Muhammad Mahmood Masood

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Vetting Year
Time from U.S. Entry to Discovery
1 year, 11 months
National Security Crime Type
Nationality of Perpetrator
Immigration Status Type
Agency Responsible for Failure
State Department for H-1B
Opportunities Missed
Nation(s) Vetting Occurred
Arresting Agency
Criminal Charges
Material support for terrorism (ISIS)
Case Outcome
Convicted 08/2022 for material support for terrorism
Case Summary

Pakistani national Muhammad Masood, a licensed medical doctor in Pakistan, was able to obtain an H-1B skilled worker visa in February 2018 to work as a research coordinator for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. In this case, it’s not entirely clear that State Department officers in Pakistan responsible for vetting local Pakistani applicants for U.S. visas could have discovered Masood’s mindset. But it seems more likely than not that the 28-year-old medical doctor was already radicalized and held violent extremist views, judging by the extent of his commitment to violent jihad he was observed espousing within 24 months of his arrival at the Mayo Clinic.

Perhaps because he was a doctor, U.S. State Department consular officers in Pakistan did not investigate deeply. But by at least January 2020, when an FBI counterterrorism investigation started, Masood was already deeply enmeshed in a circle of foreign jihadists with whom he frequently communicated online. To them, he explained that he had regarded his visa and Mayo Clinic job as having enabled him to get “behind enemy lines“ where “not many people can’t [sic] even reach here to attack”. Between January 2020 and March 2020, the FBI found, Masood was pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader online. He expressed his desire to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS or, failing that, to conduct “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in the United States. Some of those with whom Masood communicated were FBI informants.

“I want to kill and get killed...and kill and get killed … and again and again. This is what … Allah wished,” he told one.

Masood followed through on his words with deeds.

On Feb. 21, 2020, Masood purchased a plane ticket from Chicago, Ill., to Amman, Jordan, and from there planned to travel to Syria. On March 16, 2020, Masood’s travel plans changed because Jordan closed its borders to incoming travel due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Masood made a new plan to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet up with an individual who he believed would assist him with travel via cargo ship to deliver him to ISIS territory.

On March 19, 2020, Masood traveled from Rochester to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to board a flight bound for Los Angeles, Calif. Upon arrival at MSP, Masood checked in for his flight and was subsequently arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Masood was charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

In August 2022, Masood pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support for ISIS, a terrorist organization.

State Department adjudicators in Pakistan would not likely have approved an H-1B visa for Masood had they detected, perhaps through penetrating interviews with Masood or relatives or by reviewing his social media accounts, his apparent predilection for violent jihad or associations with violent jihadists. Denial of the visa at the application stage undoubtedly would have preempted the threat Masood posed to the American public.

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