Former US sailor charged with terrorism and espionage
By Jim Kouri
A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has returned a two-count indictment charging Hassan Abujihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall, age 31, of Phoenix, Arizona, with material support of terrorism and disclosing previously classified information relating to the national defense.
The indictment, which was returned on Thursday, alleges that Abujihaad provided material support or resources, knowing or intending that they were to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a conspiracy to kill US nationals and that he delivered, communicated, transmitted or caused the delivery, communication or transmission of previously classified information relating to the national defense to persons not entitled to receive it.
Abujihaad was arrested in Phoenix on March 7, 2007, on a federal criminal complaint from the District of Connecticut that alleges similar charges. On that date, Abujihaad appeared before US Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson in Phoenix and agreed to a temporary order of detention and to be removed to the District of Connecticut for further prosecution. Abujihaad is being transported to the District of Connecticut by the US Marshals Service, and he was scheduled to appear before US Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport on Friday, March 23.
According to information previously disclosed in court, from approximately 1997 through at least August 2004, British nationals Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, and others, through an organization based in London called Azzam Publications, are alleged to have conspired to provide material support and resources to persons engaged in acts of terrorism through the creation and use of various Internet Web sites, e-mail communications, and other means.
One of the means Ahmad and his coconspirators are alleged to have used in this effort was the management of various Azzam Publications websites, principally www.azzam.com, which, along with associated administrative email accounts, were hosted for a period of time on the servers of a Web hosting company located in the state of Connecticut.
During a December 2003 search of Ahmad's residence in London, British law enforcement officers recovered a computer floppy disk that contained a password-protected document that set forth previously classified information regarding the movements of a US Navy battle group that was charged with enforcing sanctions against the Taliban and engaging in missions against al-Qaida.
The information included details on the battle group's movements as it was to transit from California to the Gulf region in the spring of 2001. The document went on to discuss the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack. Additional investigation and computer forensic analysis later determined that Syed Talha Ahsan allegedly possessed, accessed, modified and re-saved the electronic battle group file before it was found in Ahmad's possession.
Ahmad and Ahsan were previously indicted in the District of Connecticut in the now-pending terrorism cases of United States v. Babar Ahmad, and United States v. Syed Talha Ahsan, and their extradition from the United Kingdom to Connecticut to face the charges remains pending.
According to documents previously filed with the court, it is alleged that, in 2001, Abujihaad provided the battle group information to Azzam Publications. Specifically, the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that search warrants executed upon the various email accounts associated with the Azzam Web sites recovered several email exchanges from late 2000 to late 2001 between members of Azzam Publications and Abujihaad while he was an enlistee in the US Navy on active duty in the Middle East and stationed aboard the U.S.S. Benfold, one of the ships in the battle group whose movements were disclosed.
Recovered emails between Abujihaad and Azzam Publications included discussions regarding videos Abujihaad ordered from Azzam Publications that promoted violent jihad, a small donation of money Abujihaad made to Azzam Publications, and whether it was "safe" to send materials to Abujihaad at his military address onboard the U.S.S. Benfold. The criminal complaint further alleges that, during another email exchange with Azzam Publications, Abujihaad described a recent force protection briefing given aboard his ship, voiced enmity toward America, praised Usama bin Laden and the mujahideen, praised the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole -- which Abujihaad described as a "martyrdom operation" -- and advised the members of Azzam Publications that such tactics were working and taking their toll.
The email response from Azzam Publications encouraged Abujihaad to "keep up ... the psychological warefare [sic]." A copy of the battle group document and certain email communications between Abujihaad and Azzam Publications were attached as exhibits to the criminal complaint.
The criminal complaint further alleges that, during the searches executed on the email accounts that were associated with administering the Azzam Web sites, Abujihaad's contact information -- specifically, his military email account -- was found in the possession of the members of Azzam Publications.
The complaint further alleges that, in 2004, when Abujihaad learned the news of Babar Ahmad's arrest and the allegations that Ahmad possessed the battle group file, Abujihaad destroyed certain Azzam Publications videos and deleted certain computer files that reflected material from the Azzam Publications sites while at his home in Phoenix, Ariz.
The complaint further alleges that, in December 2006, during consensual recorded conversations, Abujihaad, while negotiating the purchase of two AR-15 assault rifles for approximately $1300, admitted to corresponding by email with members of Azzam Publications through their Web sites, admitted to sending the email discussing the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and admitted to destroying Azzam-related materials in 2004.
In approximately January 2002, before the alleged conduct was discovered, Abujihaad was discharged from active duty from the US Navy.
If convicted of both charges, Abujihaad faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 25 years.
US Attorney O'Connor stressed that the indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
US Attorney O'Connor commended the substantial efforts and cooperation of the several federal law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation, including the US Attorney's Offices in Phoenix and Chicago; the FBI Offices in New Haven, Phoenix and Chicago; US Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"); and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. US Attorney O'Connor also praised the substantial efforts of law enforcement authorities from the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter-Terrorism Command within New Scotland Yard, whose efforts and assistance have been essential in the investigation of this matter.
This case is being pursued by a task force out of Connecticut consisting of law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Internal Revenue Service -- Criminal Investigation Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He's also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri's own website is located at http://jimkouri.us.