Terrorism at GMU and the Very Long Arm of the Law

I found this email from the GMU Police about GMU and terrorism surprising and somewhat disturbing:

On Wednesday, March 20, 2019, Mason Police informed the Mason community about an individual who had threatened harm to the University in a video posted on social media. At the time of the threats, the suspect was located in Morocco and was not an immediate or credible threat to the Mason community. However, because the suspect’s actions violated Virginia criminal law, Mason Police secured five felony warrants of arrest related to bomb threats against the University. Additionally, Mason Police worked with Interpol and several federal law enforcement agencies to track the suspect through several countries in the Middle East before he was ultimately arrested on the Virginia warrants while trying to enter Israel.

The suspect, Nassim Darwich, was extradited back to the US through JFK International Airport in New York City. Yesterday, Mason Police were in New York to take custody of Mr. Darwich and return him to Virginia. He is currently in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where he is being held on $100,000.00 secured bond.

Mason Police would like to thank Interpol, the US Customs Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the FBI/NY for assisting Mason Police with monitoring and arresting the suspect. We also appreciate the Mason community members who saw Darwich’s internet-based threats and acted to alert Mason Police. If anyone has any additional information about this case, please give the Mason Police Department a call at (703) 993-2810.

The email was from April 5 so a university police department was able to reach out to the Middle East, arrest and extradite an individual to the United States in about two weeks. Impressive. As a potential target, I guess I am pleased. But it’s somewhat frightening to see how long the arm of the law has become, at least for terrorism related crimes.


It is disturbing that one state’s law can apply to social media posts made in a different country. Making threats that are known to be non-credible is close to free speech territory, and while countries should be allowed to criminalize that kind of behavior for their own citizens, it’s a pretty scary thing when they start criminalizing the speech of people in foreign countries.

Many countries have different free speech standards. IIRC, in many European countries, denying the Holocaust is a crime, while that is protected by the First Amendment in the US. In Thailand, it can be a crime to insult the king. It would be very disturbing if an American was extradited to Europe for denying the Holocaust on social media in America, or if a non-Thai person in a different country was arrested and extradited to Thailand for insulting their king on social media in that other country. It seems like we would be in a situation where the country that has the least regard for free speech sets the laws for the whole world.

I hear you regarding free speech. Things get very fuzzy with this one. He was a former student. Does he still maintain residency in the US? Was the specific individual that he mentioned, someone that he actually had some sort of in-person contact with in the past?

As for what's a crime in one country vs another, this seems more egregious to me than denying an event that did happen or even a personal insult. I recall a recent story of a woman from another country who called her ex-husband's new wife a horse on social media while in another country. She was arrested as soon as she entered that country later for a funeral. In this case, if there is a threat of physical danger to a large community, can you really wait to see if the person shows up? Maybe not allowing the individual back in the country would have been enough too. For me, this is a tough call. And yes, disturbing.

are there any countries where making bomb threats
is legal free speech
& how did you decide that the bomb threats were
"known to be non credible"

'"known to be non credible"'

How about something along the lines of 'this comment section needs to be blown up?'

Particularly as this comment section has no physical existence in any meaningful sense.

And to be less hypothetical, is this a credible threat? - 'Greenies deserve black eyes.' EdR, March 14, 2019 at 1:57 pm
in response to a NZ politician being punched in the face.

No, it is not a credible threat.

I am a sane with person with too much to lose, and committed to the rule of law.

That said, greenies deserve a black eye, rhetorically speaking.

You might look good with one also, as an accessory to your clown suit! :)

'You might look good with one also'

Love the empty rhetorical references to violence - of course that is a mark of sanity. And so committed to the rule of law, you wrote this at the same time - 'All politicians should live in fear of their constituents.' The rule of law is designed, explicitly, to remove the need for anyone to fear violence when going about their lawful business.

I am not threatening anyone with violence, but apparently my posts give you a groove you like to riff on. If it amuses you, go ahead.

Hey prior, when I heard that someone in a foreign country wanted to blow up GMU, guess who I immediately thought of?

Is the clock an embittered former GMU employee?

Does the pope wear a funny hat?


It is a funny hat, no visor, no sun protection, and very tall.

