in part on the omnipresence of Inspire in cases against troubled 19 year olds.

  3. orionATL says:

    thanks for the observations. personally, i don’t know which way is up in all this.

    i do suspect it takes a level of maturity higher than 16-20 to become a competent bombing planner and carry-outer. most of those we’ve learned about are younger and, apparently not very competent. but then they’re being helped along by the fbi.

    i am fascinated that al-a, inspire, fbi stings, bombs (not, e.g., chemicals or ak 47’s) and muslim teens keep coming up in the fbi’s endlessly playing loop of almost bombings.

  4. bevin says:

    “.. the government is increasingly admitting that the brothers couldn’t have made their bombs out of the Inspire recipe. There’s good reason to believe Tamerlan had help (remember the taxi driver story describing their overloaded backpacks with apparently completed pressure cooker bombs), and help that was not AQAP…”

    Is the government indicating either that it knows who made the
    bombs (effective) ? Or that it is searching for him/them?

    If not the identity of the culprit is only too obvious, is it not?

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