A 22-year-old Saudi national was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Texas to life in prison in his June conviction on charges of attempting to build a weapon of mass destruction.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a resident of Lubbock, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter in federal court in Amarillo.
Aldawsari was convicted June 27 on an indictment charging one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary to make an improvised explosive device (IED) and his research of potential U.S. targets, including persons and infrastructure.
Court records show that Aldawsari had listed two categories of targets: hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. He also sent himself an email titled “Tyrant’s House,” in which he listed the Dallas address for former President George W. Bush.
“Khalid Aldawsari came to this country intent on carrying out an attack,” said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who heads the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “He then began purchasing ingredients to construct a bomb and was actively researching potential targets in America.
“Thanks to the hard work of many agents, analysts and prosecutors, his plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed. He was convicted at trial and, today at sentencing, he was held accountable for his actions,” she said.
According to court documents and evidence presented during trial, Aldawsari had been researching online how to construct an IED using several chemicals as ingredients. He also had acquired or taken a substantial step toward acquiring most of the ingredients and equipment necessary to construct an IED, and he had conducted online research of several potential U.S. targets.
In addition, the documents show, he had described his desire for violent jihad and martyrdom in blog postings and a personal journal.
“This case, in which private citizens paid attention to details and notified authorities of their suspicions, serves as a reminder to all private citizens that we must always be observant and vigilant, as there are some who intend to cause great harm,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in Texas. “Khalid Aldawsari, acting as a lone wolf, may well have gone undetected were it not for the keen observations of private citizens.”
The government presented evidence that on Feb. 1, 2011, a chemical supplier reported to the FBI a suspicious attempted purchase of concentrated phenol by a man identifying himself as Khalid Aldawsari. Phenol is a toxic chemical with legitimate uses, but can also be used to make the explosive trinitrophenol, also known as T.N.P., or picric acid.
Court records show that Aldawsari attempted to have the phenol order shipped to a freight company so it could be held for him there, but the freight company told Aldawsari the order had been returned to the supplier and called the police.
Later, according to the documents, Aldawsari falsely told the supplier he was associated with a university and wanted the phenol for “off-campus, personal research.” Frustrated by questions being asked over his phenol order, Aldawsari canceled his order, placed an order with another company, and later emailed himself instructions for producing phenol.
In December 2010, he had successfully purchased concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids. Aldawsari also purchased many other items, including a hazmat suit, a soldering-iron kit, glass beakers and flasks, a stun gun, clocks and a battery tester.
Excerpts from a journal found at Aldawsari’s residence indicated that he had been planning to commit a terrorist attack in the U.S. for years. One entry describes how Aldawsari sought and obtained a particular scholarship because it allowed him to come directly to the U.S. and helped him financially, which, he said, “will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for jihad.”
The entry continues: “And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad.”