The following testimony, entitled “Victims of the American Inquisition” written by Zachary Chesser, is a microcosmic documentation of America’s naked and larger aggression against the religion of Islam in what Chesser terms the ‘American Inquisition.’ Since the intensification of this most recent inquisition, the global Muslim community has suffered a ruthless assault on legal rights and basic humanity, which in various arenas have been superficially designated as everything from geopolitical interests to heretical rhetoric. What Chesser exposes through details regarding his case and subsequent incarceration, is a pattern of federally sanctioned religious persecution and corrosive civil rights violations reflective of American foreign policy, shockingly common in so-called terrorism cases. He recounts how his religious beliefs designated him as a target for government surveillance, how this surveillance in turn became a means of distortion and manipulation, culminating in his incarceration and the deliberate alienation of his family, particularly the religiously charged, custodial kidnapping of his son.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful:
My name is Abu Talhah Zakariyya al-Amriiki (legally “Zachary Adam Chesser”), and what follows is not to be taken lightly. If you were to know how much these words can affect me and my family, then the gravity of this message would not escape you. I am writing this in order that nobody should fall into the same traps and mistakes as I did, to establish proof for those who doubt, and to rectify certain wrongs. Perhaps my ignorance of the nature of my situation was an excuse for me, but if not, then I ask Allah to forgive me. However, after me, I do not think that anyone will have an excuse in these matters if these events are manifested unto them.
This is my story, and within it are pieces of the stories of many others. It is only a relation of what I know to be true to the best of my ability, and I am sure that what remains hidden from me is far worse than that which was made clear to me, but that which is clear is enough for a person of understanding. Therefore, let these pages be recorded in the annals of history under the chapters reserved for the American Inquisition.
As for what follows…
In the summer of 2008, I became Muslim because I found that the Words of Allah in His Book were nothing but the unblemished Truth. Allah then blessed me to have a fierce passion for increasing myself in knowledge and worship. After a few months, I began to take note of the plight of the Muslims around the world, and from the standpoint of basic human nature, or what is known in Islam as the fitrah. It was clear to me that under such dramatic circumstances, peace could not be justified except by a coward or a despot. Then, when I learned about the obligation of jihad in Islam, I made it my goal to find a way to help the armies which were attempting to repel the invaders of the Muslim lands and to overthrow the tyrants who were in control of many regions in our territory.
FBI Begins to Phish
Due to this position, the FBI began to target me in late 2008. Then, in 2010, they upped the ante in their investigation of me. Despite the fact that I was not in contact with a “terrorist” organization or any other group listed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), at the time, the FBI and other organizations used this act in order to monitor me. They had two undercover agents give me a free apartment in order to conduct surveillance on me more easily, and the entire purpose of these two individuals seemed to be to try to get both me and my wife out of this apartment so that they could raid it. They did not even discuss issues of jihad or politics except for very lightly in the latter category. However, we suspected what they were doing, so it was no surprise one day to find that the FBI had locked me out of my house not realizing that I had left the door unlocked intentionally as I did not have my key. There are some excuses I could make for the two individuals who were doing this; that they could have just been duped into doing everything they did unwittingly, but these are not realistic really, and Allah knows best.
They also began to try to entrap me with two other agents. At first I thought the one who was sending me e-mails was just another random brother e-mailing me about things on the websites I posted on. Once he sent me an article on Somalia, and I posted it on a site without even reading it. I skimmed it to make sure there were no instances of blasphemy or other similar things in the post, but other than that I did not pay attention to its contents.
This agent continued to e-mail me, and while I found his e-mails to be a bit odd, I did not suspect him at first. However, after a month or two I decided his messages were too outlandish, and concluded that he was either a member of Al-Qaeda with no clue how to handle security or he was FBI. Around this time he asked me to meet him. I agreed, but I was basically just agreeing in order to verify my suspicions. I planned on having him followed, but the person I asked to do that either forgot or had something else to do. The prosecutors on my case initially claimed I brought a knife to the meeting to kill him, but I had no recollection of doing this, so my attorneys and I guessed that it might have been something I just said in my apartment without meaning it, so we suggested that to the prosecutor and this is what was entered into my plea deal.
