Thursday, September 24, 2009

Man Charged In Alleged Plot To Blow Up Illinois Federal Building

Michael C. Finton, also known as "Talib Islam," has been arrested on attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction charges in connection with an alleged plot to detonate a vehicle bomb outside the federal building in Springfield, IL.

In his alleged efforts to carry out the plot, Finton ultimately dealt with undercover FBI agents and confidential sources who kept him under surveillance until he was arrested.

According to the criminal complaint, Finton drove a vehicle containing inactive explosives to the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield and attempted to detonate them.

Finton, 29, a resident of Decatur, Ill., is charged in the complaint with one count of attempted murder of federal officers or employees and attempted use a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Finton made his initial appearance today in federal court in Springfield.

“This alleged plot drives home the stark reality that we must avoid complacency and remain ever vigilant to the threats that violent extremists may pose to public safety,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Lang. “A number of different law enforcement agencies and officers worked closely together to avert the potential tragedy alleged in the complaint.”

According to the affidavit filed in court, Finton was previously arrested on a parole violation. At the time of his arrest, authorities learned that Finton had written a letter to John Walker Lindh, an American who was captured fighting for the Taliban and is imprisoned on terrorism violations.

The affidavit alleges that after his release from prison on the parole violation, Finton received money from Saudi Arabia and used the money to travel there. After he returned, last year, Finton told a confidential law enforcement informant that he wanted to receive military training and intended to then travel to Gaza or some other overseas location to become a jihadist fighter.

In February 2009, Finton was introduced to an undercover FBI special officer posing as a low-level al-Qaeda operative. According to the affidavit, Finton expressed his desire to receive military training at a camp and to fight in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia or other locations. Then, according to the affidavit, Finton began talking about targeting locations in the United States, finally settling on the Findley Federal Building as his primary target and declared U.S. Congressman Aaron Schock's Springfield office as a secondary target.

The affidavit alleges that on Aug. 14, 2009, Finton and the undercover officer made a video recording in which Finton explained his political rationale for attacking the United States. Days later, Finton allegedly made two more videos in which he spoke of his belief that America is at war with Islam.

On Sept. 1, 2009, Finton met with the undercover FBI officer and was told the vehicle for the attack would be carrying close to one ton of explosives. According to the affidavit, Finton indicated an awareness that the bomb would cause civilian casualties but expressed his view that such casualties were justified. Unbeknownst to Finton, the FBI ensured that the vehicle for the attack contained no actual explosive materials.

The affidavit alleges that yesterday, Finton drove a van containing what he understood to be explosive material and parked it directly in front of the northwest corner of the federal building. Finton got out of the van, locked the door and got into another vehicle driven by the undercover FBI officer and drove away. Within a few blocks of the federal building, Finton made a cell phone call to remotely detonate the purported bomb in the van. FBI agents arrested Finton immediately after he attempted to detonate the device.

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