I wonder why the clock was stopped. Maybe his verbal communications are as long, turgid, and frequent as his online posts.

See the recent (2014) Supreme Court case Elonis v. United States for an example in a social media case:


"Mason Police secured five felony warrants of arrest related to bomb threats against the University" doesn't sound much like
your example
"How about something along the lines of 'this comment section needs to be blown up?'
one of these things is not like the other unless ur a postmodern
gender theorist because
george mason university does have an actual physical existence
unlike us ghosts

re: Elonis v. United States
so it looks like the supreme court just
criminalized a lotta rap music?

Try reading the case, or even a summary of findings.

been there done that

call avanutty!
we gonna middleclassactionsue that millionaire bookwriter
bernie sanders for negligent satire
we have been harmed
ye olden supreme courte that's mostly harvard

'one of these things is not like the other unless'

So, the entire comment I was responding to concerned 'countries where making bomb threats is legal free speech' and credible/non-credible threats.

However, if I threaten to drop an interstellar antimatter warhead on GMU, would you consider that a credible or non-credible bomb threat? And would it also be protected free speech?

depends on whether your ghost or not.
can you name a country where making a bomb threat is legally protected speech?
the middle class thought the whole bomb threat/speech
legal area was settled law & satire is still legal

'can you name a country where making a bomb threat is legally protected speech?'

The U.S. - you left out 'credible.' So, I will be dropping a Kree anti-neutron device on the Pentagon in five minutes. Which is a perfectly legal bomb threat to make in the U.S.

have u ever tried a little something
that sociologists call goat yoga?

And to adapt a quote - “My fellow commenters, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw goat yoga forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

dear colleague
pretty sure when we started out on this journey
the rule was hoax bomb threats don't equal political protest?
this smells like postmodern gender theory&harvard
we are gonna need to see a lotta paperwork from harvard
or we could just say fuck harvard!
& take hoax bomb threats off the table
there still lotta good stuff left

I think the issue of credibility was brought to light by the news article reporting on this incident. It points to a GMU official stating that this was initially a non credible event. That all changed as it was discovered that the individual was making plans to return.


Credibility, or lack of it, has two meanings here:

The impossible - "I will use my dark jedi mind powers to cause GMU to spontaneously combust"

The possible but impossible for the speaker to directly accomplish - "I will drive a truck bomb into the middle of GMU and set it off....however I'm on the other side of the world with no money, no materials, no knowledge of how to make such a thing etc. etc."

The second type of threat lacks credibility but nonetheless is illegal.

The original post says the Mason Police determined the threat was non-credible.

US law draws a line between what is protected free speech and what is a “true threat.” There are Supreme Court cases deciding that statements originally considered true threats were actually protected free speech. There is the Elonis case the other commenter brought up, and also a case from the Vietnam War called Watts that held that it was protected free speech for a protestor to threaten to shoot President Johnson over the draft because in context it was political hyperbole. In other contexts, US law says that incitement to violence is protected free speech unless the violence is imminent. These are difficult line-drawing problems, and other countries might draw the line in a different place. I would not want another country to decide something that I posted on social media in the US was a threat or incitement and try to have me extradited.

Big difference between insulting the king and threatening his life. GMU is a large, open, unguarded target.

I am still interested in why this guy had a Bert against GMU.

Can Alex or Tyler ask him what handle he used for his comments here? I honestly thought it would be Thiago behind bars not some guy from Morocco.

I thought it was clockwork-prior or MULP.

Those two write way too much to be like that. Its usually the quiet ones that are the most disturbed.

Isn't that fair given the long reach of today's criminals? Seeing as how some of these threats are credible as opposed to years ago when we all said we'd do just as an empty expression of anger, I'm not sure I have any issue with this.

My concern would be if this had happened and there was no notification. I hope everyone is safe and I hope the accused is deserving of this detention. It seems this individual is "known by law enforcement to make false and irrational statements."

Why does he hate you?

There are only 3 valid concerns here, and you've cited one.

1 - What did GMU do to make this man so angry (and what policies did the university violate in doing so)

2 - Why the hell does it take TWO WEEKS to arrest someone for five bomb threat felonies? (Keep your racist, bigoted opinions of Morocco to yourself.)

