The following testimony, entitled “Victims of the American Inquisition” written by Zachary Chesser, is a microcosmic documentation of America’s naked and larger aggression against the religion of Islam in what Chesser terms the ‘American Inquisition.’ Since the intensification of this most recent inquisition, the global Muslim community has suffered a ruthless assault on legal rights and basic humanity, which in various arenas have been superficially designated as everything from geopolitical interests to heretical rhetoric. What Chesser exposes through details regarding his case and subsequent incarceration, is a pattern of federally sanctioned religious persecution and corrosive civil rights violations reflective of American foreign policy, shockingly common in so-called terrorism cases. He recounts how his religious beliefs designated him as a target for government surveillance, how this surveillance in turn became a means of distortion and manipulation, culminating in his incarceration and the deliberate alienation of his family, particularly the religiously charged, custodial kidnapping of his son.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
My name is Abu Talhah Zakariyya al-Amriiki (legally “Zachary Adam Chesser”), and what follows is not to be taken lightly. If you were to know how much these words can affect me and my family, then the gravity of this message would not escape you. I am writing this in order that nobody should fall into the same traps and mistakes as I did, to establish proof for those who doubt, and to rectify certain wrongs. Perhaps my ignorance of the nature of my situation was an excuse for me, but if not, then I ask Allah to forgive me. However, after me, I do not think that anyone will have an excuse in these matters if these events are manifested unto them.
This is my story, and within it are pieces of the stories of many others. It is only a relation of what I know to be true to the best of my ability, and I am sure that what remains hidden from me is far worse than that which was made clear to me, but that which is clear is enough for a person of understanding. Therefore, let these pages be recorded in the annals of history under the chapters reserved for the American Inquisition.
As for what follows…
In the summer of 2008, I became Muslim because I found that the Words of Allah in His Book were nothing but the unblemished Truth. Allah then blessed me to have a fierce passion for increasing myself in knowledge and worship. After a few months, I began to take note of the plight of the Muslims around the world, and from the standpoint of basic human nature, or what is known in Islam as the fitrah. It was clear to me that under such dramatic circumstances, peace could not be justified except by a coward or a despot. Then, when I learned about the obligation of jihad in Islam, I made it my goal to find a way to help the armies which were attempting to repel the invaders of the Muslim lands and to overthrow the tyrants who were in control of many regions in our territory.
FBI Begins to Phish
Due to this position, the FBI began to target me in late 2008. Then, in 2010, they upped the ante in their investigation of me. Despite the fact that I was not in contact with a “terrorist” organization or any other group listed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), at the time, the FBI and other organizations used this act in order to monitor me. They had two undercover agents give me a free apartment in order to conduct surveillance on me more easily, and the entire purpose of these two individuals seemed to be to try to get both me and my wife out of this apartment so that they could raid it. They did not even discuss issues of jihad or politics except for very lightly in the latter category. However, we suspected what they were doing, so it was no surprise one day to find that the FBI had locked me out of my house not realizing that I had left the door unlocked intentionally as I did not have my key. There are some excuses I could make for the two individuals who were doing this; that they could have just been duped into doing everything they did unwittingly, but these are not realistic really, and Allah knows best.
They also began to try to entrap me with two other agents. At first I thought the one who was sending me e-mails was just another random brother e-mailing me about things on the websites I posted on. Once he sent me an article on Somalia, and I posted it on a site without even reading it. I skimmed it to make sure there were no instances of blasphemy or other similar things in the post, but other than that I did not pay attention to its contents.
This agent continued to e-mail me, and while I found his e-mails to be a bit odd, I did not suspect him at first. However, after a month or two I decided his messages were too outlandish, and concluded that he was either a member of Al-Qaeda with no clue how to handle security or he was FBI. Around this time he asked me to meet him. I agreed, but I was basically just agreeing in order to verify my suspicions. I planned on having him followed, but the person I asked to do that either forgot or had something else to do. The prosecutors on my case initially claimed I brought a knife to the meeting to kill him, but I had no recollection of doing this, so my attorneys and I guessed that it might have been something I just said in my apartment without meaning it, so we suggested that to the prosecutor and this is what was entered into my plea deal.
At the meeting two people showed up, one of whom appeared to have recently bought his beard from a nearby “Party City.” He had also quite clearly been reading things I had posted, because he seemed to be going out of the way to mimic the specific security techniques which I uploaded articles on. The whole meeting was like bad theatre, and it was really quite strange. Both agents claimed to be ex-special forces (a trend with undercover agents), and they claimed they wanted me to come do martial arts training with them. I asked them what I would be doing after I did the martial arts training and they said that I could become an instructor. I thought this was a very strange plan for a sting operation, but I briefly considered going along with it while simply refusing to talk to them for even a moment about jihad. I figured that if the FBI wanted to give me free martial arts training, I might as well let them, but eventually I decided against it and told them I had other plans. One of the agents tried to badger me into going along with him, but I kept refusing again and again. The whole meeting lasted just a few minutes and we all went on our various ways.
I then got this person kicked off of a particular website after a third time of explaining that he was an undercover agent trying to entrap people. What was surprising is that this guy kept trying to get me to go along with him after all of this, when supposedly the FBI knew that I knew he was an informant. However, in another case where the person was playing games with an undercover agent targeting him, the FBI simply refused to declassify all of the evidence which would have proven he knew the person was an informant, and thus they convinced a jury that he was conspiring with a person whom he was simply using as more or less a joke.
In July 2010, I tried to board a flight to Uganda, but I was stopped by the FBI and Secret Service. A Secret Service agent on my case then pulled me aside and interviewed me in the airport. He asked me a few questions which all seemed to be of little consequence surrounding the president of the United States. I am not sure if they were basing the charge on this interview or if they decided not to try it against me due to it, but there was a point where there was discussion of using the fact that I invited Obama to become a Muslim to charge me with threatening him. I assume that their argument would have been that before a Muslim army invades a country, they invite the people to Islam, and thus my inviting him to become a Muslim must certainly have been along these lines. The agent effectively asked me this in the interview, and I told him that my inviting him to become Muslim had nothing to do with that, so this is why I am not sure if this interview was the source of the charge or the source of its quashing, and Allah knows best.
