There is a truly bizarre case out of Australia where a 20-year-old has been arrested after posting bomb making instructions and encouraging fellow Islamic State supporters to engage in terrorism. Unfortunately, there is nothing particularly new about that story except that the “Australi Witness” is Joshua Ryne Goldberg, a Jewish man living with his parents in Florida.
Goldberg has been writing about his work with other jihadis and distributed pictures of a bomb with “2 lbs of explosives inside” that closely resembled the bomb used in the Boston Marathon attacks. Working with Australian authorities, Goldberg was arrested in Florida and charged with “distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction.”
The Justice Department maintains that Goldberg instructed a confidential source how to make a bomb and how to fill it with nails, metal and other items dipped in rat poison. The emails on five web links were part of a plot to explode a bomb on September 13 at a memorial ceremony in Kansas City, commemorating the 9/11 the terrorist attacks.
While he first denied the allegations, police say that he later admitted that he sent the information but insisted that he meant for the person he was communicating with to kill himself creating the bomb. Alternatively, Goldberg was going to turn in the man and be a hero for stopping a terrorist attack.
That will be a difficult defense to maintain unless he took steps or has some record of his intent. Even then, a jury is likely to be skeptical. During his long role as Australi Witness, Goldberg was viewed by many intelligence officials to be a serious and major terrorist suspect.
This is not his only hoax or false identity. Goldberg also established a blog on the Times of Israel in the name of prominent Australian lawyer, Josh Bornstein. He then posted articles that called for the “extermination” of Palestinians.
The charges may raise some free speech issues surrounding the crime of discussing or posting public information. However, the law contains a critical intent element that the information was meant to assist in an actual attack:
(2)Prohibition.—It shall be unlawful for any person—
(A) to teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence; or
(B) to teach or demonstrate to any person the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute to any person, by any means, information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, knowing that such person intends to use the teaching, demonstration, or information for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence.
Notably, Goldberg reportedly admits that he wants the bomb to go off and kill the person on the other side or that it would be used in an attempted terrorist attack that he would foil. Both would constitute crimes of violence.
There remains the question of incapacity due to mental illness. However, that standard is much higher than television shows and crime stories would suggest, as discussed in earlier columns. Goldberg’s use of relatively sophisticated means to carry out these communications will seriously undermine any such claim. His defense (or rationalization) also militates against such a defense.
It is a rather demented Walter Mitty tale but the conclusion will not likely be a positive one for Goldberg whose fictional identities are likely to lead to real jail time.
Source: Times of Israel