"A former US navy sailor, already charged with divulging classified ship movements to British extremists linked to al Qaeda, also discussed details of a previously undisclosed plan to attack a San Diego military bases in late 2006 with at least two other men, authorities said Wednesday."
Appearing in today's Los Angeles Times, it continued the mainstream media's fair to very poor coverage of the case against an angry and troubled man who has, so far, been charged with terrorism on the basis of some orders for video tapes and rash e-mails back in 2001.
Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote about the case for the Register here in "Loose Mouth and Loose Change: $5 dollar tip leads to terror finance charge."
If one peruses the original indictment and evidentiary exhibits logged against Abujihaad, the charges were thin. (DD recommends you do so. They're linked to on my server from the Reg piece.)
Abujihaad bought videos from Azzam Publications and Babar Ahmad, a London computer programmer locked up since 2004 and awaiting extradition for trial to the US, for running a website that promoted Islamic fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, according to the press.
As for sending classified documents to Ahmad, what Abujihaad did do ... is send rash e-mail, including orders for videotapes from the Benfold, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer upon which he served.
Among these communications was one in which Abujihaad generally addressed the time of the movement of the Benfold's surface action group through the Strait of Hormuz. This was sensitive information, says the government and it is reasonable to believe it. In the e-mail, he also described a very general vulnerability of an asset in the group. In the government indictment, prosecutors misrepresent it in attempting to polish the case against him.
Abujihaad's primary sin is extremely poor judgment. He corresponded with Babar Ahmad, a man the US government has been trying to get to trial in this country very badly. Abujihaad also called the government of the United States "scary pussies" in mail to Ahmad. Once this was recovered from a diskette in Ahmad's possession in London in 2004, its inflammatory content insured lawmen would pursue Abujihaad.
However, examination of the indictments and what exactly Abujihaad revealed constitutes lame stuff.
Originally, the most serious matter was Abujihaad telling Babar Ahmad when the Benfold's surface action group was transiting the Strait of Hormuz prior to Iraqi Freedom. He writes Azzam, informing his battle group is "to hold up [UN] sanctions against Iraq ... There is the possibility that [the group] will carry out a strike against Afghanistan: Main targets: Usama and the Mujahideen, Taliban, etc ... The [battle group] will be going through the straits of Hormuz on April 29, 2001 at night."
The idea that the US military was moving to strike at Osama bin Laden was not classified information. It was something everyone knew.
The serviceman then includes some general information, which may appear sensitive to laymen, on his ship group. However, the same can be found in many open source public information websites on the US military. In the affidavit, the prosecution draws attention to the statement, "Weakness: They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc except their Seals' Stinger missiles." In the complaint, it's presented out of context by the government, seeming to indicate Abujihaad is revealing something secret, like how to attack the battlegroup's large ships. Actually, he's indicating SEALs in boarding party boats don't have big heavy weapons, which constitutes more functional open source information, no matter its context.
The other accusation, that Abujihaad was financially aiding a terror organization, stemmed from the purchase of three videotapes from Azzam Publications, run by Babar Ahamd. There was a mix-up in the order with the result that Abujihaad overpaid Azzam by five dollars. He told the organization to keep the change.
"Dear Brothers, you guys can keep the remaining $5.00 and [add it] to the funds that you Brothers are spending in the way of Allah and the great Websites .. Azzam Pub," he wrote.
Since the original article, the case against Abujihaad has crept along.
Occasionally, the US government has shown up in the press to deliver more accusations of plots by him in connection with an aquaintance named Derrick Shareef and an undercover informant named William Crisman acting as a stool pigeon for the FBI.
"According to a court motion filed by federal prospecutors that was unsealed Wednesday, Shareef and Abujihaad talked in 2003 while they were roomates in Phoenix of attacking a military recruiting station, in 2004 proposed attacking the unspecified San Diego military base; and in 2006 took concrete steps to produce such an attack," wrote the Times.
"Prosecutors are seeking to introduce evidence of the alleged plot for the trial, set for next month. That evidence includes wiretaps, statements from the [stool pigeon] -- himself a central participant in the alleged conspiracy -- and 'efforts to obtain weapons and ammunition in connection with the proposed sniper attack,' said the 123-page motion.
"The prosecutors said Shareef and Abujihaad conspired to commit sedition, or to "put down the government of the United States ... '"
Reading accounts of the case reveal only muddy pictures. Abujihaad had been under surveillance by the government for some time and it is a bit of a mystery as to why the new accusations against him had not surfaced earlier. As retold by the Times, they read more seriously than Abujihaad's tipping of Azzam Publications five dollars for three videotapes and the brief information given on the squadron he was serving in. On the other hand, they also can be viewed as evidence that an informant may have been leading Abujihaad.
"Prosecutors acknowledged that in several [wiretapped] calls, the informant appears to be initiating efforts to proceed with the plot and to buy weapons," wrote the Times. 'But that's not the only evidence the government has,' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case."
