Friday, February 01, 2008

SHIFTY ATTITUDE INDICATES TERROR AIM: Main prosecution plank against Hassan Abu-jihaad

In pre-trial maneuvering this month the US government's case against ex-Navy signalman Hassan Abu-jihaad became more moth-eaten. Prosecutors filed an interesting brief indicating they had no evidence against the defendant of a terror plot modus operandi.

Abu-jihaad has been charged with e-mailing information on the transit of his naval battle group through the Straits of Hormuz to Babar Ahmad and Azzam Publications in London in 2001. At the time he was serving on the destroyer Benfold. For the purpose of the case, Babar Ahmad - now awaiting a court decision in February on whether or not he is to be extradited to the States - is considered by the US government to be a terrorist. The government alleges Abu-jihaad's communications with Ahmad and the purchase of Chechen resistance videotapes from the Azzam website to be aiding terror, with the defendant an agent of a foreign power.

A glaring problem with the government's case against Abu-jihaad is that the evidence against him is thin. Although the US has submitted e-mails to Azzam which they have claimed are from Abu-jihaad, prosecutors admitted in pre-trial filings this month that "the Government had no recorded statements or testimony personally linking Abu-jihaad to the e-mail account from which [the communications to Azzam in question] were sent."

DD authored a piece on these development at el Reg here. It was published early Thursday and before the day was out the judge in the case ruled that some excerpts from FBI surveillance tapes would be admissible in court. Since the US government's case has appeared to be of the thin cloth, this was a big break for prosecutors.

"A federal judge ruled Thursday that prosecutors trying a former Navy sailor charged with supporting terrorism can tell a jury about his coded speech and admissions that he communicated with suspected terrorism supporters and destroyed videos that promoted violent jihad," reported Associated Press late in the day.

The "suspected terrorism supporters" mean one person -- Babar Ahmad of Azzam Communications. Ahmad has been jailed since arrest in 2004 and his representation -- Birnberg Pierce -- has been fighting his extradition to the United States. Birnberg Pierce is the same legal firm which won acquittals in the case of the alleged London ricin ring in 2005.

"Authorities allege that Hassan Abu-Jihaad leaked a document describing the location and vulnerabilities of a Navy battle group to suspected terrorism supporters in London. His trial starts Feb. 25, continued AP.

The mainstream press has continually misrepresented basic facts in the case. With regards to AP's latest reporting, there was no leaked document. What was sent to Azzam Publications is pictured.

Brief e-mail on Benfold battlegroup recovered from computer of Azzam Publications in 2004. None of the information was classified although it may have been considered sensitive.

In 2001, Azzam Publications was e-mailed orders for a number of videotapes which were not illegal as well as an e-mail describing roughly when Abu-jihaad's battle group would transit the Straits of Hormuz. This included the rough drawing of the formation in the above snapshot. In covering the Abu-jihaad case in 2007, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow placed these materials in the public domain after downloading them from the PACER criminal case party index.

The government's documents and "evidence" are here, here, here and here as pdfs.

The original reporting at el Reg is here as "Loose Mouth and Loose Change: Five dollar tip leads to a terror aid rap."

The government could not forensically link Hassan Abu-jihaad to the e-mails seized from the computer of Babar Ahmad. And the prosecution gave up trying to prove Abu-jihaad had a modus operandi, an operational plan, for committing terrorism although as late as December it was leaking information to newspapers indicating the defendant was involved in potentially on-going plots to attack military installations.

Between 2001, the time Azzam Publications received the e-mails in question in London, and 2006 -- when Abu-jihaad was arrested -- the defendant did nothing although he had been under surveillance and wire-tapped by the FBI since 2004.

Thursday's ruling opened the way for the prosecution to speculatively argue to a jury that excerpts from Abu-jihaad's wiretapped conversations not only linked him to the e-mails to Azzam but also indicated a non-specific terror plot fingerprint/signature.

"[The judge] did put limits on what would be admitted, saying he will not allow any statements that conflict with an earlier ruling against allowing statements by Abu-Jihaad's former roommate, Derrick Shareef, who was convicted in November in an unrelated plot to attack an Illinois mall with hand grenades ... [Judge] Kravitz said in his new ruling that he would not allow some statements by Abu-Jihaad reacting to Shareef's arrest, saying they did not show consciousness of guilt as prosecutors claimed."

Sequential coverage of the case of Hassan Abu-jihaad:

Loose mouth and loose change.

FBI's 'idiot dude' informant fails to boost US navy terror e-mails.

US nurses terror case in press.

E-mail trail from navy man to London 'terror site' goes fuzzy.


Blogger Winter Patriot said...

Great work! Thanks very much for staying on this case.

One detail from the AP coverage (John Christoffersen via Newsday) that jumped out at me:

In court papers, prosecutors cite Abu-Jihaad's "obsession with operation security," his use of codes and his suspicion of government surveillance to "explain why there is no forensic footprint that directly links the defendant" to the leaked document.

If this argument is accepted, it will set a precedent effectively eliminating the notion that the prosecution must provide proof of guilt, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. If they really want to put you away, federal prosecutors won't have fabricate evidence, or lie about what their genuine evidence really means. They won't even have to give the impression that they have incriminating evidence against you.

They will only have to say, "We don't have any proof because the suspect is too sneaky."

And that will be the end of that.

8:09 PM  

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