A Texas jury convicted a Saudi Arabian student Wednesday for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with plots to attack hydroelectric dams, nuclear plants, and the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was arrested in February 2011 and indicted a month later on a single count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Aldawsari lawfully entered the United States in 2008 on a student visa and was enrolled at South Plains College in Lubbock.
Court records and evidence presented at the trial show Aldawsari bought chemicals online to make an improvised explosive device (IED). Federal agents found bomb-making materials – including concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids, glass beakers and flasks, wiring, clocks, and a Hazmat suit – during a search of Aldawsari's Lubbock home.
They also discovered a journal handwritten in Arabic that showed Aldawsari had been plotting a terrorist attack in the United States for years. He wrote about obtaining a scholarship from a Saudi corporation that would bring him to the United States.
The scholarship "will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad, God willing," he wrote. "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad." He also wrote the 9/11 attacks brought about a "big change" in his thinking and that he was inspired by the speeches of Osama bin Laden. Aldawsari also expressed a desire to create an al-Qaida inspired group called Jamaat Jund al-Islam.
A search of Aldawsari's computer showed that he researched potential targets for attack in the U.S. An e-mail with the subject line "Targets," listed the contact details for three U.S. military personnel who had served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Another e-mail titled "NICE TARGETS 01" included names of 12 reservoir dams in Colorado and California. Aldawsari also e-mailed himself a document titled "Tyrant's House" that had the Dallas address of former President George W. Bush.
"As this trial demonstrated, Aldawsari purchased ingredients to construct an explosive device and was actively researching potential targets in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of many agents, analysts and prosecutors, this plot was thwarted before it could advance further," Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said in a Justice Department press release announcing the guilty verdict.
Aldawsari faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in October.