On this trip, I was bringing my son with me to Uganda, but the rest of the allegations stated in the media and in my plea deal surrounding this incident with my son are inaccurate. I tried to get my lawyers to have the prosecutor remove that statement from my deal, but they said that it was not worth pursuing and that in some respects it fit in with the argument they wanted to make at my sentencing anyway.
After going home, I refrained from doing anything really at all, and stayed in the house for essentially the entire time. I was trying to figure out a way to get out of the country, but I did not have very much money left because I spent a lot of what I had on tickets. I started a blog to study insurgencies which received some praise from a so-called expert in the field, and I also downloaded Al-Qaeda magazine, because there was something in it which I saw in the corrupted version which was of a bit of concern to me.
I was in touch with some people in Al-Shabaab and close to them, so I asked them about providing certain information to the government in exchange for them letting me leave the country. They approved certain things, so I went to the FBI with this information. The FBI initially agreed to the idea, but this was just a lie they told me hoping I might say something important. Actually, they apparently knew everything which I was approved to say beforehand anyway. I asked for them to take me to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, or some other country, but at my bail hearing these all turned into Somalia.
We Can’t Tape This Interview…
In the first interview, they wrote down a whole bunch of things which I definitely did not say. One of these allegations was that I told them I had tried to go to Somalia the previous week, and as you can imagine, this is a pretty central issue when one is charged with trying to go to Somalia. Some of the other things they made up were a bit inconsequential, and they were probably just writing those into their notes to inflate me as being some sort of high up member of the organization or something like that, when I was simply just very loosely attached to them.
One of the agents kept saying things which were mentioned in the anti-Islamic training conducted at Quantico. He spent a good deal of time just insulting Islam, and said things like, “Your religion allows you to lie to us, right?” I am not totally sure, but it seems like he is the more likely candidate for having made up the many things mentioned in the interview notes which I did not say. I do not know why they do not have to record their interviews when they were seemingly willing to spend thousands if not millions of dollars recording everything else I said.
In the second interview they began asking me about other things, and it was pretty clear from the beginning that they were going to arrest me. They expressed how they were pissed off over a video I uploaded with the brother who carried out the operation against the CIA agents in Afghanistan (the implication being that they were quite convinced that I was trying to do this to them). They tried to get me to speak about some of my friends, but I told them I was not going to speak about any of them. They then told me they were interested in the two undercover agents whom they tried to entrap me with. I said, “Those guys work for you.” They then lied and said they were really part of some terror cell, and then told another lie and said that Younes Abdullah Muhammad was working for them which was really quite the silly ploy, but I guess they were just trying to throw whatever they could at me and see if anything stuck. They asked me to e-mail their undercover agents insisting that they were some real group, so I told them I would do it from Africa. I thought they were just testing me to see if I was lying to them in the interviews. However, it would appear that they were trying to fabricate evidence against me in order to bolster what appears to have been a weak case.
But We Can Tape You…
Since I had moved in, I had always assumed my apartment was being bugged and that it was a gift from my benevolent government, so I did not say very much in my apartment which could be easily used against me. In fact, I used to walk around the place addressing outlandish statements to the FBI. I used to detail elaborate plots to blow this or that thing up, and then I would finish it all by saying, “To the FBI: that was a joke.” They actually tried to use one of these things against me by saying that I told my wife that I was going to go overseas and learn how to make bombs, then I would come back to the United States, so the government would be thinking that I was going to blow up some important building, but really I was going to blow her up. The summary of this statement which I was allowed to read (I was not allowed to know what was actually said in any of the conversations being used against me, and I had to rely on FBI summaries of what they claimed was said) mentioned that it sounded like I was about to go to sleep.
This was somehow supposed to be proof that I was going to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab. I am not really sure what their argument was supposed to be at trial. Based on what they gave me, one would be forced to conclude that they were going to argue that I was planning on going to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab, that I was going to fight on their front lines, that I was going to be in their media wing, and that I was going to learn how to make bombs so that I could come back to America and suicide bomb my wife. If that sounds silly, then that would be because it is.
Reasons to Plead
Regarding my other charges which they had any chance of in court, then they would all have come down to First Amendment issues and they were risking them being thrown out on these grounds. The prosecutor on my case even admitted that they were almost certainly not going to be able to convict me of everything they wanted to charge me with, but he claimed they would be able to convict me of some of it, and he claimed he believed that the total number of years for these charges would be higher than what the government wanted me to plead guilty to.
Due to these factors, the government did not even have my arraignment completely figured out, much less an indictment (I pled guilty without being indicted). They even gave the media a copy of an affidavit which was not actually used against me, so many of the articles about me said I was facing thirty-five years when at the time I was only facing fifteen. There were many more things like this which occurred in relation to having me actually sign a plea agreement later on.
It would seem that due to these reasons, the FBI wanted me to e-mail the two undercover agents who had tried to entrap me in some kind of plot. Had I sent them the e-mail that they wanted me to send, they would have then arrested me for whatever plot it was that their agents had concocted. They would have put out a press release saying,
“Zachary Chesser was on the eve of trying to carry out a plot with suspected members of Al-Qaeda (or maybe they would have said they came up with the plot and that they were on top of it the entire time). These men are currently at large, but we have disrupted their aims, and we were on top of the matter the entire time. The public was never in danger from Mr. Chesser, but things reached a point where it was necessary to put and end to his efforts to strike at his own country.”
Then, I would go to trial and I would explain that the FBI had me send the e-mail about being willing to carry out whatever plot they had come up with, but the prosecutor would turn to the jury and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Chesser thinks that you all are stupid. I have heard a lot of whoppers in my lifetime, but this one is just out of this world.”
Then the FBI would testify that I was lying, and they would say that I sent the e-mail from another location having made sure that they masked the IP address, and they would have explained how they had bravely saved the public from me, etc. Not only this, but they would find a copy of Al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine on my computer with instructions on how to make bombs, and that article would have been under a title which was taken from an article I wrote. I would be convicted, and nobody would ever believe anything I said about it.