3 - Why does a GMU professor think Morocco is in the Middle East? It is eight miles from Spain. Is Spain the Middle East?

"Why does a GMU professor think Morocco is in the Middle East? I"

Re-read the post.

It's a curio, but in the UK the term "Middle East" is understood to extend, loosely, across North Africa; though the bulkier and more precise "Middle East and North Africa" construction is often used instead.

Furthermore, in this case the suspect traveled across multiple countries and was arrested entering into Israel.

"...Mason Police worked with Interpol and several federal law enforcement agencies to track the suspect through several countries in the Middle East..."

Almost 18 years have past.

As usual, I came out of the NYCTA subway sta. at Wall and William at about 8:30AM (we had been stopped under the WTC for some, long minutes) on September 11, 2001. There already was debris falling from the first jumbo jet strike by "some people."

And a year or two later, one of the street vendors, Zazi Najibullah, from whom office mates would buy coffee was arrested for plotting to bomb/WMD a subway car packed with New Yorkers.

So, I keep hearing, "White nationalist violence is the problem."

'So, I keep hearing, "White nationalist violence is the problem."'

Correct. If a patriot says someone should be "punched in the face" it is alarming to the globalists that would sellout their neighbors in a heartbeat. Yet if someone says "not all people are the same" or "some cultures are incompatible with western values and people from those cultures should not be admitted into the USA" then that person is a dangerous racist or worse, the new member, a white nationalist.

Imho, when someone says
"we should have open borders" that is a threat to the stability of the US, but I do not think they should be arrested for their "credible threats".

Maybe they just need a punch in the nose.

'If a patriot says someone should be "punched in the face" it is alarming to anyone who writes of they are 'committed to the rule of law.'

Unless they are just poseurs wrapping themselves in whatever words sound best at the moment, when posturing with empty threats of violence.

3 - Israel is in the middle east. That's the country Tyler was referring to, not Morocco.

I think Tyler should interview him.

Who's complacent?

Answer: Moroccan Terrorists openly posting on Social Media

A drone strike could have solved the problem even faster.

Rio de Janeiro State governor Mr. Witzel has ordered the elimination by police sharpshooters of any unauthorized person carrying assault weapons. I don't see how a terrorist is any different.

Is it possible that the e-mail from "Mason Police" involves a bit of puffery? That is, what are the chances the "Mason Police" are greatly exaggerating their involvement vis-a-vis federal agencies, such as the FBI and Homeland Security? I would guess the chances are pretty good.

'Is it possible that the e-mail from "Mason Police" involves a bit of puffery? '

Even the tiniest little bit? Why, that sounds so cynical are you sure you are not trolling?

PR of that sort is always about puffery, it is just a matter of degree.

"GMU authorities worked with Interpol to track Darwich through the Middle East and determined he was planning to return to Fairfax County, leading them to put out five felony warrants for his arrest."


Former student + bomb threats + (hypothetical) plan to visit GMU is a different scenario.

By the way, there are healthier ways to deal with resentment at GMU....like trolling around MR ;)

I agree. If he was arrested just for his threat, this is worrisome. If the FBI or someone determined that, for instance, bought a plan ticket to DC, then this makes the threat credible, and this possibly becomes more than a threat, but a preparation of a terror act (a felony).

According to the French law, to be judged in France for something you do in an other country, two conditions are required: (a) you, OR one of your victims, is French. (b) the things you did (or accused of doing)
is a crime both in France and in the country, OR it is a felony (not a misdemeanor) in France. From what I read in the post, it seems that some
similar rule has been applied for the US. Does someone know the US law on that?

'this is worrisome'

Why? Notice where he was arrested - do you think the Israelis care about whether the warrant is valid in another country? Say what you like about the Israelis, but everyone is clear on their response to those accused of making bomb threats. And how quickly the Israelis will make sure such people have no possible ability to make a bomb to back up any threat.

At least until such people are deported.

I was not talking about Israel, but about the US (were the victims were) and Morocco. And Israel didn't arrest the guy because he was making threats but simply because there was an Interpol warrant against him. And for the extradition of that guy to the US, extraditions are as much political decisions as legal ones. In this case, since the US and Israel have good relations, there was no reason for Israel to refuse extraditing him.

