Oy vey! Aussie jihadist turns out to be Jewish troll from Florida

© Nancy Wiechec
A notorious Australian ISIS sympathizer who called for attacks in the US turned out to be a college-age Florida Jewish man living with his parents. Joshua Goldberg was arrested for inciting a FBI informant to bomb the 9/11 memorial event in Kansas City.

Goldberg, 20, who has no real links to Islamic extremism, is accused of posing as the notorious jihadist 'Australi Witness' on Twitter and Facebook, as well as impersonating a prominent Australian lawyer, Josh Bornstein, to write an incendiary blog at Times of Israel. 

Goldberg was charged with alleged “illegal distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction,” which is a federal crime.

According to the criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent William Berry was conducting an investigation into the attack on the May 2015 Mohammed Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas, when he tracked down a Twitter account called 'Australi Witness,' which was posting tweets calling for an attack on the exhibition.

The self-proclaimed jihadist posted maps of the center and called for people to attack “with your weapons, bombs, or knives.” Berry also found a statement by 'Australi Witness' that implied he was in Australia and working with contacts in the US to carry out attacks.

Repeatedly banned by Twitter only to surface under another, similar name, 'Australi Witness' claimed to be an Australian living in Perth who sympathized with Islamic State and called for attacks against the “kuffar” (infidels)..

The FBI said that Goldberg also used the name 'AusWitness' and was in daily contact with an FBI informant, or confidential human source (CHS), through direct messages since July 2015. AusWitness sent the CHS five links to websites on how to manufacture a bomb during their exchange, according to the FBI. During their discussions, the informant proposed targeting the commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Kansas City, Missouri, attended by hundreds of firefighters.

The complaint went on to say that AusWitness instructed the informant to make a pressure cooker bomb and fill it with nails, metal, and other items dipped in rat poison. He also allegedly gave instructions about planting the bomb close to the crowd at the memorial event, and ensuring it was well hidden.

Berry said Goldberg’s identity was tracked down by the IP address associated with AusWitness and another identity Goldberg revealed as 'AusSecret,' which was tracked to Goldberg’s family home in Florida.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) provided the FBI with clues about Goldberg’s identity based on the tips from an informant named “LM,” Berry wrote in his affidavit. The Sydney Morning Herald, part of the Fairfax Media group, took credit for the revelations on Friday. One of the Herald reporters who covered the Goldberg case is Luke McMahon.

However, Berry specifically noted that he was “not relying on any of the information provided by LM to the AFP for the establishment of probable cause for the issuance of a criminal complaint.”

Goldberg, who lived with his parents in a suburb of Jacksonville, Florida, was placed under FBI surveillance. After the Bureau confirmed he was indeed the man behind 'Australi Witness,' Goldberg was arrested on September 9. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Writing under his real name, “Goldberg repeatedly professed to be an advocate for free speech, and showed disdain for organisations and individuals who call for limits on hate speech or hate speech laws,” the Sydney Morning Herald noted.

His 'Australi Witness' persona successfully fooled many journalists and intelligence experts, however. Following the failed jihadist attack in Garland, analyst Rita Katz described him to the Herald as “part of the hard core of a group of individuals who constantly look for targets for other people to attack.”

Katz works for the Washington, DC-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks terrorist activity online and in social media. She has consulted for US government agencies and foreign governments, and testified before Congress as an expert on online terrorist activities, the newspaper said.