Texas Terror Suspect Intends to Seek Insanity Defense

A Saudi student facing terrorism charges in Texas intends to use an insanity defense as his January trial approaches. Khalid Aldawsari was arrested in February by the FBI for allegedly preparing to undertake bomb attacks against dams, nuclear plants, and the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush.

Aldawsari had been studying in the United States since 2008 and operated below the radar of law enforcement and counterterrorism officials until he purchased concentrated chemicals needed to make an improvised explosive device.

In a Wednesday court filing, Aldawsari’s defense attorneys noted in a Monday filing with the court asking for a mental evaluation: “Upon interview, Aldawsari, seems to be suffering from severe mental disability, including delusional visions and beliefs. Due to this and other recent developments, defense counsel, at this stage, anticipates relying on the defense of insanity at the time of the offense charged in the indictment.

“Defendant appears to be suffering from a mental disease or defect or other mental condition. This mental disease or defect potentially renders Mr. Aldawsari mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceeding against him.”

 As the FBI began to monitor him in the days before his arrest, the FBI obtained secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to enter Aldawsari’s home on Feb. 14 and Feb. 17 to conduct searches of his computers and belongings. According to an FBI affidavit in the case,  journal entries that were photographed by FBI agents and translated allegedly revealed Aldawsari’s intentions.

According to the FBI affidavit, Aldawsari wrote in his journal, “I excelled in my studies in high school in order to take advantage of an opportunity for a scholarship to America. … I chose [a specific Saudi sponsoring corporation] for two reasons. First, [it] sends its students directly to America. … Second[ its] financial scholarship is the largest, which will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad. … Now after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad.”

Aldawsari’s defense team has filed a motion seeking to suppress the FISA related evidence and disclose what the evidence reveals. A motion filed in the case notes that the defense team must review the legality of the searches.

Attorney General Eric Holder filed a declaration in court seeking to bar the FISA related evidence from being disclosed. “I hereby claim that it would harm the national security of the United States to disclose publically or hold an adversarial hearing with respect to the FISA materials.

“The FISA materials contain sensitive and classified information concerning United States sources and methods and other information related to efforts of the United States to conduct counterterrorism investigations,” Holder wrote in a Oct. 25 declaration, which was filed with the court on Monday.

U.S. District Court’s Sam Cummings will rule on the defense request to suppress the FISA evidence. The judge has instituted a gag-order in the case barring the parties from commenting to the media.