And Israel probably couldn't legally judge him, since was not Israeli (I suppose), and his victims were not either (oh, there may be some Isreeli at GMU, but they were not specifically targeted.)

'I was not talking about Israel'

However, that is where he was arrested.

'but simply because there was an Interpol warrant against him'

For making bomb threats - the warrants are not exactly top secret information, but legal documents.

Admittedly, I have no information about this guy at all and no interest in finding out more, but a Moroccan making bomb threats of any type is very likely to be arrested in Israel by the Israelis, Interpol warrant or not.

Israel has a wall and they are very selective about who they allow through.

In fact, the UK used to be rather picky. I remember being pulled out of line in Heathrow, in the early 90s, for a little extra questioning from some very polite but curious gentlemen. They were very interested in the very dull details if my trip. Only later did I realize my Irish surname might have aroused interest, but it could have been random.

So much for the "fundamental human right" to go wherever one wants.

"All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others." - well, you know who.

I think the criteria you list under (b) are more relevant to whether a country (e.g., France) will grant an extradition request rather than whether one can be tried in a country (e.g., France) for a crime. Perhaps, though, you just didn't complete your sentence (grammatical, not criminal).

Thanks for your remark, but I think my formulation was correct
For example, if a French citizen goes to Canada for vacation, and use cannabis there, post a selfie of him doing it on Facebook, and then goes back to France, he cannot be judged in France, because what he did was
(b1) lawful in Canada AND (b2) just a misdemeanor in France. If on the other hand he killed someone in Canada, then France (and also Canada) could judge it.

Would that be the same for a US citizen smoking shit in Canada, resident of a state where this is forbidden?


Thanks for the clarification. The example helps (although the same criteria are often used for extradition).

US law on extra-territorial jurisdiction is not easily summarized; but, In general, there is a presumption that US laws don't have extra-territorial effect unless otherwise stated. Nevertheless, the US (federal government) tends to claim at least concurrent criminal jurisdiction over criminal acts committed by US citizens abroad and/or where a US citizen is the victim (regardless of whether the activity is illegal in the place where the act is performed, I think, because I know of no precedent to the contrary. I do recall, however, the famous episode of WIlliam F. Buckley Jr. smoking pot in international waters to avoid, in his view, violating the law). As a practical matter, though, I think it (and other countries) tend to defer to the country where the act was committed) where the two countries have concurrent jurisdiction. Certain statutes have extra-territorial effect even for non-citizens. Here's an interesting case arising from 9/11 that is quite similar to the issues facing the Nassim Darwich case:

U.S. v. Yousef, 327 F.3d 56, 86-88, 61 Fed. R. Evid.Serv. 251 (2d Cir. 2003)

You may find this summary very useful:


If the students and faculty were all allowed to

Pack heat

You wouldn't have to worry.

And, they could reduce the number of GMU campus police to reduce terrorism.

No. I wouldn't trust a college kid with a gun.

'I wouldn't trust a college kid with a gun.'

Clearly ROTC programs are just a leftist plot that cannot be trusted - 'The George Mason Army ROTC Patriot Battalion began in 1982, achieved independent status in 2000, and frequently conducts training with colleges and universities throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.' https://catalog.gmu.edu/student-services/reserve-officers-training-corps/

Clockwork thinks ROTC kids are walking around campus with loaded firearms.

Jesus Christ, you are an academia PR dude.

Of course not - I just think that the members of the college age ROTC Patriot Battalion are trusted to handle firearms, for example on a shooting range or in training - as seen here https://arotc.gmu.edu/prospective-cadets/ranger-challenge-photos/ One assumes that it is fully accurate to say those members are carrying military assault rifles in the pictures, and that they would never carry such weaponry on campus.

Why would anyone think that members of the Patriot Battalion would ever walk around campus armed?

Well, this is the MR comments section, so why even raise the question.

You do realize the average age of elisted soldiers is 27, and the median is likely less?

Two thirds of soldiers are under age 30. Nine percent are under 20. I'd guess in the absence of data that for those between 20 and 30, the preponderance are below 25.

