Washington police officer charged with helping ISIS

A photo uploaded to Twitter of the raid on Young's home.
A photo uploaded to Twitter of the raid on Young's home. PHOTO: TWITTER/PEGGY FOX

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A Washington transit police officer was arrested on Wednesday (Aug 3) on charges he attempted to provide material support to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the US Justice Department said, the first member of law enforcement facing such charges involving a government-designated terrorist group.

In July, Nicholas Young, who lives in Virginia, sent codes for gift cards worth US$245 (S$330) to an FBI informant. The gift cards were intended for mobile-messaging accounts that ISIS uses to recruit its followers.

Young believed the informant he was messaging was an acquaintance who was working with the militant group, according to court records.

Young, who had worked for the transit authority since 2003, had been on the radar of federal law enforcement since 2010, according to an affidavit in the complaint filed in US district court in Virginia on Tuesday.

Metro authorities said Young was fired immediately after his arrest on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old US citizen is the first law enforcement officer charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organisation, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Justice Department has brought ISIS-related charges against more than 90 people since 2014.

Young did not pose a threat to Metro train riders or employees during the six years he was under federal surveillance, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern Virginia US Attorney’s Office.

“None of the things that he said, none of the things he wanted to do related to anything here. His interest was totally in how he could get overseas and what he could do over there,” Stueve said.

In 2014, he met several times with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as an eager recruit of ISIS, according to the affidavit, and advised the agent about how to evade law enforcement as he left the United States to join the militant group.

Young sent the gift card codes after the informant told him that the group needed help setting up mobile messaging accounts, according to the affidavit, and then promised to cover his tracks: “Gonna eat the SIM card. Have a good day.”

“Metro transit police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation,” said Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld, calling the allegations against Young “profoundly disturbing” .

Young had travelled to Libya in 2011 to support rebels trying to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, the affidavit said.

That year, he also discussed with informants ways of smuggling guns into the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, where he will appear on Wednesday, according to the Justice Department.