The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

DC Metro Cop Accused of Helping the Islamic State

Officials said the officer was never a threat to the Metro system.

GettyImages-534225946
GettyImages-534225946

For the first time, a U.S. law enforcement officer has been charged with aiding the Islamic State. And his job was to protect the subway system of the nation’s capital, an enticing target for any terrorist group.

On Wednesday, Nicholas Young, 36, of Fairfax, Va., was arrested at Metro Transit Police headquarters in Washington and charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Young had been under surveillance since 2010, when he was questioned in connection with Zachary Chesser, an American booster of Islamist jihad who threatened the creators of the South Park television show for mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Since then, Young had multiple meetings with undercover FBI informants, who recorded the Metro cop’s trip to Libya to fight with anti-Qaddafi rebels in 2011. By 2014, he was advising the undercover agent on how to avoid detection while traveling. In June 2015, Young asked the undercover informant, who he thought was his contact already fighting overseas with ISIS, how he could financially support the group.

For the first time, a U.S. law enforcement officer has been charged with aiding the Islamic State. And his job was to protect the subway system of the nation’s capital, an enticing target for any terrorist group.

On Wednesday, Nicholas Young, 36, of Fairfax, Va., was arrested at Metro Transit Police headquarters in Washington and charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Young had been under surveillance since 2010, when he was questioned in connection with Zachary Chesser, an American booster of Islamist jihad who threatened the creators of the South Park television show for mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Since then, Young had multiple meetings with undercover FBI informants, who recorded the Metro cop’s trip to Libya to fight with anti-Qaddafi rebels in 2011. By 2014, he was advising the undercover agent on how to avoid detection while traveling. In June 2015, Young asked the undercover informant, who he thought was his contact already fighting overseas with ISIS, how he could financially support the group.

In July of this year, Young sent mobile-messaging gift cards to what he thought was his contact in ISIS but what in reality was an FBI agent. According to an indictment filed in federal court in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Young sent the codes, worth about $250, to an undercover U.S. law enforcement agent in the hope that they would be used by the Islamic State.

Officials said Young was never a threat to the Metro system, which serves Washington and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.

“Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.

But according to the indictment, Young had a broad array of targets he wanted to strike.

That included FBI agents, who he threatened to kill. He also wanted to bring guns to federal court. Young also vowed to kidnap and torture an FBI agent who had interviewed him; he said he would leave the severed head of anyone who turned on him at the bottom of a lake.

But the agents never took his threats seriously, and it appears as if Young was more focused on striking targets abroad as opposed to inside the United States. He was ultimately busted when he counseled someone working with law enforcement on how to travel to Syria. Once convinced his contact had made it successfully to the Middle East, he bought the messaging gift cards.

Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.