Charges Come Days After NYPD Warns Of Possible ISIS Plot Against Soldiers, Cops


WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — Days after NYPD officials warned of a threat against police officers and soldiers by Islamic State militants, federal authorities charged an Ohio man with plotting an attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired by the militant group.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, NYPD officers were keeping watch in Times Square Wednesday night, as part of the city’s defense against so-called lone-wolf terror. There is fear that another Christopher Lee Cornell could be lurking in New York.

A criminal complaint from the FBI said Cornell, 20 — who went by the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah — met with an undercover informant multiple times as he allegedly planned the attack on members of Congress and others at the Capitol.

Christopher Lee Cornell is accused of plotting an attack on the U.S. Capitol that federal authorities say was inspired by ISIS. (Credit: CBS2)

Christopher Lee Cornell is accused of plotting an attack on the U.S. Capitol that federal authorities say was inspired by ISIS. (Credit: CBS2)

The FBI said Cornell had been posting statements and videos indicating support for ISIS and for violent jihad, and for violent attacks committed by others in North America and elsewhere. ISIS has called for lone-wolf attacks in the U.S.

An informant who began cooperating with the FBI on an unrelated case supplied information about someone using the Ubadayah name and posting comments supporting ISIS on Twitter, the FBI said. The informant found Cornell on Twitter and began communicating with him on another instant messaging platform, the FBI said.

On Aug. 29 of last year, Cornell wrote an instant message telling the informant that he had been in contact with persons overseas and did not expect to get the green light to conduct an attack, but said he wanted to do it anyway on his own, the FBI said.

“I believe that we should just wage jihad on our own orders and plan attacks and everything,” Cornell allegedly told the informant.

Cornell met with the informant in Cincinnati on Oct. 17 and 18, and said weapons were needed for an attack, the FBI said. He also showed jihadist videos and information about making bombs on his laptop computer, the FBI said.

The informant met with Cornell a second time on Nov. 10 and 11, and said he considered members of Congress enemies and wanted attack the Capitol, the FBI said. He said he would case out security before conducting the attack, the FBI said.

The FBI said Cornell told the informant he planned to detonate pipe bombs at and near the Capitol, and use rifles to shoot and kill employees. He made plans to get guns and make pipe bombs, and saved up money for the attack, the FBI said.

On Tuesday, Cornell and the informant discussed the final steps to go ahead to Washington, D.C., and on Wednesday, Cornell bought two M-15 semiautomatic rifles and 500 rounds of ammunition for the mission, the FBI said.

Cornell was arrested after he bought the guns, prosecutors said.

The allegations against Cornell match up to what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was worried about just this past Sunday.

“It’s something that frankly keeps me up at night, worrying about the lone wolf or a group of people – very small group of people – who decide to get arms on their own and do what we saw in France,” Holder said.

The allegations against Cornell match up to what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was worried about just this past Sunday.

“It’s something that frankly keeps me up at night, worrying about the lone wolf or a group of people – very small group of people – who decide to get arms on their own and do what we saw in France,” Holder said.

The charges against Cornell also came days after officials said ISIS posted a video on Twitter calling for attacks on police officers and soldiers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and France. The video appeared on Saturday, authorities said.

Speaking Monday on “CBS This Morning,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the NYPD takes the threats seriously.

“There are a number of people who are in the process of being radicalized,” he said. “Something like this can be the last straw to move them forward. Additionally, they are continually working to attract new recruits.”

John Miller, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism, said Sunday the message put out by ISIS was a renewal of a call from mid-September, just before a series of attacks in Canada and a hatchet attack against NYPD officers in October. The FBI said the man responsible for the New York attack was inspired by terrorist videos.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Miller said the NYPD is also on alert for copycats after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper, and the subsequent standoffs, in Paris.

Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y.), said Monday that he was worried more police officers will be attacked.

“ISIS is more dangerous than al Qaeda in this respect: They have experts handling their media,” King told CBS2’s Matt Kozar. “They can appeal to people on the edges of society.”

Miller said Monday that the NYPD issued an advisory to police officers informing them of the message and reminding them to be “extra vigilant.”

“Pay attention to your surroundings and pay close attention to approaching vehicles,” the memo reads in part. “Pay close attention to people as they approach and look at their hands.”

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