JERUSALEM – Is the Justice Department refusing to charge an American for joining an al-Qaida-front terrorist group because the Obama administration is reportedly arming the so-called Syrian rebels who consist in part of members of the very same jihad organization?
The case centers on U.S. Army veteran Eric Harroun, who not only admitted to joining the al-Qaida front group Jabhat al-Nusra but has boasted on Facebook and YouTube about his adventures fighting with the jihad group.
Al Nusra, responsible for hundreds of terrorist attacks in Syria, was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization last December. The group has also targeted American troops in Iraq.
Harroun has not being charged with membership in a terrorist organization despite his admissions and even posting online photos of himself fighting with al-Nusra.
Instead, Harroun only faces the charge of allegedly using a rocket-propelled grenade in Syria.
The law used to charge him states, "Any national of the United States who, without lawful authority, uses or threatens, attempts, or conspires to use a weapon of mass destruction outside of the U.S. shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or if death results, may be punished by death."
Failure to charge Harroun with membership in a terrorist organization may now set a major legal precedent regarding the activities of al-Nusra.
Charging Harroun with joining al-Nusra could also have major legal implications for U.S. officials.
Confirming WND’s exclusive reporting for over a year, the New York Times two weeks ago reported that since early 2012, the CIA has been aiding the Arab governments and Turkey in shopping for and transporting weapons to the Syrian rebels.
This week, Reuters further reported Obama allegedly signed a secret order in 2012 authorizing U.S. agencies such as the CIA to provide support to rebel forces in Syria.
The type of support includes helping to run a secret military communications command center in Turkey to aid rebel groups. The Reuters article also said U.S. citizens are training rebels and possibly giving them equipment, at least since the summer.
A major issue of arming the Syrian rebels is the inclusion of jihadists, including al-Qaida, among the ranks of the Free Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition groups. Al-Nusra is said to heavily permeate the Syrian rebel ranks.
The New York Times and Reuters both report the U.S. is working to vet the rebels for inclusion of al-Qaida, but it is not immediately known how successful such vetting has been and whether the rebels directly armed by the U.S. will share their weapons with jihadists within their ranks.
Meanwhile, Harroun, 30, of Phoenix was arrested Tuesday by the FBI at a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
A Justice Department official told CNN that FBI agents questioned Harroun at the hotel then took him into custody.
Harroun joined the U.S. Army in 2000, and he was discharged with full disability pay for an injury in 2003 without ever having seen battle, according to his father.
The London Daily Mail reported Harroun has bragged online about joining al-Nusra.
“Getting into al-Nusra is not rocket science,” he said. “It just takes balls and brains.”
Harroun reportedly revels in his “hero” status and boasts on Facebook and in YouTube videos of his bloody exploits with al-Nusra in Syria.
The Daily Mail noted his Facebook page is littered with photos of himself brandishing handguns, rifles, mortars and other weaponry.
In a photo of himself holding a mortar in one hand and a rifle in the other that he posted on Facebook, he writes, 'Lol Army of Darkness, This is my BOOM STICK. Lol.'
Harroun described himself as a Sunni Muslim on Facebook and writes about his hatred of Israel and Zionists. In the “Favorite Quotations” section of his profile he writes, “The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.”
With additional research by Joshua Klein