Buffalo Woman Pleads Guilty to Twitter Threats on Behalf of ISIS
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Timothy A. Garrison, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Buffalo, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to using Twitter to transmit threatening communications against several persons, including two FBI employees and two former members of the military and their families, on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, also known as ISIS.
Safya Roe Yassin, 40, of Buffalo, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to two counts of transmitting threatening communications across state lines, contained in a July 19, 2016, federal indictment.
By pleading guilty today, Yassin admitted that she maintained a series of Twitter accounts under the pseudonym “Muslimah” that she used to post, or tweet, messages in support of ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Yassin also re-posted, or re-tweeted, messages she knew were authored by ISIS operatives residing overseas.
Beginning in May 2015, Yassin communicated over Twitter with a person identified in court documents as “Individual A,” whom she believed was an ISIS operative located outside the United States. They discussed ISIS’s publishing of personally identifying information of U.S. government employees and others, to threaten violence against those persons on behalf of ISIS. From May 2015 through at least October 2015, Yassin and Individual A routinely communicated about promoting new pro-ISIS accounts to like-minded followers before Twitter suspended them.
Yassin knew that Individual A used Twitter accounts, including those that Yassin promoted, to tweet personally identifying information of government employees and others and to threaten those persons on behalf of ISIS. Yassin admitted that, knowing Individual A’s intent to threaten, she re-retweeted the personally identifying information on her Muslimah accounts several times so that the information could be more widely disseminated.
Throughout the month of August 2015, ISIS operatives tweeted additional personally identifying information, which Yassin re-tweeted to her followers, knowing that the intent of the messages was to threaten on behalf of ISIS. Yassin admitted that on Aug. 24, 2015, she re-tweeted one such message that contained the phrase “Wanted to kill,” followed by the first and last name, status as an employee of the FBI, city of residence, zip code, and phone number of Victim 1. In the same communication, she repeated the same “Wanted to kill” phrase, followed by the same personally identifying information for Victim 2. Yassin intended this communication as a threat against Victims 1 and 2.
Yassin also admitted that on Oct. 8, 2015, she re-tweeted a message from Individual A that linked to a publically viewable document containing the name and home address of Victim 3, a U.S. service member, along with photos of Victim 3, his family, and the names of his wife and children. The document further stated, “Once again I leave these details online to cause havoc in his life & for my brothers and Al-Qaeda in the U.S. to eventually hunt him down & kill him.”
The linked document also contained the name and home address of Victim 4, a former U.S. service member who had been the previous target of threats on Twitter by ISIS. Yassin knew that Individual A had previously threatened Victim 4 with violence and called him ISIS’s “number one target.” Yassin admitted that she intended to aid and assist Individual A in threatening Victims 3 and 4.
Under federal statutes, Yassin is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Casey and Abram McGull II. It was investigated by the FBI.