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United States of America v. Mohamed Abdullah Warsame

Court United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, United States, United States
Case number Criminal No. 04-29(JRT)
Decision title Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Counts 1 and 2 of the Superseding Indictment
Decision date 12 March 2008
Categories Material support to terrorism, Terrorism
Keywords due process, First Amendment Rights to free association, Foreign terrorist organization, material support, Provision of material support for terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorist
Other countries involved
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
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Warsame, a Canadian citizen, travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to attend Al-Qaeda training camps. On his return to Canada, he sent money to representatives of Al-Qaeda. The U.S. alleged that by attending the Al-Qaeda training camp and sending money, Warsame provided material support and resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Warsame claimed that the provisions on the basis of which he was charged violated the U.S. Constitution’s right to freedom of association because it criminalized his mere association with an organization. The court rejected this claim, finding that the statute did not impose “guilt by association,” but rather guilt by conduct that amounted to providing support or resources.

The court also held the statute did not violate Warsame’s constitutional rights to due process and to a jury determination on each essential element of the offense.

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Procedural history

On 21 June 2005, the prosecution charged Warsame with conspiracy to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B (pg. 1009).

On 16 February 2007, the trial court granted Warsame’s motion for a bill of particulars and ordered the prosecution to specify the activities it alleges constitute material support and resources (pg. 1010).

On 16 March 2007, the prosecution filled the bill of particulars, specifying that Warsame conspired to provide and provided material support and resources to a FTO in the form of currency, personnel, and training (pg. 1010).

Warsame moved to dismiss both counts under 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, stating the statute is unconstitutional (pg. 1009).

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Related developments

Defendant pled guilty and was convicted on a single count of providing material support to a designated FTO. Defendant was sentenced to 92 months imprisonment.

US. v. Warsame (2009)

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Legally relevant facts

Between 2000 and 2001, Warsame traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and attended Al-Qaeda training camps. Al-Qaeda paid Warsame’s travel expenses to return to Canada. Warsame later sent money to an Al-Qaeda associate as repayment. After his return to Canada, Warsame maintained contact with individuals associated with Al-Qaeda (pg. 1009).

The prosecution further alleged that Warsame provided English lessons to Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan (pg. 1011).

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Core legal questions

Does 18 U.S.C § 2339 B, which criminalizes providing material support or resources to foreign terrorist organizations, violate the First, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

18 U.S.C § 2339B(a)(1): “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and if death of any person shall result, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. To violate this paragraph, a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization (as defined in subsection (g)(6)), that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), or that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism (as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989).”

United States Constitution, Amendment I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

United States Constitution, Amendment V: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

United States Constitution, Amendment VI: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

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Court's holding and analysis

The court held that § 2339B was constitutional and did not violate the First, Fifth or Sixth Amendment.

The court held that § 2339B does not violate the First Amendment’s right to freedom of association, by explaining that the statute does not criminalize the conduct of association with a terrorist organization, but rather prohibits the “conduct of providing material support and resources” such as training, equipment, and advice (pgs. 1014-1015). The court also dismissed Warsame’s contentions that the statute was overly broad or vague (pgs.  1016-1020).

The court found the statute did not violate Warsame’s Fifth Amendment right to due process because, although the statute does not require an individual to have a specific intent to further the terrorist organization’s activities, the statute still requires an individual to know that the organization was designated as a FTO or engaged in terrorist activity (pgs. 1020-1021).

Lastly, the court held that the statute did not violate Warsame’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to a jury determination of guilt on each element of the offense charged because the determination under the statute was the fact that an organization was designated as an FTO, not whether its designation was valid (pg. 1023).

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Further analysis

The Investigative Project on Terrorism, US v. Mohamed Abdullah Warsame

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Instruments cited

18 U.S.C § 2339B

The Constitution of the United States of America

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Additional materials

Man linked to al Qaeda indicted,’ Law Center, 22 January 2004.

 ‘Minneapolis Man pleads Guilty to conspiracy to Provide Material Support to Al-Qaeda,’ Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice, 20 May 2009.

 ‘Somali – born Minnesota terror suspect Deported to Canada,’, 8 October 2010.