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The large federal law enforcement raid in Coeur d’Alene on April 6, followed by news of an arrest with a US Marshall hold, had plenty of people speculating as to what was going on. The Department of Justice (DOJ) soon released a statement:

“Alexander Scott Mercurio, 18, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was arrested Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Coeur d’Alene for attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Mercurio pledged his allegiance to ISIS and intended to commit attacks on its behalf. He planned to attack individuals at churches in Coeur d’Alene on April 7 using weapons, including knives, firearms, and fire.”

The DOJ news release goes on to say the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force “thwarted Mercurio’s violent plot.” Mercurio is charged with providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Questions about how this situation came about immediately begin to emerge when one takes the time to read the full 48-page affidavit. 

According to John H. Taylor II, FBI Task Force Officer, federal assets first came into contact with Mercurio via online communications in 2021 during an investigation into a fundraising network using cryptocurrency to allegedly send funds to terrorist organizations in Syria. This would make the defendant only 15-years-old at the time of initial contact. 

Taylor’s affidavit states a twitter account “@polnoyedinstvo_” used the IP address that was attached to Mercurio’s father’s internet account. The JTTF believed this twitter account was used by the same person who was part of an encrypted messaging group with the username “Polnoyedinstvo.” Other members of this messaging group had been linked to financial transfers to terrorists and there appears to be a federal asset known as a confidential human source (CHS) embedded in the chat.

The affidavit describes messages made by Polnoyedinstvo on the Telegram app that appear to show Mercurio’s displeasure with his parents who were attempting to get him therapy and possibly send him to a “youth camp or juvenile hall.” Additionally, the messages contained information about his parents not agreeing with his religious viewpoints so he would hide things from them.

In March of 2023, the FBI “obtained copies of electronic files from Mercurio’s school-issued laptop, email, and other electronic devices.” According to the affidavit, data on the electronic files showed Mercurio’s commitment to ISIS and its ideology. He was 17-years-old at this time.

On December 21, 2023, Polnoyedinstvo messaged the CHS within the group chat via direct messaging, “I’ve stopped asking and praying for martyrdom because I don’t feel like I want to fight and die for the sake of Allah, I just want die and have all my problems go away …” Other messages state how the teen “doesn’t know what to do,” and that he “feels like a coward.”

None of the CHS’s statements or replies to Polnoyedinstvo were directly quoted in the affidavit so it is not possible to know what language or influence was being employed.

Mercurio was isolated from physical contact with ISIS networks, had no means to travel, and had little access to anything beyond online “jihad.” In fact, messages in the affidavit clearly state that his father closely monitors the finances which made things difficult. The affidavit also notes that Mercurio had little to no knowledge of firearms, had no transportation as he did not have a driver’s license, and had not visited or “conducted any in person activity” at the churches.

Furthermore, a CHS gave him an ISIS flag about eight days before his arrest. The affidavit says the ISIS flag discovered during the execution of the warrant was “likely the flag” that was given to Mercurio by the CHS. The same CHS also drove Mercurio to stores just days before the arrest, as the teen attempted to acquire materials, and took him to a hotel where the CHS positioned Mercurio in front of the ISIS flag and used Mercurio’s cell phone to record him. All told, no less than five federal assets were directly involved and appear to have used “nudging” techniques on Mercurio. Nudging is considered just outside entrapment, depending on one’s perspective.

There is every indication that Mercurio is deeply troubled with violent intentions. Statements made to federal assets indict he was committed to ISIS ideology, but was scared, nervous, and uncomfortable with mounting “stress and anxiety.” The entire community is abundantly grateful that no violent action was perpetrated. However, a pressing question remains.

Are we, as a society, satisfied with federal law enforcement spending three years potentially encouraging and nudging a disturbed teenager into violence instead of obtaining much needed mental health intervention?

This is a critical discussion that we must be willing to engage in. Young developing minds are very susceptible to ideology of all stripes, especially ones that allow them to play into a culture of victimhood and give them a sense of belonging. We see it most startlingly in the trans movement and gender dysmorphia throughout America. Additionally, the isolation imposed during Covid had profound effects on our youth and we are only now beginning to assess the damage. By all accounts, the mental instability of America’s youth is at record levels.

It is time we have good faith dialogue to address the root causes of our society’s decline. The sooner we return to living with a solid moral foundation, coupled with mental fortitude and a personal relationship with the Creator, the sooner we can begin establishing these traits in our children. They deserve a society that values truth over convenience or comfort – they deserve honorable adults who care more about doing right than advancing a career.

There is also the troubling circumstance that the father’s firearms, which were stored in a locked closet and never in the defendant’s possession, were seized by the FBI during the execution of the warrant. Article I, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution states in part, “Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony.” Idaho protects an individual’s fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Nothing in the affidavit submitted to the court in support of the criminal indictment suggests the father’s firearms were used in the commission of a felony. It is unknown at this time whether the father voluntarily surrendered his firearms.