A 29-year-old Virginia woman is set to appear again in federal court, Wednesday, after being charged in connection to favorable Facebook posts about the Islamic State of in Syria (ISIS). One of her posts simply read, "I love ISIS."
The woman, Heather Coffman, was caught in a terrorism sting operation after the authorities got a search warrant to unmask her Facebook account information. The warrant noted that there was probable cause to unveil who was behind several Facebook accounts because there were pictures of ISIS freedom fighters with words at the bottom that said "Allah has preferred the Mujahideen over those who remain [behind] with great reward." She also shared a job description on the social networking site that said "jihad for Allah's sake."
"In my experience, this indicates support for violent jihad. Further, the mujahideen are individuals that fight violent jihad," FBI agent Odette Tavares said in court documents (PDF). Additionally, in response to a question on Facebook about why she published pro-ISIS pictures, Coffman responded, "I love ISIS," according to the government. The feds also said she posted that she hates gays and Zionists and that "they should all die."
The months-long investigation ultimately led to Coffman being charged Monday with making "false statements" to federal agents "involving or promoting international domestic terrorism." Now jailed, she is to appear in Virginia federal court Wednesday for a detention hearing (PDF). She is accused of telling an undercover FBI agent that she could help facilitate sending somebody to join the ISIS fight in Syria, and she then lied to FBI agents about it. (The authorities have so far offered no evidence she has connections to ISIS.)
Coffman's attorney, Mark Schmidt, said the woman has a seven-year-old child and resides with her parents.
"As far as I know, she hasn't traveled anywhere. Her connections with the outside world would be on the Internet," he said. "I imagine you can get into trouble on the Internet, but I imagine you can also think a lot more's going on than really is. If nothing else, this is certainly a cautionary tale about the Internet."
The authorities said that two FBI agents interviewed her last week, according to FBI agent Tavares' account:
"Coffman was asked whether UC (undercover agent) supported ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Coffman told the FBI special agents 'We don't talk about things like that," Tavares wrote in an affidavit. "Coffman was also asked whether the UC 'ever expressed any support for ISIS or... any terrorist groups, Hammas, Hezbollah and al-Qa'ida, nothing like that?' Coffman responded by saying 'uh uh' and shaking her head no."
The agent wrote that, "in truth and fact" the woman and the undercover agent "had discussed their support for ISIS and other terrorist organizations."