One critical part of the story comes in this Times paragraph:
"Authorities would not say whether [Derrick Shareef], who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, was cooperating in the investigation of Abujihaad. That investigation focuses at least in part on the former navy signalman's ties to al Qaeda affiliated extremists in Britain, including a prominent religious leader Babar Ahmad."
"The Ahmad component [in England includes] a number of highly inflated allegations which many might conclude would have the net effect of bolstering the US government's efforts to extradite him," wrote an editor in an addition to DD's original on the Abujihaad case in April. "The Ahmad campaign's initial reaction can be found here while Ahmad remains unextradited [to the US,] although his remaining avenues of appeal appear slim.
"The British Government have submitted their response to the European Court of Human Rights, after being granted a second extension," writes Ahmad's support website recently. "Babar Ahmad’s solicitors, from Birnberg Peirce and Partners, are now due to make final representations to Europe by the 4th December 2007.
"Previously, the President of the Grand Chamber in the European Court requested that a hold be placed on the extradition, to allow them to give the case 'proper consideration'.
"If the European Court of Human Rights refuses to intervene, then no other appeal stage remains and Babar would be extradited to the US imminently.
"Babar Ahmad's family stated: 'We hope that the European Court will decide that Babar should not be extradited, especially without a prima facie case. The assurance given by the US Embassy is not sufficient, in our opinion, to safeguard Babar's Human Rights. We continue to have hope whilst remaining positive and pray for Babar's swift return.'"
" ... Babar Ahmad is accused of running websites supporting Chechen and Taliban rebels."
The Los Angeles Times, for its part in today's story, publishes material that is misleading. In view of the original evidence gathered on Abujihaad and Azzam Publications/Babar Ahmad and presented in the original indictment, most of the material pertaining to it in the newspaper is exaggerated by varying degrees. It is also presented out of context.
"Authorities have charged Abujihaad with providing extremist websites operated by Ahmad and others with classified information about the location of Navy ships [This is only very generally true. It is absolutely false from a tactical military standpoint --DD] and the best ways to attack them."
"Abujihaad exchanged e-mail messages with Ahmad while on active duty on the guided missile destroyer Benfold in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit," continued the Times today. "Abujihaad also praised al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the US destroyer Cole in 2000, the affidavit said."
Except Abujihaad never praised Osama bin Laden outright. If one consults the original indictment and e-mails submitted to the court for the case, the FBI does not mention Abujihaad praising Osama bin Laden.
What Abujihaad wrote in e-mail from 2001 was this (style and errors preserved):
"I am a muslim station onboard a us warship currently operating depolyed to the arabian gulf. it shall be noted that before usama's latest video was viewed by massive people all over the world. that psychological anxiety had already set in on america's forces everywhere. all this is due to the martyrdom operation against the uss cole."
The rest of it is here as .pdf. While the tone of it is unpleasant and Abujihaad mouthy and odious in support of his religion, he never really says what the FBI and government describe him as saying in interviews/leaks to newspaper reporters. While it certainly does the defendant no favors, it is not quite the case that it is advertised as. And it gives some indication, along with $5 dollar tip to Azzam described as aiding al Qaeda, as to why the government has been attempting to bring extra evidence against him.
Hassan Abujihaad's e-mail to Azzam on his ship group from 2001.
Complete original here as .pdf.
All documents retrieved from the PACER access to US courts system in April.
Abujihaad's PACER file had not been updated with additional materials reported by the LA Times as of today.
Ex-sailor accused of plotting to attack San Diego base.
Associated Press covered further motions prior to the Abujihaad case today. In court, prosecutors apparently played edited calls covering discussions between Derrick Shareef and Abujihaad.
"Federal prosecutors played secretly recorded phone calls Thursday as they tried to show how a former Navy sailor charged with supporting terrorism spoke in code about a plot to attack military personnel," reported AP, as published by Newsday.
"[Abujihaad] is accused of disclosing the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them," it continued. "Abu-Jihaad has denied passing along any secret information on Navy ships." (See image of "secret" information above.)
"Prosecutors have not charged [Abujihaad] in alleged schemes to attack the recruiting offices or personnel, but are trying to get them admitted as evidence to bolster their case when the trial starts in February. The plots were never carried out."
"Lawyers for [Abujihaad have argued that some phone calls and other evidence, such as e-mail searches, were illegally obtained and should be thrown out."
"In one call, [Abujihaad], a left-hander, is asking specifically about obtaining left-handed weapons, prosecutors say," continues the report. "He also is heard allegedly pledging support to Shareef in vague terms."
" 'I'm down, you know what I'm saying ... with whatever I can ... with whatever Allah has instilled me to ... help out with ... if I can do that, then I'm for it ... and I'll say it again, with whatever I can give you that's beneficial I'll give it to you,'" he said.
"But under cross examination, [the FBI's informatant, William Chrisman] testified that Abu-Jihaad never provided logistical support and acknowledged that Shareef complained that Abu-Jihaad was so passive it would take him 20 years to do something. Abu-Jihaad's attorneys also pointed out that he is heard on a call denying that he is a jihadi, an Islamic militant."