An American alleged to have ties with Islamic terrorists abroad was arrested at a New York airport recently and is being held without bond, due in part to his Twitter rants reportedly suggesting his militant leanings.
FBI agents arrested Donald Ray Morgan, 44, of North Carolina, at John F. Kennedy International Airport Aug. 2 after he arrived aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Frankfurt, Germany, according to a federal affidavit. Morgan was arrested on federal firearms possession charge, the document said.
But at his bail hearing last week, prosecutors said Morgan's Twitter feeds paint a picture of a would-be terrorist aligned with the militant group known as the Islamic State, which is terrorizing northern Iraq and swaths of Syria. He was returning from an eight-month stay in Lebanon, where his wife lives, according to prosecutors.
Through his Tweets, Morgan, who also goes by Abu Omar al Amreek, pledged allegiance to Islamic State thug Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and may have been preparing for jihad in Syria, Iraq or possibly the USA, according to the New York Daily News, which first reported the hearing.
Morgan told federal investigators he was planning to return to Lebanon within a few days. That, paired with his Twitter rants, made him a flight risk, said Zugiel Soto, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
"In the detention hearing, it was argued he was a risk of flight and a danger to the community," she said.
Andrew McCoppin, a New York attorney who represented Morgan in a previous felony, did not return several requests for interview. The FBI office in Charlotte, which generated the arrest warrant, also declined to comment.
At the bail hearing, federal defender Peter Kirchheimer said there was no evidence Morgan is a member of ISIS or had provided material support, according to the Daily News. But Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Nadia Moore presented evidence to Magistrate Ramon Reyes – including the tweets – and warned that Morgan could be conspiring to traffic arms to the terrorist group.
The U.S. recently launched a series of airstrikes in northern Iraq aimed at blunting the advance of Islamic State militants in the country. In recent months, the group has overrun cities such as Mosul and Kirkuk and driven out Iraqi security forces.
At Morgan's bail hearing, Reyes agreed with prosecutors that the suspect was too big a risk to release to North Carolina on his own recognizance.
The tweets, he said, had "clearly implied to me that he is trying to go to Syria or Iraq as the next step and trying to be actively engaged," according to the Daily News.