On Wednesday, 20-year-old Green Township, OH man Christopher Lee Cornell, described by his father as a “mommy’s boy,” was arrested in his home town on charges of attempting to kill a US government official after he purchased two rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition at an Ohio gun store. Cornell had also allegedly made travel plans to Washington DC, which Federal Bureau of Investigation officials characterized as final steps in a plot to set off bombs at the US Capitol then open fire on anyone fleeing the premises. According to ABC News, the FBI began watching Cornell months ago after he allegedly published pro-ISIS tweets under the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah. The above-linked CNN video contains an interview with Cornell’s father, who claims his that son was coerced into the plot by a FBI agent.
FBI officials claim that Cornell said in online communications, “I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything… I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves.” Cornell allegedly said that accused American terror mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in an extrajudicial drone strike in 2011, gave Cornell the “thumbs up” to orchestrate these attacks “before [Awlaki’s] martyrdom.” The 20-year-old Cornell would have been in his mid-to-early teens at that time.
Described by his parents as an unemployed, quiet, and good person with a typical upbringing, Cornell recently converted to Islam. According to CNN, he met with an FBI informant twice in Cincinnati, once over a two-day period in October and again over a two-day period in November.
According to ABC News, John Cornell Sr., Christopher Lee Cornell’s father, said, “He was a vulnerable, gullible 16-year-old in a 20-year-old’s body, and I think the FBI coerced him. There was no way he came up with this terrorist plot. Somebody put that in his head.” Cornell’s father also doubted that his unemployed son had the necessary funds, skills, or motive to carry out the attack and told CNN, “He had $1,287 saved up. These guns cost over $1,700… He’s a big mama’s boy, you know. His best friend is his kitty cat. There’s no way he could have carried out any kind of terrorist plot… He didn’t even drive; he didn’t have a car.”
A report, cited by RT and publish by Project SALAM, analyzed 399 FBI anti-terror cases and claimed that 95% of arrests targeted individuals who were coerced into their plots by FBI agents. The report stated, “The government uses agents provocateur to target individuals who express dissident ideologies and then provides those provocateurs with fake (harmless) missiles, bombs, guns, money, encouragement, friendship, and the technical and strategic planning necessary to see if the targeted individual can be manipulated into planning violent or criminal action.”
However, John Cornell Sr. did say that his son might have made some inflammatory posts online to voice his frustrations, as Christopher Lee Cornell was known to defend Muslims in political debates. Cornell’s family was questioned by police following his arrest. John Cornell Sr. claimed that the police who questioned him would have used a battering ram to breach his door had he not opened it.
Following Christopher Lee Cornell’s arrest, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin, which said, “The alleged activities of Cornell highlight the continued interest of US-based violent extremists to support designated foreign terrorist organizations overseas, such as ISIL, by committing terrorist acts in the United States… Terrorist group members and supporters will almost certainly continue to use social media platforms to disseminate English language violent extremist messages.”
The accused ISIS plotter will appear in court to face his charges for the first time on Friday.