The Interview Sours
After they mentioned their agents, they asked me about a “member of Al-Shabaab,” whose name started with a “G.” I figured they were talking about a young brother named Gulet, because I did not know very many, if any, brothers whose names started with a “G,” so I asked if this is the person they meant, and they confirmed it. I told him that he was not a member of Al-Shabaab, and that he did not even sympathize with them. He was simply studying in Kuwait, and that his trips first to Yemen and then back home to Somalia were to look for scholars to teach him Islam. This was all the truth, but I guess they did not care about it, and they found it necessary to have him tortured in Kuwait and then to try to prevent him from returning to the United States where they could not legally have him tortured anymore. His situation was in the news around the time I was sentenced.
When I mentioned that he had nothing to do with anything, I suppose they did not like my answer, so they yelled at me to get on the floor. When I complied, they handcuffed me. While I was lying on my stomach with handcuffs on my wrists, one of the agents called me a traitor and then kicked me in the ribs. Then he made fun of the fact that I was not going to be able to do Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah which all Muslims are required to do once in their lives). He also claimed I was going to go to prison for thirty-five years, which I suppose was based on the affidavit which the government gave to the media, but not to me, and neither he nor the other agent Paula Menges said anything about what charges I was being arrested on. I only learned about the charge I was facing in court and the other charge I was facing in the papers after I was arraigned in court a day or two later.
At this time, the FBI and Secret Service raided my apartment and took my wife outside the building. One of them asked my wife if she knew I was planning on going to Somalia, and she allegedly responded in the negative, then said she did not want to talk to the agents. I do not think I ever actually said anything to my wife about going to Somalia to begin with (at least since I had cancelled previous plans), but Allah knows best. There was not really anything new in my apartment which they seized. I had replaced the hardrive on the laptop they gave me, so they apparently did not even manage to obtain an image of that. However, this may have actually harmed my case, because I do not recall anything that could have hurt me from it, and there may have been things which could have helped me, but Allah knows best.
I was arraigned in court on one count of providing material support to the group Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and the government released its incorrect affidavit to the media which also carried a charge for distributing bomb making materials. However, the manual which supposedly contained the information (I never read it, so I have no clue if it had anything at all on bombs) was a field manual for America’s “Army Rangers,” and it was something which the government provided and was all over the internet. I suspect that somebody in the Department of “Justice” probably realized that it would set a very bad precedent to prosecute someone for that.
I was facing fifteen years, but there were some elements of the material support charge which it looked like the government could not prove (this makes sense, because they did not occur), so I was thinking I was more or less guaranteed to beat the charge. However, and this seems paltry now, I was still not looking forward to spending the next few months waiting to go to trial. This was all very difficult on my family, and it hurt them very much, but Allah is sufficient for us.
As matters progressed, the government began to talk about having me plead guilty. My lawyers were thinking I would plead guilty to just the one count of material support, but the prosecution wanted me to plead guilty to thirty years worth of charges. The government kept floating around charges like solicitation of murder, communication of threats (including that inviting Obama to be a Muslim was a threat), solicitation of a hoax, and other things including the bomb making material charge they informed the media about. I did not want to plead guilty to more time than I was likely to get at trial, so I had my lawyers keep investigating these issues.
Eventually the government provided us with a list of charges in a mock indictment they planned to use against me, and it had about ninety years worth of charges on it. Approximately forty-five of those years were related to what they claimed were threats I made toward the creators of South Park for mocking the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Had I tried to kill both of the people in the alleged threat instead, then I would have been facing five less years which is a bit strange, but this is what happens when you put mankind in charge of legislating these matters, and it is especially what happens if you put the likes of Congress in charge of that. There is a statute specifically prohibiting the unlicensed transportation of dentures across state lines, so it should not be hard to imagine that such a government would be able to turn a threat into a charge surpassing attempted murder.
As things went on, the government told my attorneys that they were planning on prosecuting my wife. They were initially floating the idea of saying she committed passport fraud, because we put our mailing address on a passport application for our son instead of our living address. The FBI claimed that this was to avoid having the document sent to my mother-in-law’s home, but we did not live there either, so I think this seems a bit irrelevant. The FBI simply never gave us the keys to the mailbox at our apartment, so we could not have it mailed there. When we asked the lady who was responsible for handling the filing of our application whether we should put our living address or the address we wanted the document mailed to on the form, she instructed us to put the mailing address on it, so that is what we did.
They also threatened my wife with other charges, but none of them involved any kind of intentional violation of the law (even according to them), nor did anything she was accused of have the potential to harm anybody or anything. I asked my attorneys about her chances of beating these charges at trial, and they basically said that while the charges were a bit petty and that she did not even allegedly mean anything criminal in her actions, her chances of beating them were about zero even if I took credit for all of the things which I did myself including filling out the passport form. Furthermore, they told me that even though someone might normally only receive community service for these charges, my case could cause her to wind up receiving a significant time in prison if she was convicted.
Weighing the Odds
Both my wife’s and my parents are all non-Muslims, and if we were both in prison, then our son would have gone to one of them. This was my biggest concern from then on out, and the government knew that they were going to get me to plead guilty as soon they threatened to prosecute her. They offered me that if I plead guilty to thirty years worth of charges, that I asked for no less than twenty years at my sentencing, that I agreed to cooperate, and that if in addition to this my wife pled guilty to some kind of felony and agreed to leave the country, then they would not give her any jail time.
