Saudi gets life term in bomb plot; sought ‘nice targets’ in U.S.


Emails and secrets don’t get along. A 22-year-old Saudi Arabian citizen who had studied chemical engineering at Texas Tech University was sentenced to life in federal prison Tuesday for attempting to make a bomb and identifying targets that included the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.

Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was sentenced in Amarillo, Texas, where jurors convicted him in June of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Investigators had uncovered a trove of his emails and notes.

“NICE TARGETS 01” was the name of one email he sent to himself listing the names of dams in Colorado and California, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Another “NICE TARGETS” note-to-self pondered hydroelectric dams and nuclear facilities as good possibilities; a third, “Targets,” included the home addresses of three soldiers who had served at Abu Ghraib, the prison that was home to high-profile U.S. military abuses in Iraq. A fourth, “Tyrant’s House,” listed the Dallas address of former President George W. Bush.


At one point, Aldawsari Googled several times whether people can take backpacks to Dallas nightclubs, investigators said.

Tuesday’s sentencing ended a terror investigation that, unlike other FBI cases in recent years, did not involve a federal sting operation in which agents helped a suspect create dummy bombs for attacks in the U.S.

Aldawsari’s plot appeared to be self-generated and drew officials’ attention after a chemical supplier noticed Aldawsari making a suspicious order for materials that would allow him to make an explosive compound similar to TNT.

But he had never attempted an attack, unlike the FBI’s sting cases. Aldawsari’s attorneys pounced on that fact, arguing that Aldawsari’s lack of action did not warrant a conviction for the charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

“I am sorry for these bad actions, but none of these bad actions did harm to the United States,” Aldawsari told Judge Donald E. Walter at his sentencing Tuesday, according to the Associated Press; he added that he felt cut off from his family and friends.

Walter acknowledged feeling some hesitation at sentencing Aldawsari to life, given his age and impressionability, according to the AP. “But the bottom line is that but by the grace of God there would be dead Americans,” Walter told the defendant. “You would have done it. In every step, it was you all alone.”


Investigators said they’d found Aldawsari’s journal in his apartment, in which he wrote that was inspired by the speeches of Osama bin Laden. Officials said Aldawsari’s journal showed he appeared to have been plotting an attack for years, at one point aspiring to create a Sunni militant group that would fall under Al Qaeda’s umbrella, as other loosely affiliated militant groups around the globe have done.

Aldawsari received a Saudi scholarship to study in the U.S., which “will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad,” he wrote in Arabic. He added, “And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad. I put my trust in God, for he is the best Master and Authority.”

“Khalid Aldawsari came to this country intent on carrying out an attack,” Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement Tuesday. “He then began purchasing ingredients to construct a bomb and was actively researching potential targets in America. Thanks to the hard work of many agents, analysts and prosecutors, his plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed; he was convicted at trial and, today at sentencing, he was held accountable for his actions.”

One of Aldawsari’s attorneys, Dan Cogdell of Houston, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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