Oakton High grad guilty in terror case is cited in report on future of Islamist extremism

A 22-year-old Oakton High School graduate who converted to Islam as a teen and pleaded guilty last year to terrorism-related charges, represents the future of online Islamist radicalization, according to a report to be released Monday by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The report includes copies of four letters handwritten by Zachary Adam Chesser from prison and sent to committee staff, and coincides with his own apparent return to the Internet last week. A four-part screed signed by Chesser and posted online on Feb. 20 outlines some of the ways he says he was wronged by the U.S. justice system.

Chesser, whom the report describes as the son of a U.S. government contractor, is incarcerated in Marion, Ill. The facility is one of two high-security penitentiaries in the United States with “Special Communications Units” sometimes referred to as “Guantanamo North” because they contain a high percentage of Muslim prisoners convicted of terrorism-related charges.

A gifted student who was, according to the report, briefly a Buddhist, Chesser converted to Islam in high school after dating a Muslim girl. But his radicalization appears to have taken place almost completely over the Internet, where he found like-minded people after local Islamic leaders disagreed with his views.

Virginia Man to Appear in Court on Terror Charges

By Joshua Rhett Miller

A Virginia man accused of trying to join a Somali terror group linked to Al Qaeda will return to court Friday. Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Oakton, Va., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Thursday to face charges that he provided material support to Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based terror organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed 74 people in Uganda during the World Cup earlier this month.