I was informed that the one person for whom my cooperation might be a very big issue had already made it overseas to a safe location, but this turned out to be incorrect, and I am not referring to the brother Younes who worked with me on Revolution Muslim. I analyzed the damage to the Muslims which might occur by me accepting this deal, and I analyzed the damage that was likely to occur if I did not. I tried to change the deal around and offered to serve more time to prevent some of these factors, but the prosecution did not accept this. Eventually I concluded that more damage to the Muslims was likely to occur if I did not accept the deal. I would have made the decision quicker had the people involved not been my family, because I was worried that my heart was being swayed by their closeness to me and I did not want to act on that. I tried my best to view it in terms which involved no personal sentiments. I saw that maybe one brother would be seriously affected by this, but I was also told he had made it to safety. I also paid attention to the situation of the brother Younes, but I could not really think of anything I could say about him to hurt him. I did not even agree that I broke the law, much less that he did. Additionally, I was told he had made it to a country which did not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Therefore, I had two brothers whom I thought I might potentially harm by this if I agreed, and I had a sister and a child whom I would almost certainly harm if I did not agree. Furthermore, the level of harm in the two cases was different with the latter facing more years (thirty-three) than the former, at least based on what could result from my own actions. Also, a Muslim child being raised by non-Muslims was, and Allah knows best, from all I could tell, more harmful than any of what I mentioned. Additionally, the harm to the latter was certain from a fiqhi point of view, while the harm to the two brothers seemed not only uncertain, but unlikely based on my knowledge.
That being said, this understanding turned out to be completely wrong, but despite all of the things that this country has done to the Muslims it has prosecuted, I had not heard of anything like what was done to my family, nor has anyone else here heard of it. The level of malice in what the government later did to us was unprecedented so far as I know, and I do not know of any clearer or more blatant assault on Islam, than what they did to my family after I pleaded guilty. I was under the impression that the American government upheld its deals so as not to risk a lack of trust in future proceedings, but I was wrong in this assumption.
The Deceptive Deal
I signed the deal with a whole host of things which I had no clue what they were referencing. I never read the book which is listed under the section in my “statement of facts” for distributing bomb-making instructions. I do not have a clue what many of the videos in there are referring to. I have no idea if I ever said anything about bringing a knife to kill undercover agents. In fact, my attorneys told me that the book did not have anything on bombs, but I have never been able to read it to find out.
Despite many efforts since my arrest, my attorneys have still failed to send me my evidence or to show it to me. They did not even take my input on what to say at my sentencing, and I did not see the documents they filed (I still have not seen some of them, nor have I seen what the prosecution filed) until long after I had been sentenced, and it was not even them who sent them to me. Some of the things they mentioned I specifically told them not to try to argue.
Other things were completely baseless, and I am wondering where they got them, because they were not even things my prosecutor accused me of. All I was shown from my discovery was a CD with some facebook data from a page I stopped using before I became a Muslim, copies of the FBI’s notes from the interviews they did with me before my arrest, and a few summaries of what the FBI claimed they recorded from me.
These summaries did not even account for one percent of the total recordings they made, and I was not allowed to hear the actual versions of the recordings nor even read the transcripts. To this day, I still have not seen anything else, and I have been requesting this information since July or August of 2010.
I did not even have the statutes for two of the charges I pleaded guilty to, nor to one of the ones I was planning on pleading guilty to. I only ever got to read the statute for material support of terrorism and some other statutes I was never actually charged with. The jail I was in would only let me use their law library after 1:00 AM, and this made it extremely difficult to go to it to look things up on my own. For whatever reason, my lawyers kept forgetting to bring me the relevant statutes in my case. I would have pled guilty anyway, because I was not considering myself when I did it, but from what I can tell it does not look like I actually broke any of the laws which they were mentioning.
However, when I pointed this out to my attorneys, they told me that I might be right, but that I would be convicted anyway, because of how the jury would view me. In fact, the prosecution initially wanted me to plead guilty to putting someone in a reasonable fear of death, but just before my court date to enter the plea, they realized that I did not actually put anyone in a reasonable fear of death, so they could not even convict me of that if I admitted to it like I was planning on doing.
At some point in October of 2010, I pled guilty to material support of terrorism for trying to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia and for making a video at their direction (the video is not specified in my statement of facts nor in my criminal information, but I believe they are referencing a video called “First Stop Addis” which I made. However, I did not make that at the direction of Al-Shabaab, but at the direction of an organization which is not illegal to support.
I am not even sure if Al-Shabaab knew that the song behind the video had made it out of Somalia), soliciting a violent or threatening act in that I posted something calling on people to leave harmless bags in public places to make them look like bombs (when I was arrested the agents said that they had an increase in false bomb reports after that post, but that could have just been another lie), and to communicating threats against the creators of South Park.
As far as the brother Younes is concerned, then I told the government what I did in the matter revolving around the show South Park, but I also told them that they were incorrect in thinking we meant the posts as a threat or any of the other various things they kept trying to get me to say. I even told them that I had no clue what the law said, and that if I learned that what I did was legal, then I was going to go back to trial. I also mentioned that I was the one who put everything in the documents about the Islamic ruling in the matter. If the government has said that I told them anything else then they are lying.
Additionally, I have seen the argument they put forth in the affidavit in his case, and the claim that the fact that we were trying not to break the law in fact meant that we are more guilty is ridiculous. I was the one in charge of removing anything which was remotely threatening in the press release Revolution Muslim did, and if I missed anything, then it was my fault. I only vaguely remember the conversation mentioned in the affidavit where it says I removed a line, because it might be construed as a threat, but the FBI has made this point very clear by referencing this. We were trying to help Islam by changing the dialogue on these issues. My posts were the ones which were closer to crossing the line on the matter being a threat, but Younes was definitely not trying to threaten anybody, and he made that clear from the very beginning. [I was in the middle of editing a final draft this document when I learned that the brother Younes (Jesse Curtis Morton) plead guilty, so if this was based on a belief that I was saying anything about him to harm him or that I would, then he should know that this is not the case.]
There is also some brother who has been tied to me named Reed Stanley Berry. I was told he used the name Asad Allah on a forum called “Ansar.” I am not really sure what the FBI is claiming I told them, and I am not even sure that I am guessing at the right brother, but there are only two Asadullahs which I know of, and I know that he is not the one who went by the name Asadullah al-Shishaani. I do not recall saying anything at all to the FBI about a user named Asad Allah on the Ansar forum, but if I did, then I might have mentioned that the guy who invited me onto that forum had that username, but the usernames on that forum were not hidden, so the fact that an Asad Allah existed on that forum would not have meant anything.
