Shannon Conley is going to have a lot of time to be sitting and thinking about how she got to this point in her very short life. The 19 year old Colorado woman will be facing some very adult consequences after she was arrested on April 8th by the FBI when she tried to board a flight to Turkey. This was part of her plan to eventually join up with ISIL, while meeting up with someone she had met online, a supposedly 32 year old Tunisian man referred to as Y.M. in the charging documents, in order to either take up arms for jihad, or, if she wasn’t allowed to do that, work as a nurse treating ISIL members after marrying her “suitor.”
The story came to light in the media because the federal criminal complaint against her was just released yesterday, and she has been charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
How on earth does a 19 year old American teenage girl become so immersed in radical Islam that she openly admits to FBI agents that she wants to wage jihad?
Conley came to the FBI’s attention after attending classes at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, CO, last September. Apparently already a committed Muslim, she raised red flags among the church’s staff when it appeared she was taking notes on the layout of the church campus. Faith Bible Chapel was the scene of a 2007 shooting where two people were killed, and the gunman then went to another church and killed two more people before he was stopped. Taking a potential threat seriously, the church called the FBI.
Over the course of several months, Conley openly boasted to FBI agents – who she knew to be FBI agents – that she was ready to fight for the jihad:
The investigators asked her opinion about harming innocent people while waging Jihad and Conley stated that it depended on the circumstances.
“To Conley, it is okay to harm innocents if they are part of a target. She felt that if wives, children, and chaplains visiting a military base are killed during an attack, it is acceptable because they should not have been at a legitimate target. She repeatedly referred to US military bases as ‘targets,'” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit.
On Dec. 6, 2013, Conley was again interviewed by FBI Special Agent Karim Khomssi and another agent.
Conley told the FBI she joined the U.S Army Explorers to be trained in U.S. military tactics and in firearms. She said she intended to use that training to go overseas to wage Jihad, according to the affidavit.
And even as she trained with the U.S. Army Explorers, the FBI gave her chance after chance to stop – but she kept giving them more rope.
During a March 27 interview, two FBI agents made an “overt attempt to dissuade Conley from violent criminal activity and give her the opportunity to turn away from her intention to participate in supporting terrorist activities.”
Special Agent Khomssi “admonished Conley twice in the conversation that travel with intent to wage Jihad may be illegal and result in her arrest. Conley told SA Khomssi said she would rather be in prison than do nothing” to help the Jihadi cause, the affidavit said.
How can you stop someone who has been so brainwashed that she no longer cares about anything but jihad? It seems that no one could. Once they realized that she had become radicalized, not even her parents could stop her – despite the fact that she lived in their home.
In February, the FBI agents met with the teen’s parents, John and Ana Conley, with whom she lives in Arvada.
John Conley told the agents his daughter had “described Jihad to her father as struggles to help the oppressed or the poor.”
But the teen also expressed some doubts.
“Conley explained to her father she felt conflicted with what she thought Islam required of her. Conley believed she, as a Muslim, needed to marry young and be confrontational in her support of Islam. She conceded her knowledge of Islam was based solely on her own research that she conducted on the Internet,” the affidavit said.
Enter the mysterious Tunisian suitor, who bought her the one-way ticket to Turkey so she could marry him.
The father said he found Shannon talking with her Tunisian suitor on Skype. At the time, Shannon and the man asked John Conley for his “blessing” for them to marry and for her to travel to Syria to marry the man as soon as possible.
The father told the FBI he denied both requests and Shannon and the man appeared surprised.
In April, John Conley called an FBI agent and reported that he’d found Shannon had a one-way ticket to fly from Denver International Airport to Turkey on April 8.
I have to give the parents credit – they turned her into the FBI rather than watch her disappear forever, which is surely what would have happened. But where were they when she became interested in Islam? Where were they when her Internet research led her to be radicalized? Where were they when she was spending time Skyping with a strange man? Where were they when jihad became more important to her than anything else?
I wonder if they are asking themselves these same questions. After all, Shannon Conley is only 19. How long does the radicalization process of a young American woman take? And how many more young Americans out there are the terrorists trying to lure right now through the Internet?