Muslim Teen in Virginia Pleads Guilty to Helping ISIS with Encryption, Bitcoin

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser
AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

A 17-year-old Muslim teenager in Virginia pled guilty to charges of providing material support to ISIS by offering them technical support with social media, data encryption, and using the virtual currency called Bitcoin.

According to a report at Ars Technica, Ali Shukri Amin pleaded guilty to using Twitter to send the Islamic State information on how it could use Bitcoin to finance its efforts.

“The article explained what Bitcoins were, how the Bitcoin system worked and suggested using Dark Wallet, a new Bitcoin wallet, which keeps the user of Bitcoins anonymous. The article included statements on how to set up an anonymous donations system to send money, using Bitcoin, to the mujahedeen,” Amin admitted in court.

He also gave them tips for more effectively leveraging their social media presence, and how to create a website that would be difficult for their adversaries to take down. Amin admitted to using Twitter to organize other computer experts to help create this website for ISIS. He also helped radicalize another young man from Virginia, 18-year-old Reza Niknejad, who tried to join the Islamic State by traveling to Syria, and is facing his own charges of supporting the terror state.

He used his own personal blog to publish “a series of highly technical articles targeted at aspiring jihadists and ISIL supporters detailing the use of security measures in online communications to include the use of encryption and anonymity software, tools and techniques,” along with his advice for using Bitcoin to finance the jihad.

CBS News reports Amin was an honor student at Osbourn Park High School before his arrest. He could be facing up to 15 years in prison.

CBS quotes FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe saying Amin’s case demonstrates the “seductive, destructive ideology” ISIS pushes to young people online.

Amin’s defense lawyer, Joseph Flood, says he was initially motivated by “sincere religious beliefs and outrage at the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad,” suggesting that he turned to ISIS out of frustration over his “inability to effect change against a government committing atrocities.”

“He was blogging on the Internet. It’s as simple as that,” Flood added.  His admission in court would suggest there was nothing simple, or innocent, about Alli Shukri Amin’s activities.