Hosam Smadi, a Jordanian national, pled guilty Wednesday to attempting to blow up Fountain Place, a 60-story skyscraper in downtown Dallas, in September. Appearing before U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn in Dallas, he entered a guilty plea to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
If Judge Lynn approves the terms of the plea bargain, Smadi (who could have received a life sentence) faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced, probably in September. Authorities have said that Smadi, an illegal alien, will be deported after his release.
In an affidavit filed after his September 24, 2009 arrest, FBI Special Agent Thomas Petrowski described how Smadi progressed from jihadist screeds on the Internet to terrorist action.
An FBI undercover employee discovered Smadi while monitoring an online group of extremists who advocated violence. Among this group, he stood out "based on his vehement intention to actually conduct terror attacks in the United States," Petrowski wrote.
During 10 communications over a two-month period with that FBI employee, "Smadi made clear his intention to serve as a soldier for Usama Bin Laden and al-Qa'ida, and to conduct violent Jihad (acts of terrorism in the name of Islam.)"
That FBI employee introduced Smadi to a second FBI undercover employee "who was acting in the undercover role of a senior member of an al-Qa'ida 'sleeper' cell," according to Petrowski. Between early March and September, the second FBI employee communicated with Smadi more than 40 times. In those communications, Smadi continued to indicate "his intention to commit an act of terrorism in the United States."
Smadi was also introduced to a third FBI undercover employee who pretended to be a lower-level soldier in the "sleeper" cell.
During conversations with the three FBI employees, Smadi emphasized his commitment to violence. For example, in a March 29, 2009 message, Smadi said "Victory is coming, is coming to defeat the Romans [Christians] and for the destruction of the Jews. God is Most Great. We shall attack them in their very own homes."
In an April 7 communication, Smadi vowed "to expel Jews from the land of holy Jerusalem" and declared his support for the late Iraqi terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. In subsequent communications, Smadi declared his support for Hamas, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and said he wanted to "destroy…everything that helps America in its war on Arabs."
Over the next five months, Smadi discussed attacking a wide array of targets including a Dallas airport, military recruitment centers, buildings owned by American Express or Visa, and a Wells Fargo bank branch.
Eventually he chose to bomb Fountain Place because it housed government offices and banks, and was one of the most prominent buildings on the Dallas skyline.
On September 24, 2009, he drove to the target carrying what he believed to be a bomb (in reality it was a fake provided him by law enforcement) and entered the building's parking garage. Smadi placed the device there and drove several blocks away to detonate it using a cell phone. He then dialed the phone, expecting that this would set off the "bomb." But on the other end of the receiver was a law enforcement agent, and Smadi was swiftly arrested by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Wednesday's guilty plea, according to Attorney General for National Security David Kris,
"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."
See the Dallas Morning News' coverage for more.