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Terrified, Mr. He had come to the attention of officials not by a well-placed informant or a sting operation. His father, concerned and looking for help, had simply picked up the phone and led the government right to his son.
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For months, over the objections of his lawyer, Mr. Shafi had been talking to the F. Had things been different, Mr. Who better to talk to other parents about the seductive pull of terror organizations? Trust the government, he would tell them. They do not want to take away your children. Lynch said in December. But better be safe than sorry. For parents, particularly those who see their children as misguided but not dangerous, the decision to make that call can be agonizing.
Do you risk sending your son to prison? Or hope things improve and he does not hurt anyone?
The Justice Department praised Mr. Shafi and others, though, say the case shows that there were never any alternatives. Mothers have hidden passports and money to keep their sons from traveling. In Minnesota, a fight broke out as relatives tried to keep a young man from flying out of the country.
In Texas, a family lured a year-old home from Turkey by tricking him into thinking his mother had fallen ill. Shafi chose a different route. He did what the government asked.
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His story is a desperate search for someone to help his son. The Shafis were vacationing in Cairo in the summer ofvisiting extended family, when they awoke on a Saturday to find Adam gone. Outwardly at least, that meant charity. He talked about opening a free health clinic. Perhaps, Mr. Shafi thought, Adam, who was 21 at the time, was at a mosque working on a social cause. But when he did not come home, Mr. Shafi became frantic. But it did not work overseas.
On Sunday, he called the American Embassy in Cairo. An official there was polite but dismissive and told him to wait another day. Shafi said. Shafi now says he was merely trying to prod the embassy into helping his son. But he acknowledged that, at the time, he was also thinking about the parents on the news who discovered that their children had fled to the Islamic State.
At the embassy later that day, Mr. Shafi told officials that he worried that his son might be following extreme imams online, according to court documents. It turned out that Adam Shafi was in Turkey, a common gateway for foreign fighters to Syria.
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Not long after the embassy meeting, he texted his family that he was on his way back. He told his family he had gone to witness the plight of refugees there. Shafi demanded. Hell no. Back home in California, Mr. But when two agents arrived at the house a few weeks later, Mr. Shafi invited them in. Shafi said later.
I wanted to cooperate. In conversations over many months, court documents show, Mr. Sometimes, when the television showed people suffering in war-torn Syria, his son would leave the room and cry, Mr. With his son under F. Shafi arranged for him to visit a suspected terror financier, Armin Harcevic, in a nearby jail.
Shafi told the F. Once, Mr. Shafi said, the agents mentioned the Boston Marathon bombing and said they believed his son had been radicalized. Shafi laughed. The F. He also mused about killing American soldiers. In another call, he said the Islamic State killed too indiscriminately, but he admired the Nusra Front, which is linked to Al Qaeda.
But it is a deated terrorist group, and supporting it is illegal. Then, on June 30,Mr. Shafi scrambled to contact overseas relatives to intercept his son in Istanbul, but F. He told them that he no longer wanted to live in the United States and that he wanted to help the refugees in Turkey.
Adam Shafi told the F. Eventually, the agents sent him home.
But days later, the F. His case was kept under seal while his family and his lawyers tried to negotiate a way out. Normally, that means a plea deal and a hope for leniency.
Shafi pitched something else — a program in which counselors, mental health experts and religious leaders worked with Adam to set him straight. If all went well, Mr. Shafi hoped, his son could avoid prison and a criminal record. Though the White House and a congressional task force have endorsed this concept, no such program exists.
So Mr. Shafi tried to create one. He flew to Washington in November to attend a Brookings Institution seminar on radicalization. There he met Daniel Koehlera German de-radicalization expert who offered to help.
Koehler said in an interview. In a few cities, agents work with parents, mental health experts, community leaders and sometimes religious figures to help minors or mentally ill people who agents believe have the intent, but not the capability, to hurt people.
Though civil libertarians — and some F. Law enforcement officials said they have offered interventions to only about a dozen people, and they acknowledge that it is too soon to say whether they work. At 22, Adam Shafi was not eligible for such an intervention, but his father and lawyers remained optimistic.