Thomas Osadzinski

Thomas Osadzinski of Chicago, Illinois, is accused of creating a first-of-its-kind computer code to copy, save, and distribute ISIS content online to preserve it in case of deletion by the platform’s administrators. Osadzinski is a student at DePaul University in Chicago, where he studies computer science and software development.Tom Cleary, “Thomas Osadzinski: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, November 20, 2019, https://heavy.com/news/2019/11/thomas-osadzinski/. The FBI arrested him on November 18, 2019. He faces up to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to ISIS.U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Illinois, “Chicago Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/pr/chicago-man-charged-attempting-provide-material-support-isis.

According to the criminal complaint against him, Osadzinski designed a computer script that directed bots—customizable third-party applications—on a social media platform to copy and save ISIS propaganda in order to better disseminate that material to ISIS supporters.U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download. The complaint referred to the platform in question only as “Social Media Platform 1.” Based on the description of the platform in the complaint, analysts believe that the encrypted chat program is likely Telegram.Tom Cleary, “Thomas Osadzinski: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, November 20, 2019, https://heavy.com/news/2019/11/thomas-osadzinski/; Seamus Hughes, Twitter post, November 19, 2019, 4:29 p.m., https://twitter.com/SeamusHughes/status/1196903408902516737. Throughout 2019, Osadzinski discussed and shared his program with undercover FBI agents whom he believed to be ISIS supporters.U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download.

Osadzinski called his plan “Operation: Heralds of the Internet” in a document he assembled outlining his goals. According to that document, the operation was intended to bring “people to Islam and teach everyone the transgressions of the Crusaders and how the Islamic State’s response to transgressions self-defense.”U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download. According to the document, Osadzinski sought to specifically include content from ISIS propaganda outlets “al-Furqan,” “al-I’tisam,” “Office of Media Productions for the Wilayat of The Islamic State,” “al-HimmahOffice,” and “Nasheed channels.”U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download.

The FBI began monitoring Osadzinski in 2018 after he entered a specific chat titled “Weapons” on the undisclosed social media platform on June 6. He shared an image about ingredients for the explosive TATP and then discussed with others in the chat how to acquire TATP. Osadzinski then engaged with an undercover FBI agent who was also in the chat. Osadzinski told the agent that the “mukharabat”—Arabic for state security—were watching him, so he had to remain quiet for the time being.U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, 11-12, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download. In February 2019, Osadzinski began translating Arabic to English for a pro-ISIS media organization on the platform that he connected with through a second undercover FBI agent. Osadzinski discussed with the agent how he was editing translations of ISIS videos. Osadzinski continued to offer his assistance to the agent, telling him that sometimes he is busy but “jihad is always more important than relaxing and games.”U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, 14-16, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download.

Osadzinski told the FBI agent in March 2019 that he was developing a computer code to help copy and save ISIS propaganda on the chat platform.U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, 19, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download. On August 16, 2019, Osadzinski sent the undercover agent the “Operation: Heralds of the Internet” document outlining his plan.U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, 11, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download. On October 8, 2019, and again on October 10, Osadzinski met in person in Chicago with an FBI confidential human source he had begun online communications with earlier that year. Osadzinski demonstrated how his software worked and discussed a new project to share ISIS videos using the computer programming language Python. Osadzinski called his project to preserve ISIS content “the highest form of jihad.”U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, 33-37, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download.

On November 2, 2019, Osadzinski pledged allegiance to ISIS’s new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.U.S. District Court of Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “United States of America v. Thomas Osadzinski Criminal Complaint,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, 38, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/press-release/file/1218556/download. The FBI arrested Osadzinski on November 18, 2019, in Chicago on a charge of attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. He faces up to 20 years in prison.U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Illinois, “Chicago Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/pr/chicago-man-charged-attempting-provide-material-support-isis. At Osadzinski’s preliminary hearing on November 19, 2019, his attorney requested that he be released in order to take his final exams later that week. The magistrate judge ordered Osadzinski to be held without bail.Jason Meisner, “DePaul student wrote computer code to help spread ISIS propaganda online, feds charge,” Chicago Tribune, November 19, 2019, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/criminal-justice/ct-chicago-college-student-terrorism-charges-20191119-ag5cmgewsfcd3fqqebrdnl3mge-story.html.

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