An American Terrorist

Zachary Chesser Timeline

[Zac Chesser senior photo]

Virginia native, Zachary Chesser was born on Dec. 12, 1989, in Charlotesville. He attended He'll go to trial in February 2011, facing charges relating to terrorist activities, including soliciting violent crimes. The timeline below documents his conversion to Islam and subsequent online and personal activities that led to his arrest in July of this year.

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DOCUMENTS: Manifesto, high school yearbook and more

2008
2007-08: Chesser's senior year. He becomes interested in Islam and joins Oakton High School Muslim Students Association.

Summer: Chesser converts to Islam.

Fall: Chesser enrolls at George Mason University.

Dec. 2: Chesser first appears on Anwar al-Aulaqi's website asking about English-language madrassas.

2009
January: Chesser corresponds with Proscovia Nzabanita al-Aulaqui's site.

March 6: Chesser marries Nzabanita.

May 14: An FBI agent interviews Chesser. He tells the agent that his email account is zchesser@gmu.edu, and that he owns and operated an acount on YouTube.com called AlQuranWaAlaHadeeth

May-June: FBI interviews Chesser again. He tells the agent the he sent al-Aulaqi several emails and that al-Aulaqi replied to two. He also tells the agent that he started a Youtube.com account called LearnTeachFightDie. Chesser tells the agent he has changed his mind about wanting to do violent jihad but also says he would be willing to die in the name of Islam.

November: Nzabanita and Chesser's son is born. Chesser leaves the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia and attempts to travel to Somalia with Nzabanita.

December: Chesser begins his own blog, themujahidblog.com. In a mission statement, posted Dec. 23, he states that the blog "will be primarily devoted to spreading knowledge regarding Jihad and the Mujahideen."

2010
Jan. 9: Chesser posts to his blog a piece titled, "How to Help the Mujahideen" saying "we have to actually go and fight against the disbelievers."

Jan. 19: Chesser posts a video to his AlQuranWaAlaHadeeth YouTube account that includes a screenshot of a TSA manual on aviation security screening.

Feb. 11: Chesser posts a link to a chapter in the U.S. Army Rangers handbook about demolitions.

March 7: On his blog, Chesser posts an article called "Open Source Jihad," detailing his thoughts about how the movement can thrive online. He later says that he believes al-Aulaqi borrowed the term from his article.

March 20: Chesser protests in front of White House and posts a video of himself telling the U.S. to pull out of the Middle East and urging President Barack Obama to convert to Islam.

April: On Revolution Muslim's website, Chesser posts a warning to "South Park" creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, over a "South Park" episode that portrayed Muhammad dressed in a bear costume. Chesser also posts links to an article highlighting the location of Stone's and Parker's personal residences.

April 20: A MujahidBlog tweet says, "The kuffar are really starting to pick up on the South Park story in sha'a Allah this can be the USA's version of the Rushdie affair in UK," referring to the fatwa issued against British-Indian author Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989.

May 28: Court-ordered electronic surveillance hears Chesser tell his wife that he is taking their son with him to Uganda as part of his cover.

June 24: An FBI search of Chesser's Fairfax residence finds computers, DVDs and more, but no laptop. They also find a journal where he talks about his desire to join al-Shabab.

June 28: Chesser posts his manifesto, "Raising Al Qaa'ida," to several sites

July 10: Chesser is barred from boarding a flight from JFK to Uganda. While speaking with agents at the airport he says he may drive to Mexico or Canada in order to leave. He also says he does not necessarily disagree with al-Aulaqi.

July 11: Bombing at World Cup semifinal in Uganda for which al-Shabab claims responsibility.

July 14: Chesser calls FBI and says he has had a change of heart after the Uganda bombings and wants to provide them with information regarding al-Shabab.

July 21: FB arrests Chesser.

Oct. 20: Chesser pleads guilty to providing material support to terrorists, communicating threats and soliciting crimes of violence. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 25. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
SOURCES: FBI, ADL, Aaron Zelin. GRAPHIC: Meghan Louttit, Tara Bahrampour - The Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2010.

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