“Osama bin Laden” was a fan of American Idol.
At least that’s what was suggested by copies of a typed, two-page letter — purportedly from the al-Qaeda leader — which started showing up at schools, law enforcement agencies, a medical facility, municipal agencies and private and religious entities in the spring of last year.
The letters demanded that America “neutralize” all its nuclear weapons and arrest unnamed individuals “responsible for unnecessary crimes of War, poverty, and suffering of families in the world” and bring them “to OHare Air Force Base for a live, unedited trial on TV, just like American Idol where people vote to determine results.”
FBI officials knew the letters were a hoax from the beginning, but the threats were still a violation of the law. Ten months later, they say they’ve got their man.
Timothy O’Donnell, the 51-year-old man charged last week with sending the letters, apparently first came to attention of the authorities when they noticed the same IP address had visited websites affiliated with recipients of the mailings within a few days of when the letters were mailed.
According to an August affidavit in support of a search warrant obtained by TPM from the U.S. Attorney’s office, O’Donnell was observed visiting the residence connected to the IP address, located on a quiet tree-lined suburban road in Park Ridge, Illinois. Law enforcement agents found an envelope similar to those sent to recipients of the letter in the trash outside his own residence.
At the point the affidavit was written in August, officials had allegedly already connected O’Donnell’s fingerprint on the underside of a postage stamp affixed to an envelope containing one of the letters.
The letters referenced a “Secret Covenant” and “secretsofmardigras.com,” according to the affidavit, which also said that at least 35 of the letters contained handwritten notes calling for the arrest of British financier Evelyn de Rothschild and American David Rockefeller.
A member of the Zeitgeist movement in Chicago told the FBI that O’Donnell attended meetings from June and Sept. 2010 and shouted out that the Rockefellers should be arrested. He was subsequently banned from meetings because his behavior was “extreme,” according to the FBI source.
The Zeitgeist movement “works globally to spread information about a new social system called a Resource Based Economy,” according to its website. A movie by the founder of the movement reportedly inspired Jared Lee Loughner, the man charged with shooting Rep. Gabby Giffords and killing several others last January.
The letters allegedly written by O’Donnell reflected some of the Zeitgeist movement’s points of view, stating that the “supply of resources available on this earth for all families to live a peaceful and happy life.” Officials with the Chicago Zeitgeist movement did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.
O’Donnell was released on a recognizance bond of $5,000.00 on Thursday.
(Correction: It was the movie “Zeigeist,” produced by Peter Joseph, that reportedly inspired Loughner, not the Zeigeist Movement, which was founded by Peter Joseph.)
Illustration includes image from Shutterstock.