A Riveting ISIS Story, Told in a Times Podcast, Falls Apart

Now, Mr. Chaudhry’s public declarations have put him in legal jeopardy. In September, the Canadian authorities charged Mr. Chaudhry with perpetrating a terrorist hoax, a criminal charge that could bring up to five years in prison if he is convicted.

Tracking the thousands of fighters who have traveled from across the world to fight with the Islamic State is a sprawling, often murky, undertaking. Before “Caliphate” aired, two American officials told The Times that Mr. Chaudhry had, in fact, joined ISIS and crossed into Syria. And some of the people who know and have counseled Mr. Chaudhry say they have no doubt that he holds extremist, jihadist views.

But Canadian law enforcement officials, who conducted an almost four-year investigation into Mr. Chaudhry, say their examination of his travel and financial records, social media posts, statements to the police and other intelligence make them confident that he did not enter Syria or join ISIS, much less commit the grievous crimes he described.

American officials interviewed for this article support the conclusion that Mr. Chaudhry, who turns 26 on Saturday, was never a terrorist threat. It is difficult to say with absolute certainty that he never entered Syria, they warn.

But even if he did, they contend, it would have been for a brief period — in which he claimed to have joined ISIS, received religious and weapons training, gone on patrols, meted out punishment, carried out executions and participated in secret discussions about plotting high-profile attacks against the West.

“Hoaxes can generate fear within our communities and create the illusion there is a potential threat to Canadians, while we have determined otherwise,” Superintendent Christopher deGale, the head of the national security team that conducted the investigation, said in a statement about the case.

The “Caliphate” series raised questions about some of Mr. Chaudhry’s assertions and devoted an episode of the podcast to them. After the Canadians charged Mr. Chaudhry with a hoax, The Times examined his case again, taking a fresh look at social media posts, photographs, travel records, academic transcripts and other potential evidence that could shed light on his contention that he had joined, and killed for, ISIS in Syria.

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