A Washington, D.C. transit policeman has been arrested on charges of attempting to provide support to the Islamic State (IS), the first time terrorism charges have been filed against a law enforcement officer in the U.S.
36 year old Nicholas Young, a 13-year veteran of the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD), has been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of giving 22 gift card codes, worth nearly $250, to an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent. The FBI said Young believed his contact had mobile messaging accounts that IS used to recruit members.
Young made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. Other than requesting a court-appointed attorney, Young said little else during the hearing, which lasted less than five minutes. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The affidavit said Young traveled to Libya once in 2011 and tried to visit there a second time. It also said Young met about 20 times in 2014 with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a U.S. military reservist of Middle Eastern descent and expressed a desire to travel abroad to join IS.
Young had been monitored by the FBI since 2010. Law enforcement authorities first interviewed Young in connection with an acquaintance, Zachary Chesser, who later pleaded guilty to providing material support to the foreign terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Young also held meetings with an undercover law enforcement officer in 2011, sometimes with another associate, Amine El Khalifi, who pleaded guilty to charges of planning to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building.
During a conversation with Young in March 2011, the undercover FBI agent said Young told him he despised the FBI and had the skills to attack an FBI facility. Young also discussed finding the residence of an FBI agent who once questioned him and then kidnapping and torturing her.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the administration of President Barack Obama is "well aware of the risk of homegrown terrorists" and authorities “take quite seriously the responsibility they have to protect the people.”
The investigation into Young was initiated by the MTPD, which "worked hand-in-glove with the FBI in the interest of public safety and to ensure that this individual would be bought to justice," General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.
Metro transit spokesman Dan Stessel said Young was fired from his job Wednesday immediately after his arrest. Young's actions did not pose a threat to Metro's transit systems, officials said.
Young is a resident of the southern city of Fairfax, Virginia, just minutes south of Washington, D.C. He is one of more than a half-dozen people from northern Virginia who have been charged with crimes related to terrorism.
VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin and Wayne Lee contributed to this report.