At the meeting two people showed up, one of whom appeared to have recently bought his beard from a nearby “Party City.” He had also quite clearly been reading things I had posted, because he seemed to be going out of the way to mimic the specific security techniques which I uploaded articles on. The whole meeting was like bad theatre, and it was really quite strange. Both agents claimed to be ex-special forces (a trend with undercover agents), and they claimed they wanted me to come do martial arts training with them. I asked them what I would be doing after I did the martial arts training and they said that I could become an instructor. I thought this was a very strange plan for a sting operation, but I briefly considered going along with it while simply refusing to talk to them for even a moment about jihad. I figured that if the FBI wanted to give me free martial arts training, I might as well let them, but eventually I decided against it and told them I had other plans. One of the agents tried to badger me into going along with him, but I kept refusing again and again. The whole meeting lasted just a few minutes and we all went on our various ways.
I then got this person kicked off of a particular website after a third time of explaining that he was an undercover agent trying to entrap people. What was surprising is that this guy kept trying to get me to go along with him after all of this, when supposedly the FBI knew that I knew he was an informant. However, in another case where the person was playing games with an undercover agent targeting him, the FBI simply refused to declassify all of the evidence which would have proven he knew the person was an informant, and thus they convinced a jury that he was conspiring with a person whom he was simply using as more or less a joke.
In July 2010, I tried to board a flight to Uganda, but I was stopped by the FBI and Secret Service. A Secret Service agent on my case then pulled me aside and interviewed me in the airport. He asked me a few questions which all seemed to be of little consequence surrounding the president of the United States. I am not sure if they were basing the charge on this interview or if they decided not to try it against me due to it, but there was a point where there was discussion of using the fact that I invited Obama to become a Muslim to charge me with threatening him. I assume that their argument would have been that before a Muslim army invades a country, they invite the people to Islam, and thus my inviting him to become a Muslim must certainly have been along these lines. The agent effectively asked me this in the interview, and I told him that my inviting him to become Muslim had nothing to do with that, so this is why I am not sure if this interview was the source of the charge or the source of its quashing, and Allah knows best.
On this trip, I was bringing my son with me to Uganda, but the rest of the allegations stated in the media and in my plea deal surrounding this incident with my son are inaccurate. I tried to get my lawyers to have the prosecutor remove that statement from my deal, but they said that it was not worth pursuing and that in some respects it fit in with the argument they wanted to make at my sentencing anyway.
After going home, I refrained from doing anything really at all, and stayed in the house for essentially the entire time. I was trying to figure out a way to get out of the country, but I did not have very much money left because I spent a lot of what I had on tickets. I started a blog to study insurgencies which received some praise from a so-called expert in the field, and I also downloaded Al-Qaeda magazine, because there was something in it which I saw in the corrupted version which was of a bit of concern to me.
I was in touch with some people in Al-Shabaab and close to them, so I asked them about providing certain information to the government in exchange for them letting me leave the country. They approved certain things, so I went to the FBI with this information. The FBI initially agreed to the idea, but this was just a lie they told me hoping I might say something important. Actually, they apparently knew everything which I was approved to say beforehand anyway. I asked for them to take me to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, or some other country, but at my bail hearing these all turned into Somalia.
We Can’t Tape This Interview…
In the first interview, they wrote down a whole bunch of things which I definitely did not say. One of these allegations was that I told them I had tried to go to Somalia the previous week, and as you can imagine, this is a pretty central issue when one is charged with trying to go to Somalia. Some of the other things they made up were a bit inconsequential, and they were probably just writing those into their notes to inflate me as being some sort of high up member of the organization or something like that, when I was simply just very loosely attached to them.
One of the agents kept saying things which were mentioned in the anti-Islamic training conducted at Quantico. He spent a good deal of time just insulting Islam, and said things like, “Your religion allows you to lie to us, right?” I am not totally sure, but it seems like he is the more likely candidate for having made up the many things mentioned in the interview notes which I did not say. I do not know why they do not have to record their interviews when they were seemingly willing to spend thousands if not millions of dollars recording everything else I said.
In the second interview they began asking me about other things, and it was pretty clear from the beginning that they were going to arrest me. They expressed how they were pissed off over a video I uploaded with the brother who carried out the operation against the CIA agents in Afghanistan (the implication being that they were quite convinced that I was trying to do this to them). They tried to get me to speak about some of my friends, but I told them I was not going to speak about any of them. They then told me they were interested in the two undercover agents whom they tried to entrap me with. I said, “Those guys work for you.” They then lied and said they were really part of some terror cell, and then told another lie and said that Younes Abdullah Muhammad was working for them which was really quite the silly ploy, but I guess they were just trying to throw whatever they could at me and see if anything stuck. They asked me to e-mail their undercover agents insisting that they were some real group, so I told them I would do it from Africa. I thought they were just testing me to see if I was lying to them in the interviews. However, it would appear that they were trying to fabricate evidence against me in order to bolster what appears to have been a weak case.