Hosam Maher Smadi, 19, was indicted Wednesday on one count of attempting to use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of bombing a public place, but the charges were not made public until Thursday. Each count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Smadi was arrested on Sept. 24 after he allegedly parked a truck in a garage beneath the 60-story Fountain Place office building in downtown Dallas, authorities said. Once he was at a safe distance, Smadi dialed a cell phone he thought would ignite a bomb in the vehicle _ but the device was actually a decoy provided by FBI agents posing as al-Qaida operatives, according to the FBI.
The FBI says it had been keeping tabs on Smadi after discovering him on an extremist Web site earlier this year. Investigators have said the teenager acted alone and was not affiliated with any terrorist organizations.
Smadi's attorneys said the government had not shared information in the case beyond a criminal complaint, search warrants and other court documents. With the indictment, the government will have to turn over evidence and other information in the case, said Richard Anderson, one Smadi's court-appointed attorneys.
"Now we know what we have to defend ourselves against," he said. "We will obviously do our own investigation, including going over it with our client."
The indictment alleges Smadi activated a timer connected to a car bomb while inside the parking garage underneath the skyscraper with the intent to harm or cause death.
Testimony in the case shows an undercover FBI language analyst noticed Smadi's comments online, and Smadi asked for help in obtaining the tools needed for a terrorist attack.
Another FBI language analyst and a police officer who belongs to a terrorism task force posed as al-Qaida sleeper cell members and communicated with Smadi, FBI Special Agent Tom Petrowski testified this week. During that time, agents said Smadi reiterated his intention to carry out a terrorist attack, according to an affidavit.
The FBI says Smadi made a video while with the undercover officials, and because he believed they were al-Qaida members, thought they would forward it to Osama bin Laden. Agents learned Smadi had been researching how to use a cell phone to detonate a bomb, Petrowski said.
Friends and acquaintances say Smadi moved from Santa Clara, Calif. to the small town of Italy, Texas, near Dallas in 2008. He came to the U.S. in 2007 after his mother died in Jordan, friends and family said. In Jordan, Smadi's father, Maher Hussein Smadi, has insisted his son is innocent.
Smadi remains in federal custody in Seagoville, outside Dallas. He has waived his right to have a detention hearing to consider whether he could have released on bond.