Parents Say the FBI Let Their Son Die

Michigan parents grieve over son who died amid counterterror work
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2019 12:15 PM CDT
Parents Say the FBI Let Their Son Die
A person casts a shadow on a road damaged by shrapnel after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Max Vetrov)

"You murdered our son. Don't ever talk to us again." That's what Michigan resident Theresa Reilly told an FBI agent after her son turned up dead—the end of a strange and tragic tale in US counterterrorism, writes Brett Forrest at the Wall Street Journal. Billy Reilly was only 23 when he managed to access jihadist chat rooms, which drew the FBI's attention and got him hired as a part-timer. Reilly already spoke some Arabic and Russian, and had apparently converted to Islam, amid his own turbulent reaction to 9/11. Now he was helping the FBI's Detroit office on media-worthy cases, like targeting an Iraqi émigré and finding online evidence that a Russian official might have been involved in downing a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine. But Reilly yearned for more.

And more eluded him. A budding online romance foundered, possibly because the FBI intervened. His mood darkened as he got a gun license and claimed Russian intelligence officers wanted to meet with him. In 2015 he did go to Moscow, seemingly at the FBI's direction, and met with a recruiter in Russia's war against Ukraine. Deemed unfit for action—he was pudgy and bookish, after all—Reilly moved around Russia, texting his mother about his thirst for adventure, and disappeared. His parents spent four years seeking him with no FBI or US government help, and eventually learned he'd been stabbed to death in a separatist-held area of eastern Ukraine. But their anger against the FBI lives on. "The whole thing was a clinic in how to cover your butt," says Billy's father. Click for Forrest's full article. (More counterterrorism stories.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.