Your next response might be that soldiers are well trained with firearms, but really most aren't. They get a few days of weapons training a year. Many civilians take it upon themselves to get trained.

@Bill: for the sake of curiosity, how can you stop a bomb or a car bomb with a gun?

Can't one shoot the explosion? I think I saw it on a TV show.

That's true. If you shoot a car, it'll blow up. Michael Bay taught us that.

See, everything works out at the end.

All roads lead to open borders!!!

'at least for terrorism related crimes'

Don't worry, the Chinese have yet to make any terrorism related charges against those in other countries that support liberty or freedom.


Setting social norms is a job ordinarly in the hands of elected officials and lawmakers, but delegated to social media cohorts. Arresting bomb threateners is a valid means of setting a norm here. Threaten and you’ll be taken seriously (if you reach back, this was the attitude with plane hijackings, and it ended the pranksters). While First Amendment issues are a consideration, safety and quality of life issues have a say in this as well.

I think the law is misplaced on this issue. There is a distinction between someone saying that he will lead an army to the capital with torches and pitchforks to hang members of Congress and someone who threatens to plant bombs. The former is clearly hyperbole, wishful thinking and boastfulness while the latter is well within the capabilities of anyone.

When someone is actually at the head of a small army, I'd take the former threat more seriously.

We invade the world because we invite the world, Tyler. Don't get squishy on us.

This is an Alex post. Not Tyler.

I hope it was not Prior_Approval. Are you still free Prior_Approval?
Hi NSA, I'm just joking so please do not investigate Prior_Approval.

The NSA does not investigate, they simply record. Meaning that the NSA has recordings of my international calls in 1982, at least in the sense of likely dead storage in some facility somewhere.

All American citizens who call the U.S. from outside the U.S. are recorded by the NSA. That was true a generation ago, and is even more true now in terms of ease of access and long term storage.

What is (sadly) amusing is just how many commenters seem not to remember the last time I was apparently a 'suspect,' or why Prof. Cowen in particular might feel to be 'a potential target:'

You are batshit insane.

Or simply knew about this program back in the 1980s - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON#Public_disclosures_%281972%E2%80%932000%29

The amusing thing is that recording calls from a foreign country into the U.S. was never really controversial. What is done these days is considerably more involved, and no longer even bothers with the fig leaf of only affecting non-citizens calling from outside the U.S.

But Snowden is a more better source for that information.

Well, either 'more informed' or 'better' - 'more better' is unlikely.

Surprised you didn't get threats from a disgruntled former employee living in Germany.

A former employee of whom? I have never worked for the Mercatus Center or IHS, do not know Prof. Cowen at all, and having nothing but praise for GMU, whether working there for a private employer, the GMU Foundation, or the Commonwealth of Virginia (in several different GMU departments).

What I have nothing but contempt for is those that pretend they are part of GMU when they are merely using an imaginary connection to GMU, in an attempt to lend academic credibility to their opinions.

Working for GMU (at least a couple of decades ago) was fantastic, and I highly recommend it. Anyone working for the Mercatus Center or IHS alone is not a part of GMU, and never has been, obviously.

Not surprised. You used to say your obsessive pathos was due to being forced to engage in MARKETING for GMU. The horror....the horror...

Ah, you are talking about being in the PR department, and lying about how IHS, for example, was part of GMU?

The horror was marketing (following very clearly defined boundaries, the GMU PR department being part of a taxpayer funded institution of higher learning, and not be used to benefit exclusively private organizations that had no official connection to GMU) involving organizations that were merely pretending to be part of GMU.

I kept working several years at GMU after leaving the PR department. Being involved in that work felt slimy even then, though clearly some people revel in pretending that what they are doing is not actually an intentional deception intended to further certain goals.

Was the $30 million check that Koch Industries gave GMU also imaginary?

Do all the peer reviewed journal articles from Mercatus not have their own academic credibility?

Does your scorn about non-profits colocated and cooperating with universities extend to those of all ideologies?

'Was the $30 million check that Koch Industries gave GMU also imaginary?'

