He had a full scholarship to the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. But teenage Pakistani-American Mohammad Hassan Khalid lived a double life. The dark half of that life could land him in jail for almost as long as he’d been alive when he assisted other terrorists in attempts to murder enemies of Islam.
Khalid is the youngest person ever charged with terrorism.
He was just 15 years old and an honors student at Mount Hebron High School, in Ellicott City, Maryland, when Khalid first met Colleen LaRose, more popularly known as Jihad Jane, in an internet chat room. LaRose, of Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in 2011 of plotting to kill Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims. In 2007, Vilks had drawn the Muslim’s prophet, Mohammed, as a dog.
According to the indictment entered against Khalid, the teen solicited funds to support acts of terrorism, and passed and also hid passports to be used for committing acts of terrorism. The teen helped to devise and coordinate a violent jihad organization consisting of men and women from the United States and Europe “in order to wage violent jihad.”
In addition to helping LaRose, Khalid was charged with aiding Ali Charaf Damache, an Algerian man who lived in Ireland. Both LaRose and Damache sought to join what prosecutors called a “professional organized team,” who would be trained by al-Qaeda or other organizations to “kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.”
Logs of Khalid’s online chats reveal that what others saw as an outwardly well-adjusted, academically successful student was one who at the same time fantasized about engaging in martyrdom operations in his high school. According to records obtained by the Baltimore Sun, Khalid described his suburban neighborhood this way:
The place where i live is a HOTBED of nsa and all the security agencies of amrika… and the kids who study in my school proudly state that their parents work in NSA and FBI,” Khalid wrote, according to the logs cited in court documents. “it p****s me off.
Khalid was arrested when he was 17 years old. In Philadelphia federal court in 2012, Khalid pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists.
The maximum sentence the teen terrorist could receive is 15 years, but prosecutors sought a lesser term because Khalid worked with the FBI to help them develop other investigations after his arrest. Still, Jeff Lindy, Khalid’s defense attorney, claims the 10 year sentence being sought by prosecutors is excessive.
Lindy, from Suburban Philadelphia, said Khalid had undertaken his efforts to assist terrorists largely because he was young and because he had mental health issues, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“It was like a video game to him,” Lindy said.
Prosecutors agreed with Lindy that Khalid’s assistance was extremely useful to them, but argued in court papers that they believed he could be “re-radicalized.”
Lindy countered that the prosecutors created that problem themselves. Lindy’s evidence was that he had proposed sending Khalid to a secure residential facility for juveniles, where he could have received treatment for a compulsive interest in radical Islam. But the government rejected the offer, Lindy said.
“That shows just how ridiculously ignorant they are about fighting terrorism,” Lindy added.
Khalid’s sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 6. He also faces deportation after completing his prison term.
It’s a safe bet that Mohammad Hassan Khalid won’t be using that full scholarship to Johns Hopkins.