FBI Let Terror Suspect Go Free After Admitting Plan to Join Al-Qaida


Even though Tnuza Jamal Hassan admitted to planning to join al-Qaida, marry a fighter and consider wearing a suicide belt, the Federal Bureau of Investigation let her go free.

Hassan was stopped from flying to Afghanistan in September and interviewed by the FBI, according to The Associated Press, but allegedly set small fires on her college campus in St. Paul, Minnesota, four months later after they let her go free.

“She confessed to wanting to join al-Qaida and took action to do it by traveling overseas. Unless there are other circumstances that I’m not aware of, I would have expected that she would’ve been arrested,” Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor, said. “I think she would’ve met the elements of a crime.”

Neither FBI spokesman Jeff Van Nest and U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tasha Zerna would discuss the case with the AP, but counterterrorism experts acknowledged that it seems as though Hassan was not monitored after her FBI interview on Sept. 22 where she admitted that she tried to join al-Qaida.

“I would certainly look at this person, not knowing more, as somebody who would be of interest to the FBI,” a retired assistant director of the FBI’s criminal division, Ron Hosko, said to the AP.

Watch: Biden Admits 'We Can't Be Trusted' in Latest Major Blunder

On Dec. 29, Hassan was prevented from traveling to Ethiopia with her mother using her sister’s identification with a jacket and boots in her possession, which seemed unnecessary for Ethiopia’s warm weather.

She was later reported missing on Jan. 10 and did not reappear until the Jan. 17 fires at St. Catherine University.

No one was hurt in the fires, which officials said was a “self-proclaimed act of jihad,” according to the AP. Hassan pleaded not guilty to “attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida, lying to the FBI and arson.”

According to Assitant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter, she had told investigators that “she hoped people would get killed.”

Do you think there should be repercussions for the FBI’s lack of action?

Hosko cautioned the public from jumping to conclusions and said, “Not every subject requires 24/7 FBI surveillance.” Hosko said that it is hard to know if Hassan was under surveillance and how the FBI assessed her capacity to follow through on her threat.

“I’m sure there are plenty of days where they hope they are right and they are keeping their fingers crossed,” he added.

A law professor at the University of Texas said that law enforcement has to balance preventing violence with not trampling on civil rights.

“This is a circle that can’t be squared,” Stephen Vladeck said. “We are never going to keep tabs on every single person who might one day pose a threat.”

This is just one of many people of interest cases that the FBI has mishandled. Most recently, the bureau admitted that “protocols were not followed” after they received a tip in January about Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.

Amber Alert Issued After Former Police Officer Allegedly Kills His Ex-Wife and Teen Girlfriend, Kidnaps Son

According to their statement, a person close to Cruz called the FBI’s Public Access Line and reported concerns about him on Jan. 5, 2018.

“The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the statement read.

The information from the caller “should have been assessed as a potential threat to life” and then given to the FBI Miami Field Office, “where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken,” under the established protocols.

“We have determined that these protocols were not followed,” the statement read. “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, , ,
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith