Terrorism Charges

As expected, according to the AP, one of the individuals arrested last week in Denver for making false statements has apparently been indicted in New York on conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction charges.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 2332a, it is a crime to conspire to use a weapon of mass destruction against, among other things, any person or property in the United States.  It is a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment.  A couple of really important caveats about this charge, though.  First, if the alleged target is a person or property located in the United States, some jurisdictional requirements need to be satisfied; one of the following must be shown:

  • the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce is used in furtherance of the offense;
  • such property is used in interstate or foreign commerce or in an activity that affects interstate or foreign commerce;
  • any perpetrator travels in or causes another to travel in interstate or foreign commerce in furtherance of the offense; or
  • the offense, or the results of the offense, affect interstate or foreign commerce, or, in the case of a threat, attempt, or conspiracy, would have affected interstate or foreign commerce;

Second, “weapons of mass destruction” does not mean what many think it means.  Yes, it means the nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons which were the supposed reason for invading Iraq.  But it has a much broader definition than just the nasty stuff.  It also includes a destructive device as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921:

  • a bomb,
  • a grenade,
  • a rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
  • a missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
  • a mine, or
  • a device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses.

It also means a rifle (other than a shotgun) having a barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter.  Antique rifles are exempted from this particular definition, however.  Flare guns, too.