The only other thing that I did involving that brother was that I had a conversation with him in which he concluded that it was not a good idea for him to try to do something which might be a violation of the law, and that he should wait until he did not have to do anything illegal to accomplish his goals. I do not remember saying either of those things, but if the FBI said I told them anything else about someone named Asad Allah, then they are lying or they misunderstood what I said, but it is probably the former from my experience. I do not know of another Asad Allah, so if this brother is a different person, then they are definitely lying.
As far as Al-Shishaani is concerned, all I said is that we talked about some things not related to jihad, and that I could not picture him doing anything on his own. I guess they did not ask me about what we said together publicly on the forum, because they had access to all of that already. He already pleaded guilty, but if they claimed anything beyond this in his regard then they lied. I do not know if it was claimed that I was helping them against him or not, but in regard to him, this is what occurred.
There is another brother named Shakir Masri who was arrested in Chicago right after I was. I did not realize when they were asking me about a brother from the internet that it was him, but Allah willed that there was nothing for me to say about him anyway. Actually, when it comes to his case, there are some things which he did not know which I do know, and they ought to help him. These are not the kind of things which should be made public without him wanting them to be, so I will not reveal them here. If the FBI is claiming anything about me in his case then they are lying.
I recently got a letter rejected from a brother in the UK who was supposedly with Revolution Muslim. I do not know if they are saying similar things to him, but if they are, then they are lying.
I cannot think of anyone else whom they might be claiming I am helping them against, but if there is anyone, then I am not, and their lawyers or their investigators should come and find out if I even know who their clients are. There are lots of people who might have contacted me and that contact might have meant a lot to them, but it might not have meant a lot to me so I would have forgotten it entirely. The FBI exploits these kinds of things to trick people. It is a very common and well known technique.
One of the things I was told when I was arrested was that a brother named Ramy Zamzam was telling them everything about me. This brother and I only met two times, and I did not even know his name until I saw his picture in the news. Furthermore, we never discussed anything that could be used against me. They also tried to convince me Younes was working for them. None of this had any validity, but these are techniques they use to try to push people into pleading guilty. I would not be surprised if the way they obtained a warrant to use FISA against me was by saying that their undercover agents who gave me the apartment were members of Al-Qaeda and that we were plotting terrorist attacks at the local kabob restaurants and Olive Gardens. This is how the land of “freedom” and “justice” does things.
I tried my hardest not to go into this affair blindly, and I requested books on the Islamic ruling on this situation be sent in. I also sent out a letter requesting a fatwah as to whether or not my analysis of which situation was the lesser of two evils was correct. However, I never received any response from the letter I wrote, and I believe this to have been intentional on the part of the government. It is also my belief that this letter could be the source of all which follows in my story, in that the FBI began to view my son as the only way to pressure me into cooperating. However, some of what happened seems only to be pure and unabashed hatred of Islam, and it rises to a level of clarity and severity which is hitherto unmatched to my knowledge. Much of what was done with my little boy could have carried no other motive.
After my wife’s plea deal was signed, we began to look into different countries for her to move to. She could not go back home to her native country of Uganda, because I was supposed to be arriving there at about the same time that the World Cup watchers were attacked by the group I was associated with, and even to this day Al-Shabaab and Uganda are at war. Due to this there was a legitimate fear of her being tortured or harmed if she returned. At first we began looking at countries which were nearby to keep our family close, but this turned out not to be practical.
In December, 2010, my mother, a non-Muslim as well as a federal prosecutor, used this to file for custody of our one year old child Talhah. The hearing was set for the day before my wife’s sentencing, which was also the last day before she was allowed to leave the country. She claimed that due to the fact that my wife was likely to be tortured if forced to return to Uganda, this posed a danger to our son Talhah. She filed this without asking in depth about our situation, and apparently did not know that at this point we had found that Jordan was a likely candidate to take my wife and son, because their visa laws were less restrictive than other places. In fact, by the time we found out about the filing, Talhah had already obtained a visa to Jordan, and either my wife had just obtained hers or she obtained it within a day or two of this. Despite the fact that there was no longer a danger to my wife, my mother refused to drop the suit.
The court did not give us any orders in relation to our son Talhah, so we decided that we might as well send him to Jordan early. This would have proven the suit my mother filed to be invalid, because the fact that he was in another country safely would have negated the matter entirely. We had four different families in or from Jordan who were hoping to help us and give my wife and child a place to stay. Also, one of the sisters who was offering to help would have been considered Talhah’s mother from nursing according to certain opinions in Islamic jurisprudence. We found that the mother of this sister’s husband, was willing to take our son with her to Jordan to stay with her family for a few days until my wife arrived. This lady was a non-Muslim, and may Allah guide her, but her son had accepted Islam quite some time ago. The flight was scheduled to leave the John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 20th, 2011.
I did not know this until very recently when it came out in court, but the FBI called my mother on the phone the day before this, and they informed her about everything, and asked her whether or not she considered it to be illegal. Apparently she told them she thought it was illegal, and Allah knows best what else transpired between them.
On the day of the flight, this woman left her home in Tallahassee, Florida, to pick up our son in Virginia. She was followed by law enforcement the entire way. When she got to Virginia she picked up Talhah and all of the proper paperwork to allow him to travel with her, and she set off for New York.
Meanwhile, the FBI sent my lawyers and my prosecutor a letter saying that they considered what my wife and I had decided upon was a breach of my plea agreement, because it was illegal according to them. I asked my attorneys what they thought, and they said that they did not see how it could possibly be illegal, but that the FBI was very adamant about what they were saying. In fact, even my prosecutor, a man who has had articles about him written in major newspapers accusing him of hating Islam, said that he did not see how it could be illegal, and he said that he did not care about the matter.
