Virginia teen gets 11 years for aiding ISIS

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A Virginia teenager behind a powerful pro-extremist Twitter account who helped a friend travel to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday.

Prosecutors framed the sentencing against 17-year-old Ali Shukri Amin as a demonstration of the federal government’s efforts to aggressively confront efforts by ISIS to spread its reach and recruit new members on social media, which officials say can fuel domestic extremism in the U.S.

Amin confessed earlier this summer to running the @Amreekiwitness Twitter account, which at its peak had more than 4,000 followers and routinely offered up propaganda in support of ISIS. The account also instructed people how to use the virtual currency bitcoin to covertly fund ISIS.

Additionally, Amin admitted to having arranged for an ISIS supporter to travel to Syria to join the group's ranks. That supporter has since been arrested and charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorism.  

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ISIS “continues to use social media to send their violent and hateful message around the world in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite youth and others to support their cause,” John Carlin, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. “More and more, their propaganda is seeping into our communities and reaching those who are most vulnerable.”

“The Department of Justice will continue to use all tools to disrupt the threats that ISIL poses, and our efforts will be furthered by parents and other members of our community willing to take action to confront and deter this threat wherever it may surface,” he added, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.

The case underscores the more aggressive posture that the Justice Department has taken toward suspected Islamic extremists in recent months, amid increased fears of “lone wolf” terror attacks.

Department officials have maintained that they need to be more forceful with prosecutions in light of the possibility that individuals grow radicalized on the Internet and then are inspired to launch violence in their home communities.

FBI Director James Comey has said that the bureau is following leads connected to ISIS in every state in the country. Dozens of people have been arrested this summer for charges of supporting the group.

Critics, however, claim that the government is too willing to file charges against people who merely expressed hateful views on the Internet but would not likely have had the ability to actually carry out any violence.