A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday on charges of "solicitation of a crime of violence" after he allegedly reblogged a Tumblr post that called for Muslims in America to kill 100 U.S. service members, whose purported names and addresses were included in the post.
The Department of Justice announced the arrest of Terrence J. McNeil, 25, of Akron, Ohio, in a news release that appeared to acknowledge the First Amendment implications of the case.
"While we aggressively defend First Amendment rights, the individual arrested went far beyond free speech by reposting names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members, all with the intent to have them killed," said Stephen Anthony, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Cleveland Division, in the news release.
McNeil did this, according to the 33-page complaint, by reblogging a pro-ISIS post of a GIF to his own Tumblr account.
"According to the allegations in the complaint, Terrence McNeil solicited the murder of members of our military by disseminating ISIL's violent rhetoric, circulating detailed U.S. military personnel information, and explicitly calling for the killing of American service members in their homes and communities," Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in the news release.
The complaint laid out multiple instances of McNeil allegedly posting violent, pro-ISIS material on Tumblr. A BuzzFeed News review of the Tumblr account, viewable on Thursday afternoon, found that multiple instances of alleged support were reblogged pictures. Additionally, the complaint details McNeil allegedly posting statements supporting violence against Americans on Facebook and Twitter. The complaint notes the Twitter account was suspended, and the Facebook account appears to have been suspended Thursday evening. McNeil's Tumblr account appears to have been shut down Friday afternoon.
Neither the Justice Department nor the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio responded on Thursday to a question regarding the First Amendment implications of such an arrest.
Unlike other arrests of Americans charged with connections to extremist groups, the complaint does not state that McNeil provided financial support or planned to leave the U.S. to join a group.
The only mention of McNeil being observed under physical surveillance is under a section that details his bus travel, stating that he was seen leaving his residence in October and taking public transportation to his place of employment, Akron City Hospital.
An examination of McNeil's bank accounts yielded similar mundane results, showing two direct deposits from his employer and five transactions at the Akron City Hospital Cafe and Starbucks.
The complaint primarily cites McNeil's Tumblr page, where he posted under the username "Abu Fil," as the source of the evidence used in his arrest.
The post cited as evidence that McNeil solicited the death of U.S. military personnel is a GIF post that he reblogged from a pro-ISIS account on September 24, 2015.
The first image of the GIF displays a banner of the "Islamic State Hacking Division" and calls on Americans to kill "kuffar" (non-believers) in their own land as part of jihad. The GIF then loops dozens of images of what appear to be U.S. military personnel, next to their purported names, addresses, and service branches.
"Now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what, are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe."
If you look at McNeil's Tumblr post, you can see that at least three other people reblogged the post in question. The federal complaint did not state whether or not these other individuals had been arrested or have been involved in the investigation.
Like the GIF featuring military personnel, many of the posts cited in the complaint as evidence are not posts that McNeil made himself, but rather ones that he reblogged from others onto his own Tumblr page.
The complaint even seems to confuse these facts in at least one place. The complaint states that "on or about August 14, 2015," McNeil "posted" the image below to his Tumblr page, when in fact he reblogged it from another account. The complaint uses the word "reblog" in other examples.