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... supports Professor William Snyder's sections of National Security Law, Counterterrorism Law, and Prosecuting Terrorists at the Syracuse University College of Law.

The Arrest of a Would-Be Bomber in Texas and the Limited Anticipatory Scope of Criminal Law in Lone Wolf Cases

In a post available on Lawfare blog here, Robert Chesney writes of the arrest yesterday of Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, a citizen of Saudi Arabia and resident of Lubbock, Texas charged with plotting to carry about bombings with IEDs.

The complaint underlying the arrest is here, titled United States v. Aldawsari (N.D. Tex. Feb. 24, 2011). 

Chesney provides insight into potential issues that may be raised pretrial. He writes, "This could be an important case from a legal perspective, in the sense that it may turn on the anticipatory scope of attempt liability – an issue that just doesn’t matter when it is possible to charge conspiracy, but which becomes central in the case of a lone wolf."

To that end, Chesney writes: 

"Absent a conspiracy, the prosecutors are instead relying on attempt as the inchoate charge (under 18 USC 2332a, the WMD statute; recall that “WMD” is defined very loosely to encompass more or less all bombs). The interesting question is whether the facts alleged below suffice to trigger “attempt” liability.  It does not sound as if he had yet assembled a bomb, which would have made for a much easier case.  On the other hand, the many substantial steps that he had actually taken, if one credits the allegations below, leave no room for doubt as to what was going on.  In any event, we can expect some interesting and important debate about the anticipatory scope of the attempt concept. If this proves problematic, and if this turns out to be a truly solo operation, it will serve to highlight a critical point about inchoate criminal law: criminal liability attaches far earlier in the planning process for groups than for individuals."

For the full text of the post, click here

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