Additionally, an attorney whose expertise was in child custody also told us there was no problem with it. However, the FBI insisted that they were convinced it was illegal and that it would violate my plea agreement. They did not mention that their legal expert happened to be the one filing the motion to take Talhah from us, nor that she was not knowledgeable of child custody laws, but they were not interested in honesty, transparency, or any other similar concept. My wife and I debated the issue, and eventually we decided that we could not put someone else in a precarious situation unknowingly, so we resolved to call the matter off. However, all of this came after the woman, whom for the purpose of this letter I will call Umm Julaybeeb, had taken Talhah from my wife and set off for New York.
Talhah: A Matter of National Security
When she arrived at the airport she was approached by the Secret Service, FBI, TSA, Port Authority, and the NYPD who took her cell phone from her and began to scream at her telling her they would not let her leave with my son. They followed her around the airport for hours, preventing her from making any phone calls, harassing her, and treating her very badly. She asked them about the legality of what she was doing, and they told her it was, in fact, legal (a contradiction of what they told my attorneys and prosecutor), but that she still could not do it. This was all supposedly to prevent me from being in contempt of court, getting an extra hour or two in jail, and creating a situation where the government could, at its own discretion, overturn my plea deal. The fact that it did not actually violate my deal was irrelevant, and as I will reveal later if Allah wills, this was clearly not the motivation of the government in the actions they took against my child.
Eventually my wife got through to her, and called the matter off. Umm Julaybeeb was still willing to go through with it, and was not swayed by all of the pressure which was being placed on her, but my wife still called the matter off. We did not know that the FBI was getting their legal advice from my mother, nor that they did not
consider it to actually be illegal. Umm Julaybeeb recounts the events,
“ I … on or about January 19, 2011 picked up Talhah Chesser from his mother, at Baltimore Airport to take him to visit Jordan since I was going to visit my grandchildren.
When I arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York, there was about a four hour wait until our next flight. I was entertaining Talhah and walking about the airport. A man approached me and identified himself as Secret Service after showing a identification card. He asked where I was going. He wanted to talk to me and said if I took baby Talhah to Jordan, I would be kidnapping a child from the United States.
He noted that I had been watched since leaving Tallahassee, Florida and that U.S. Marshal’s were concerned. He introduced me to around two FBI agents that were at the airport. He wanted me to give him baby Talhah’s passport. I told him that I would keep both the baby and his passport with me unless his parents told me not to do so.I informed him I had temporary custody of Talhah, signed by both his mother and father. The Secret Service agent tried to take this document. I told him he could read it but not have it. He finally took a picture of it with his camera.
He, during the course of the four hour layover, kept talking to Talhah’s mother on the phone away from me, then would walk back to me and say that she had said to do thus and so, such and such. I replied that I would comply with her requests only when she instructed me to do so herself and that only after hearing from her would I follow her instructions.
At some point the Secret Service Agent gave me his phone and Talhah’s mother told me herself to give Talhah’s passport to the Secret Service, which I did.
Now there was a problem. It appeared that none of the people were officially working on this case as no one wanted responsibility of Talhah. The Secret Service Agent tried without success to gain the cooperation of Port Authority (airport security) to assume responsibility of the child. The Agent claimed that he would remain with little Talhah for a short duration until he could convince a willing party to come pick up the baby, but that he, himself, was unable to take responsibility. If I heard correctly, it appeared that the two FBI agents were present solely as a personal favor to the Agent. They no longer wanted to be involved and said it would be up to New York’s social services.
Rather than have social services in New York, place baby Talhah in foster care, I stayed in New York. The Secret Service agent assisted in getting me and Talhah to a hotel. Baby Talhah’s maternal grandmother and aunt came later and picked up Talhah. Everything written is true to the best of my knowledge.”
The day after this, a federal prosecutor took actions to prevent my wife from being able to travel to Jordan without telling her, but Allah willed that this did not wind up preventing her from settling in Jordan, and thus being sent back to Uganda where her life would have been in danger. This action was not done in relation to my criminal case, but was done for personal reasons which I will refrain from mentioning in here.
On the day before my wife’s sentencing, she went into court for my mother’s motion and wound up signing a deal to allow her own mother to have temporary joint custody with her until she was settled safely in Jordan. This was in exchange for my mother dropping her motion for custody. It was also ruled that my mother would have some visitation rights to see my son. Part of the deal was that my wife’s mother would bring our son to her after it was verified that she was safe. The court also appointed a representative for me in court named David Silek. I never wound up receiving a copy of the court order or anything else from this hearing.
My wife left as soon as possible to get to Jordan in order that she could be with Talhah quickly. She wanted to stay in America where she could see me longer, but I told her that Talhah was more important than that, so we decided on this path. I was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison shortly after she left.
In April of 2011, my wife was interrogated by Jordanian intelligence over the letter which was sent to them by the prosecutor following my son’s return from the airport. My mother’s support of this was revealed, and this caused relations between my wife’s family and my mother to sour considerably. It also caused my wife to be forced out of a university she was attending, and it made other matters difficult for her in Jordan. However, eventually she obtained refugee status due to her situation, and this was our greatest concern as it was the only argument to prevent her from receiving our son. Things are going well now, and we thank Allah for that.
In May of 2011, I was transferred to a Communications Management Unit in Marion, Illinois. There are only two such units in the prison system, and they are mostly filled with Muslims. Almost all of the Muslims here were locked up in the American Inquisition, so this place has taken on the name Gitmo North. There are many aspects of our religion which they try to restrict here including group prayer, learning Arabic, and teaching religious subjects. I recently lost my e-mail privileges for a month for praying in a group, as did many others. This is particularly difficult in here, because our communications with our families are severely limited and for people like me, e-mail is the only financially reasonable method of communicating overseas. People have also been threatened with being sent to the ADX facility in Colorado where they would only be let out of their cells for one hour each day over similar issues.
After I arrived in this unit, I began to try to contact the man who was appointed to represent me in court, but the government seemed to be preventing me from being able to do this. My wife and I were frustrated over the fact that her mother had not taken Talhah to Jordan despite my wife having been safe and settled for four months, so we were trying to figure out how to force my mother in-law to uphold her end of the agreement. However, around this time, my own mother began to complain about how we would not let her take my son on vacations and sleepovers. There was nothing in the order at all which said we had to do this, but she began to threaten to take my mother in-law to court over these issues.
