An FBI undercover operation—stretching back to the jihadi attack on the Mohammed Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas—has resulted in charges against 20-year-old Joshua Ryne Goldberg of Orange Park, Florida, for a plot to use a pressure-cooker bomb against a 9/11 memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
The details of the criminal complaint posted by the Justice Department are complex. The case began earlier in the year when a Twitter account called “Australi Witness” came to the attention of the authorities by calling for an attack on the Mohammed Art Exhibit in Garland. A map of the venue for the event was posted, along with a call for Islamists in the area to attack “with your weapons, bombs, or knives.”
The exhibit was indeed attacked by a pair of jihadis, one of whom, Elton Simpson, re-tweeted a message from “Australi Witness” on the morning of the assault. The message read, “I’M BACK, KUFFAR! DIE IN YOUR RAGE!” As the affadavit observes, “kuffar” is a popular derogatory term used by Islamic extremists to refer to non-Muslims. Simpson and his partner were killed by security when they attacked the art exhibit.
A bit of Internet detective work uncovered a message from “Australi Witness” claiming to be the inspiration for the Garland attack, where “two mujahadeen entered an event mocking the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with intent to slaughter the kuffar in it.”
The writer cited Australian Muslim activists in asserting that “blasphemy against the Prophets of Allah is a capital crime which cannot be tolerated under any circumstances;” claimed to have recruited mujahadeen in Melbourne and Los Angeles to carry out jihad shootings at “local synagogues when the maximum amount of Jews are praying;” and claimed to be an ISIS sympathizer who had “dedicated my life to striking fear into the hearts of the kuffar and coordinating acts of jihad around the world.”
He predicted that Australia would inevitably be conquered by Islam, “religion of violent conquest,” at which point the Jews of Australia would be “slaughtered like the filthy cockroaches they are.”
Australi Witness also claimed to work for a “respected human rights organization,” leading a dual life as a “moderate” and “pillar of my community” unknown to the police, as well as a hacker extraordinaire and “expert in Australian law” who could never be caught or punished.
This was, obviously, meant to create the impression that Australi Witness was a jihadi mastermind living in Australia. In July, one of the FBI’s informants began communicating with the same individual under the alias “AusWitness,” using a bit of strategic flattery to win his confidence, claiming he had become famous after receiving coverage in Western media for his role in the Garland attack.
Once the FBI got a look at the boastful ISIS sympathizer’s Twitter account, they were able to trace his IP address and identify him as Joshua Ryne Goldberg—not the jihad terror of Australia, but an American living in his parents’ house in Orange Park, Florida. Later, he revealed a Google email account that traced back to the same address. He was paranoid enough to avoid revealing himself when the feds tried knocking on the door and pretending to be poll takers looking for opinions on community issues.
The FBI’s informant kept Goldberg on the hook, engaging in long conversations about the possible arrest of a Melbourne jihadi “AusWitness” claimed to have recruited, and possibly inadvertently exposed. “The kuffar government could be torturing him for info right now, and all because I made the stupid mistake of talking about our plans on 8chan. If I find out he got caught because of me, I just don’t know what I’ll do. I feel like I’ve failed as a Muslim,” Goldberg moaned.
Later, he complained about the threat of a bomb attack on the Queen of England that fizzled, saying “the UK needs a new 7/7,” a reference to the 2005 London bombings that killed over 50 people.
When the FBI source ventured that he might be willing to pull off a jihad attack, but didn’t know how to make bombs, “AusWitness” eagerly offered to help him out with information on how to create powerful improvised explosives. He followed through with links to instructions on making pipe bombs and incendiary devices—instructions determined by FBI experts to be accurate.
Eventually the plan firmed up to a pressure-cooker bomb, of the type favored by the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, packed with “nails, glass, and metal” for shrapnel, with the material dipped in rat poison for maximum lethal effect. The weapon was to be placed in the crowd for maximum damage at the Kansas City Stair Climb, a memorial event hosted by local firefighters in honor of the first responders killed on 9/11. The event is actually to be held on September 13 this year.
An Australian source who had contact with Goldberg online described him to the Australian Federal Police as an “online troll” and “proponent of radical free speech” who carried out a number of hoaxes online. Some conversations to this effect purportedly held with one of Goldberg’s aliases were provided, including one where he described his jihad-loving online contacts as “pussy keyboard warriors” who wouldn’t actually carry out attacks at his behest. The affadavit against Goldberg makes no comment on the credibility of this information, presenting it to the court “out of an abundance of caution.”
After his arrest, Goldberg initially denied involvement in the bomb plot, but later admitted to controlling all of the online aliases researched by the FBI, admitted writing the messages praising the Garland shooters, and admitting to providing the FBI’s source with bomb-making information, which he conceded were valid instructions to create an actual pressure cooker bomb.
According to the affadavit, Goldberg “stated that he believed that the individual did intend to create functioning bombs and would actually attempt to use them to kill and injure persons,” but later he made a variety of statements attempting to explain his actions… including the assertion that he thought his online jihad contact would accidentally kill himself with the bomb, and if not, Goldberg intended to tip off law enforcement just in time, and claim credit for preventing the Kansas City attack.
The Australian police are also interested in Goldberg because he allegedly passed information over the Internet to “facilitate and encourage terrorist acts in Australia” as well. This is consistent with the activity described in the FBI affidavit. The Australian Federal Police judged his activities were a more immediate threat to Americans and cooperated in the FBI’s investigation.