The letters and the posting offer what appear to be the first public glimpses into Chesser’s thinking since he was sentenced last February to 25 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to soliciting violence, attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group, and threatening the creators of “South Park” after one of their shows depicted the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
Chesser, whom the report describes as the son of a U.S. government contractor, is incarcerated in Marion, Ill. The facility is one of two high-security penitentiaries in the United States with “Special Communications Units” sometimes referred to as “Guantanamo North” because they contain a high percentage of Muslim prisoners convicted of terrorism-related charges.
A gifted student who was, according to the report, briefly a Buddhist, Chesser converted to Islam in high school after dating a Muslim girl. But his radicalization appears to have taken place almost completely over the Internet, where he found like-minded people after local Islamic leaders disagreed with his views.
In his often rambling writings before his arrest, he recommended “desensitizing” law enforcement by planting phony bombs, and urged Muslim mothers to teach their children “the basics of jihaad.” He also corresponded via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical cleric killed by a U.S. drone last year in Yemen.
Chesser’s latest posting, on a Muslim prisoner advocacy site called aseerun.org and titled “Victims of the American Inquisition,” offers a window into a family torn apart by the events surrounding his arrest.
His wife, a fellow convert and a citizen of Uganda, voluntarily left the United States last year as part of his plea agreement and settled in Jordan. According to Chesser’s posting, the couple had hoped their 2-year-old son, Talhah, would join her. Instead, against their wishes, Chesser’s mother won custody earlier this year, Chesser wrote, and his mother-in-law has visitation rights. Neither woman is Muslim.
Although Chesser did not directly engage in violence, he is “significant because he is part of a trend which, if not addressed, threatens the security of our homeland,” the report says, adding that as incendiary material becomes more widely available online, there is “a corresponding increase in the number of individuals viewing extremist material and who can become radicalized.”