In D.C., Metro police officer accused of helping ISIS

Until today when he was fired, Nicholas Young was a transit police officer for Washington, D.C.’s Metro system which operates the city’s subway system. Today, Young was arrested and charged with providing material support to ISIS. He is said to the first police officer in the United States arrested and charged with supporting ISIS.

Young’s involvement with foreign terrorists extends back to at least 2010. According to CNN:

Young has been in contact with undercover law enforcement officers and informants since 2011 and was interviewed as early as 2010 about his relationship with a friend, Zachary Chesser, who pleaded guilty to supporting a foreign terrorist organization, according to court documents.

In addition, Young allegedly met several times with Amine El Khalifi before el Khalifi was arrested in 2012 for plotting to carry out a suicide bombing at the US Capitol building.

But Young’s guilt goes well beyond mere “association.” The Washington Post tells us:

[Young] threatened FBI agents, gave advice to suspected terrorists and mused about joining the Islamic State. . . .[He] sent codes for mobile messaging cards to an undercover federal agent in the belief that they would be used by Islamic State fighters overseas to communicate.

In addition, Young traveled to Libya in 2011 and tried to go a second time, saying that he was working with rebels to overthrow Moammar Gaddafi, according to the court documents. Numerous times he allegedly expressed desires to stockpile weapons and kill law enforcement officers.

Allegedly, he threatened to kidnap and torture an agent who interviewed him and to leave the head of anyone who betrayed him in a cinder block at the bottom of Virginia’s Lake Braddock. It turns out that he had a massive stockpile of weapons.

I suppose it was inevitable that ISIS supporters would eventually turn up in law enforcement. If a terrorist can be an officer at Fort Hood, why can’t one be a policeman in Washington?

What disturbs me most about this story is the fact that, although the FBI first became aware of Young’s involvement with terrorists in 2010, he remained on the job as a Metro police officer until today. How could this have happened?

The Post explains that it was not until last week that federal agents decided Young had committed the crime of attempting to support a terrorist organization. It seems to me that this conclusion, or the conclusion that he had committed another crime, was long overdue.

More fundamentally, we once again see terrorism being treated as a law enforcement issue. Whether or not Young had technically committed a crime, he should not have been working in law enforcement, especially on a subway system that might well be the target of terrorists. It seems to me that Young should have been removed from that position years ago and, at a minimum, have been placed under intense surveillance.

Authorities say that that in the years they watched and interacted with Young, there never was any credible or specific threat to the Metro system. This claim strikes me as shockingly naive. A Metro police officer who supports ISIS, stockpiles arms, and threatens to kill people is an inherent threat to the Metro system.

After the recent attacks in Nice and the church outside Rouen, where French authorities seemed to drop the ball, I asked whether the U.S. is playing better defense than the French and whether we are less naive, and expressed doubt on both accounts. The case of Nicholas Young doesn’t cause me to alter this assessment.