They gave it, in the main, to the GMU Foundation. And the GMU Foundation, in turn, provides funding for the Mercatus Center, which is completely independent of GMU, the university. It is a game, one that has been going on for a generation, that allows people to claim things that are not actually based on reality, but which also require court action to be demonstrated in public. People familiar with this game generally don't talk about it in public, of course - such as a 20 million dollar secret donation to change the name of a Virginia taxpayer owned law school. And there are those eager to deny that the game they are playing even exists in the first place.

Or you can use https://www.citizenaudit.org and discover for yourself how this works. For example, in 2013 the IRS 990 information shows that the GMU Foundation contributed almost 10 million dollars to the Mercatus Center. Which is 6 times as much as that foundation provided for actual GMU scholarships.

Don't believe the ever so intentionally misleading information. Instead, read the actual forms, not the PR releases. Or court documents, as the GMU Foundation attempted to argue that as a private entity, it had no obligation to reveal any information the way that GMU, a public entity, would. There are several reasons why so much money donated to 'GMU' is actually donated to the GMU Foundation, and why the conflating of the two is not accidental.

As noted in this ongoing court case - 'Members of student group Transparent GMU went Tuesday, Feb. 12 to Richmond to have their case against the GMU Foundation and Mason considered by a writ panel of the Virginia Supreme Court.

The case centers around whether the GMU Foundation, a private entity that processes donations to Mason, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). If so, it would require them to release information related to currently private agreements between donors and Mason.' http://gmufourthestate.com/2019/02/18/mason-donor-transparency-case-comes-before-writ-panel/

Is an American jail a worse place to live than a Moroccan slum?

Just wondering...

Of course it is.

How can you be so sure? From my perspective there are far more opportunities to have a cock thrust up your ass in an American jail than in a Moroccan slum. To me this is several hundred points for the US Jail.

It must be me and my European background (or what?), but:
"Mason police": ???
"University police department": ???

Universities in America often have their own police departments (and what one could call their own jails, though detention is very short term before transfer to a 'real' jail).

To make this even more interesting, since GMU is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the local Fairfax County (or Arlington or Prince William for that matter) police have no jurisdiction at all, but only the state police, if the campus police are unable to deal with a situation. For example, an accident involving a state vehicle on the GMU campus grounds is not (or was not in the past) handled by the campus police, but by the state police.

A cynical person might point out that the campus police know who they are working for, and have a definite incentive not to beat up students, or to make arrests that would make the university look bad. The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 - want to guess how often the campus police arrest violators? At least compared to issuing verbal warnings that never seem to get written down. A principle that extends to a bit more than simple drinking infractions.

It is all quite intricate, and part of what makes America such an interesting place.

Unbelievable how university campus police let college kids drink beers even when under 21. We'll all probably be dead in a decade, isn't that interesting?

The nature of the campus security force on an American college campus varies widely from campus to campus. On a small private campus they might be basically just a more active form of a night watchman.

GMU seems to be at the other extreme, their campus security force, if the email is to be believed, are reaching out to Interpol. And they have their own SWAT force:

In the early 90s my husband worked in a state office building. They got bomb threats occasionally. One evening he reported that there had been some such incident that day, and in response the authorities had evacuated the 3rd and 5th floors. He worked on the 4th floor. He asked his boss, a Persian guy, about this. His boss wasn't worried. "Hey, buddy, I'm from Iran."

The most amusing point is they let him out on a piddly $100k bail, after going through all the effort to find and extradite the guy.

It's almost like the GMU police are trolling the GMU faculty.

You mean the GMU bomb-threatener was in Morocco, and now he's walking, or driving a white BMW, around Fairfax? Good news, Tyler, I don't think you need be overly disturbed by the sinister "impressiveness" of the American criminal justice system.

peri, it is not Tyler it is Alex.

I fall for that old switcheroo every time.

Now that I think about it, seems like a strange post from Alex T. I know he is alert to law enforcement abuses, but from any other perspective I associate with him, I don't see why he would "think globally, [but] cop locally."

Didn't some Trump loving semi-literate primitive monkey recently make a death threat at Ilhan Omar?


I bet Darwich is a Keynesian.

Why is this deranged and/or angry person’s threat deemed “terrorism”? How is this different from a regular dangerous crazy person’s threat to someone they know?

Comments for this post are closed