‘Cyber terrorist’ who hid data on James Bond-style cufflink refused parole
A “cyber terrorist” who was jailed after hiding his support for the so-called Islamic State on a James Bond-style cufflink has been refused parole.
Samata Ullah, then 34, created a “one-stop shop” for terrorists from his bedroom in Cardiff, offering a range of guidance on how to stay one step ahead of police and security services.
At the time of his arrest in the city on September 22 2016, he had USB cufflinks with a Linux operating system loaded on it and a hoard of extremist data including 15 copies of the IS propaganda magazine Dabiq.
The court heard he had advised others not to store incriminating information on computers and recommended using USB sticks to keep it away from “the prying eyes of authorities”.
Ullah was jailed at the Old Bailey in 2017 after he admitted to five terror offences, including membership of IS, also known as Daesh, as well as training and preparation of terrorist acts.
He was handed a sentence of eight years in jail with a further five years on extended licence.
Ullah was refused release by a panel of the Parole Board in September 2022 after a hearing.
A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: “Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
“A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
“Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead-up to an oral hearing.
“Evidence from witnesses such as probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements may be given at the hearing.
“It is standard for the prisoner and witnesses to be questioned at length during the hearing, which often lasts a full day or more. Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.
“Under current legislation, he will be eligible for a further review in due course. The date of the next review will be set by the Ministry of Justice.”
Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command SO15, said at the time: “It is the first time we have seen anything on this scale.
“He had set up a self-help library for terrorists around the world and they were using his library.
“There was guidance on encryption, ways to avoid detection from police and security services, expert tuition around missile systems and a vast amount of propaganda.
“He was self-taught. He has accessed it online himself and compiled a lot of material and put it into his own library. He has created a one-stop shop for terrorists.
“In my view, he was a very dangerous individual although he was operating from his bedroom.
“We know Daesh were using that material to both seek guidance and instruction.”
Brian Altman QC told the court: “The prosecution says this defendant represents a new and dangerous breed of terrorist, a cyber terrorist.”
British counter-terrorism police had tracked him down after being passed intelligence by the FBI, who had been handed the information from authorities in Kenya, who had arrested another man.
Ullah, who had been diagnosed with autism, was in regular contact with the man via encrypted Telegram chats in which he vowed to use his special skills to help in the IS campaign.
He told him he would take “whatever advice and knowledge I have and contribute it to the Caliphate”, the court heard.
From December 2015, he provided instructional videos on how to secure sensitive data and remain anonymous online with the use of the Tor programme and PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption.
In the videos, his voice was modified to avoid detection and he wore woolly gloves to disguise his skin tone, Mr Altman said.
He developed a website on computer hacking and kept numerous extremist documents and videos on electronic devices at his Cardiff home.
In all, officers seized 150 devices and trawled through eight terabytes of data, the equivalent of 2.2 million copies of the ebook of War And Peace.
They also found Ullah had hijacked 30 dormant Twitter handles and had 50 email addresses and nine phone numbers.
Ullah admitted researching ZeroNet and developing a version of his blog website using the decentralised internet-like peer-to-peer network.
He also pleaded guilty to having a book entitled Guided Missiles Fundamentals AFM 52-31 and an electronic PDF version of Advances In Missile Guidance, Control And Estimation for terrorist purposes.
The court heard how Ullah lived alone, just around the corner from his mother and sister in Cardiff.
In August 2016, he got a job in the Legal and General pensions department in Cardiff but left before his training was complete on September 12 after being warned about his performance.
Mr Altman told the court that the Crown disputed the suggestion that his activities were “part of a fantasy life”.