In particular, my mother became very angry that we would not let him go to the beach due to the overwhelming presence of things which are considered Islamically impermissible in that environment. She also began to threaten my mother-in-law over things which made us suspect she was being given access to my wife’s and my private communications. This might sound paranoid, but these suspicions were later confirmed in court. At this point, we shifted our immediate focus from getting our son back to removing my mother from visitation. However, I still did not have contact with my representative and my wife was trying to do things through her mother, because she thought this was sufficient to fulfil the court’s order and manage things regarding it.
Summer Sojourn Sabotaged
Then, on July 12th, 2011, the FBI called my mother and told her that my wife and I had a secret plan to remove my son from the country. Supposedly they were basing this off of monitoring e-mails between me and my wife, as well as between my wife and her mother. Once again they asked my mother if this was a violation of the court order which she had filed for herself. She told them that it was not allowed for my son to leave the country. They told her that the reason they were calling was that they were trying to prevent me from violating my plea agreement, and they wanted to make sure that I did not do this.
Ignoring the fact that the government is violating their own laws if they were passing this kind of information to my mother outside of the context of a necessary step in a criminal investigation, the information they gave her was not even true. My wife’s mother was petitioning the court to take my son to Jordan to visit her, and my wife and I were still looking into having my mother removed from visitation by going through the courts. If what the FBI told my mother was not just a bold faced lie, then they were basing it on something which they misunderstood or took out of context. I was still sending e-mails as late as the day after this phone call in which I was saying that as soon as the government approved my court representative as one of my contacts, then I would be looking into how to remove my mother from visitation. Furthermore, the FBI could have simply asked either me, my wife, or my mother in-law about the matter if they were truly interested in it.
Based on this information, my mother filed for custody of my child Talhah on July 13th, 2011. She was granted an emergency hearing at which she claimed that the FBI had called her and mentioned this “secret plot,” and none of the other parties involved in the matter were informed of the hearing. This information was presented without anyone having the ability to challenge it, and based on this the court stripped custody of my child from my wife, gave it to my wife’s mother, and gave my own mother enhanced visitation rights. My family only learned about the filing when my mother showed up with police to take my son Talhah for the weekend.
During the two week period following this ruling, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) mysteriously stopped approving any e-mails which were sent to me, so I was kept in the dark for quite some time as to what had occurred. Additionally, they were still refusing to approve my court representative as one of my contacts, so I could do nothing about the matter at all. By Allah, there has been nothing in my life which hurt more than finding out about this ruling, but the amount of pain which it caused my wife was much more severe.
Finally, in August, the BOP approved my court representative, and I began to outline to him what I wanted him to be doing, and what legal actions I wished for him to take. He filed a motion to disqualify part of what the judge had ruled on the 13th of July, and this was granted. However, the matter was only over a technicality, so my mother re-filed her motions in order to seek that the court grant her full custody of our child.
No Attorney Client Confidentiality
I began to work frantically to gather everything I could in the case, but it was very difficult to do anything in the matter, because I did not have the paperwork necessary to know what was going on. In fact, I did not receive my mother’s petition for custody until two days before the trial date on January 5th, 2012. Additionally, the BOP would not let my representative call me, and the Virginia Bar Association advised him that if he accepted the terms required to e-mail me, then the NSA would be allowed to read all of his e-mails between him and his other clients which would breach their privacy rights.
They also opened all of the letters he sent to me under a heading for legal mail, which is a violation of the law in the United States. When I inquired as to why they were doing this, I was repeatedly given false instructions on how he should fill out the envelopes, so they continued to open them on grounds that he was filling the envelopes out incorrectly. The BOP even gave him as well as my mother’s attorney false instructions on how to fill out the envelopes, so when he followed their instructions as he himself was informed, they still opened and read his letters.
In fact, the prison outright rejected one such correspondence, and I never got to see some of the evidence which was being used against me in court because of this. When my mother’s own attorney complained about this, she informed my representative of the instructions the BOP gave her on how to send legal mail which could not be opened. My representative then sent her a copy of the envelope which they returned in order to show her that he was in full compliance with what they said. After this I researched the federal statute governing legal mail, and I sent him instructions based on the absolute most liberal interpretation of that law, although he had been in compliance with its literal wording for quite some time.
My wife repeatedly tried to contact her representative, but he did not return any of her communications until one month before the trial. When he finally did start responding to her, he refused to send anything in e-mail, because he was himself afraid that the FBI would take that information and send it to my mother. I do not know why he thought they would not also be bugging her phone, but people usually do not immediately know how to adjust to the paranoid lifestyle that is necessary for people in our situation.
SHUed out of the Custody Hearing
On November 30th, 2011, I was taken out of population in my unit and I was placed into a special housing unit (SHU) where I could only make one fifteen minute phone call per month, where I could not send any e-mails, and where I could not access my contacts list to know all of the relevant addresses and information I needed to fight my case. In the SHU, one is locked in a cell all day, they are only allowed one or two books, and almost all of the things which might add to their comfort are taken away from them during this time.
This is irregardless of whether or not they did something to be placed back there, or if there was an “administrative” reason to put them back there. The BOP told me that I was being placed in the unit in order to assess whether or not I was safe. They later admitted to my representative that there was no specific threat to my life, but that they had to assess the situation. They also informed me as well as others that the order to put me in the SHU came from Washington, D.C., and it was not from the prison itself.
While I was in the SHU, the BOP delayed very important mail which I sent to my representative to use as evidence in the trial for two weeks, so it was not able to be used. Legally they were not allowed to inspect the mail which I was sending, so there was no reason for them to delay it except to harm me and my family at the trial. Additionally, they delayed mail which I sent to my wife’s mother, as she was in some respects taking our side at the trial.
FBI Illegally Discloses Classified Emails
Two days before the trial was to occur, I finally received my mother’s petition for custody and some other documents which exposed the level of involvement of the FBI, and which also explained most of her arguments to be used at the trial. Of course, this was way too late for me to respond to, and it severely hurt our case not to have it. Additionally, I learned that my representative had different responsibilities than an attorney, so he decided not to file certain things as well as to not push for the same things I wanted him to push for. That being said, aside from these two issues, he was much better than I would have expected a court appointed attorney to be on such a case, and the praise belongs to Allah.
