Jordanian National Arrested for Attempting to Bomb Dallas Skyscraper
Update: On October 19, 2010, Hosam Smadi was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Posted: September 29, 2009
A Jordanian teenager has pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate explosives at a Dallas skyscraper and "bring down the building."
On May 26, 2010, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, 19, pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction for plotting to bomb a 60-story glass office tower in Dallas, Texas.
"Today's guilty plea underscores the continuing threat we face from lone actors who, although not members of any international terrorist organization, are willing to carry out acts of violence in this country to further the terrorist cause," Assistant Attorney General Kris stated following Smadi's guilty plea.
Smadi was originally charged on September 24, 2009, after he planted inert explosives beneath the Dallas skyscraper. An indictment filed October 7, 2009, listed a second charge against Smadi for bombing a place of public use. Although Smadi originally faced a maximum sentence of life in prison, he now faces 30 years in prison under the terms of his plea agreement.
Smadi, a Jordanian citizen in the U.S. illegally, allegedly parked a vehicle containing what he understood to be an improvised explosive device in the garage beneath the Fountain Place building. According to court documents, Smadi allegedly set the device's timer and flipped its power switch before exiting the vehicle and entering another car driven by an undercover FBI officer. When the men were blocks away from the building, Smadi dialed a phone number to remotely detonate the purported bomb. That number called a phone owned by law enforcement, which arrested Smadi immediately thereafter.
Smadi arrived in the U.S. on a temporary visitor's visa in spring 2007 and remained in the country after it expired, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That fall, Smadi and his younger brother, Hussein, reportedly moved into a small apartment complex in Santa Clara, California, where both attended high school. Smadi moved to Italy, Texas, the following year and worked at a restaurant, where he met his now-estranged ex-wife. Smadi and his wife, Rosalinda Duron, reportedly separated after three months.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Smadi first came to the attention of law enforcement officials after espousing and endorsing violence within the U.S. in an online forum. In January 2009, Smadi stated that he planned to target America but was lacking the materials needed for an attack. "I am in America and I can strike at their interests in their midst," Smadi wrote on the forum, "however I need help, in terms of tools…God willing, we will strike them on their heads and disgrace them."
Later that month, Smadi posted comments on the Web site of the Popular Resistance Committee, an association of various Palestinian militant organizations, about his wish to commit jihad and fight alongside Osama bin Laden. "The faith that is in my heart for jihad in his sake until death," Smadi wrote in Arabic. "I dreamed that I will fight with the messenger of God (may peace be upon him) on a purebred Arabian horse… my blood is like fire of jihad."
Throughout conversations with three undercover FBI agents, all of whom are native Arabic speakers who posed as members of an Al Qaeda sleeper-cell, Smadi expressed his intention to serve as a soldier for bin Laden. In March 2009, Smadi allegedly professed his allegiance to bin Laden, saying, "my dream is to be among God's soldiers, first for the support of Islam and my beloved Sheikh Osama... I love him as I love my father." When the undercover FBI agents asked Smadi to reevaluate his interpretation of jihad, Smadi allegedly responded, "I have chosen to be a Mujahid (holy warrior) with my self, blood, soul and body."
The affidavit alleges that Smadi stated his desire to attack the U.S., which he perceived to be an enemy of Islam, in part for its incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I want to destroy…targets," Smadi allegedly told an undercover agent, "everything that helps America on its war on Arabs will be targeted."
Smadi's arrest for planting a bomb at the Fountain Place building comes one day after Michael Finton's arrest for attempting to detonate explosives at the federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. Like Finton, who allegedly stated ambitions to join Palestinian terrorist organizations to fight against Israel, Smadi espoused a hatred for Israel and Jews.
Smadi expressed his desire to expel the Jews, "the dogs," from Jerusalem and to kill the Jews as retribution for Israel's activities in Gaza, according to the affidavit. Smadi also allegedly called "for the destruction of the Jews," predicting that "We shall attack them in their very own homes. Brother, by God, we shall attack them in a manner that hurts, an attack that shakes the world."
According to the affidavit, Smadi allegedly admitted that he would have looked for a similar entity in the U.S. or joined "Hamas in Palestine or the Taliban in Pakistan" had he not met the Al Qaeda sleeper cell that the FBI agents supposedly represented.
The affidavit alleges that Smadi used his laptop computer to identify and map out locations for potential terrorist attacks in the U.S. In June 2009, Smadi suggested buildings belonging to large credit card companies, such as American Express or Visa, in order to strike the American economy. Smadi also proposed attacking military recruitment centers, such as the National Guard Armory in Dallas, after discussing the American convert to Islam who shot two uniformed American soldiers at a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas earlier that month.
The Dallas airport was apparently also on Smadi's list of potential targets. Smadi allegedly suggested using two remotely-detonated bombs for the attack: the first in the airport bathroom and the second at a nearby bank. After conducting visual surveillance of the Dallas Airport and the Armory, Smadi deemed both locations as unacceptable targets due to high security.
In July 2009, Smadi allegedly told an undercover agent that he wanted to target the Wells Fargo bank housed in the Fountain Place building. As a center for trade, the Fountain Place skyscraper bore a resemblance to the buildings struck on September 11, 2001. Smadi even planned his attack to coincide with the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, though he later agreed to carry out his attack after Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, which ended on September 20.
Smadi expressed hope that striking the Fountain Place building would create an aftermath similar to that of the September 11 attacks. According to the affidavit, Smadi allegedly told an undercover FBI agent that the destruction of the building will shake the American economy and will cause not only "psychological impacts for the loss of this beautiful building," but also "unemployment, poverty, hunger, and a strike to the head of the government."
Smadi conducted his own reconnaissance of the Fountain Place building, at first wanting to plant a bomb in a basement bathroom and later deciding to park a vehicle laden with explosives in the garage beneath the building. "When it explodes," Smadi said, "it will shake the foundations so that the building, if it is heavy in weight, tons, all that will come down."
In an interactive MySpace game, Smadi's character attacked other players and amassed weapons and vehicles. The morning of his arrest, Smadi boasted in his MySpace profile about reaching a new level in the game.
Hussein, Smadi's brother, was arrested on immigration charges the same day Smadi was arrested. He remains in custody in California. Smadi, who made his first court appearance the day following the arrests, pleaded not guilty on October 26, 2009, to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use.