I still do not have the results from the trial, but I know that my wife and I were declared “unfit” parents, that my mother was granted full “legal” custody, and both she and my wife’s mother are to share physical custody every two weeks. My mother produced evidence which was given to her by the FBI from e-mails which it was illegal for them to disclose, and these were brought against us in court. I have heard that the FBI also talked to the judge before the trial, but I do not know the veracity of this as of yet.
Judge Rules Against My Son Being a Muslim
In the hearing wherein the judge read his ruling regarding speaking about Islam to my son or wearing traditional clothes distinguishing him as a Muslim, he said,
“I don’t want any discussion – ‘this is not Islam’ with these people, correct, this is radical Islam? And I make a finding this is radical Islam. I don’t want any discussion of dressing in any Islamic fashion, radical Islamic fashion.”
Perhaps the most shocking thing which my mother introduced as evidence was one of the things which the FBI supposedly told her. The following is a quote from a letter I received from my representative on this matter:
“The Court also ordered that your son Talhah is only to attend the respective churches of your mother and your mother-in-law. He is not permitted to be taken by anyone else to any church or other place of worship unless it is the place of worship of either your mother or mother-in-law. The Court was quite clear about this being an issue based upon the representations by your mother that the FBI or someone had reasonable cause to believe that Talhah had been taken to Mosque at some juncture since your incarceration and the departure of your wife from the United States of America. Your mother-in-law testified that she has been taking your son with her to church at All Saints Roman Catholic Church here in Manassas.”
So this was all about me not violating my plea deal!? Where in my plea deal does it say anything about not letting my child attend a mosque? Where in my plea deal does it say I agree not to have my son be a Muslim? I am not aware of any occasion on which my son was taken to a mosque, although I would have certainly loved for it to occur, so where are they getting this? Is the FBI following around my little two year old? He has terrorist DNA, so they have to be ready to pre-emptively prosecute him as soon as they can legally put him in prison. They had better get all of his contacts in their database too, because he might be talking in code to the other toddlers when he tells them, “1,2,3,” and, “Please.“
“Welcome to America! the land of the free and the detainee. Practice any religion, just not that Mozlem belief.”
So, what is the difference between Islam and “Radical” Islam? It is that “Radical” Islam is the practiced form of Islam according to this ruling. I was not there, but I seriously doubt that my Catholic mother-in-law was strapping a fake bomb vest to my son Talhah or wrapping a cloth around his face so that only his eyes could be seen.
If you wear a kufi, then you are a radical Muslim and the government can take your child; if you wear a hijab, then you are a radical Muslimah and the government can take your child; if you pray five times a day, then you are a radical. Neither my wife nor I were even present to challenge this information or this interpretation. The government simply ruled that the practicing of Islam is not protected speech, and they are using their resources to make sure our little son cannot hear anything about it.
In case the reader is confused, the American justice system issued a ruling that my son is not allowed to be a Muslim. Why did they do this? The FBI thought he was probably being brought to the mosque, and this is of course unacceptable in a liberal democratic nation; and if a two year old child is allowed to attend a mosque, then the fabrics of their society will be torn asunder.
Is it about terrorism, or is it about Islam? Is it about bombs, or is it about mosques? Was the FBI bashing terrorism when they were mocking Islam? What does Hajj have to do with terrorism? How much did the “greatest democracy” spend to make sure my son was not with a Muslim family? How many of their own privacy laws did they break to do this? Is the matter clear to you, O reader? Or are you blind?
On the day before the trial, I explained in a letter to my representative that the threat to my life would be ending the next day, so he could expect me to be out of the SHU soon. Just as I wrote to him, the threat to my life ended on January 5th, 2012, and the prison staff informed me that I would be coming out as soon as the warden could sign my release papers while the trial for my child was still ongoing. I was never given a reason for my being placed in isolation, nor was I given the reason why I was let out. However, I do not have any doubt as to the reasons, and I do not think that anyone who knows my story could either.
Civil Rights: Muslims Need Not Apply
Of course everything which I have detailed is completely in line with their laws, and it is all recorded under the 28th Hidden Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads, “All which was mentioned in this document carries with it the words, ‘Except for Muslims; except Islam.‘”
You have the right to the freedom of religion, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right to bear arms, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right not to have your privacy breached without probable cause, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right to due process, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, unless you are a Muslim.
You have equal protection under the law, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right not to be executed without first having it explained to you why you are being executed and then being given the opportunity to challenge those accusations, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right to see the evidence being used to imprison you, unless you are a Muslim.
You have the right to be Mirandized, unless you are Muslim.
You have the right to habeas corpus, unless you are Muslim.
Is there anyone who can breathe and comprehend the most fundamental of realities who still disagrees with this? Is there anyone who still has any doubt? The FBI, the CIA, the military, the media, the Judiciary, Congress, and the President are all just a few bad apples right?
My representative concluded with the following words:
“Finally, let me say it has been a pleasure working with you during this ordeal. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be appointed as Guardian ad Litem for someone who finds themselves in the situation which you are. It has certainly been a learning experience trying to communicate with you since you have been incarcerated in Marion.
I wish you a Happy New Year and I certainly wish I had better news to report to you than that which has been outlined above.
So let it be known to anyone who finds themselves in my position that this is the nature of what you are dealing with. America will not keep their word with you, and if you trust them, then you have been warned and your account is with Allah. They are as Allah says in that they will never be pleased with you until you follow their way. So long as you are Muslim, then they will never rest so long as you have an ounce of faith. If they cannot take that from you, then they will take you from the world.
They have breached their covenant, so I am throwing it back.
If there is anyone who wishes to inquire about or provide legal assistance to my family regarding any which was mentioned herein, then I can be contacted at the following address:
Zachary Adam Chesser #76715-083 USP Marion PO Box 1000 Marion, Illinois 62959