San Jose Mercury News : Feds: Ex-sailor spoke of attacking ships

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Feds: Ex-sailor spoke of attacking ships

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN | Associated Press Writer | July 23, 2007

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—A former sailor charged with giving terrorists secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them also discussed attacking military personnel and recruiting stations, prosecutors said Monday.

Hassan Abujihaad discussed sniper attacks on military personnel last year and in 2003 or 2004 discussed attacking recruitment sites, federal prosecutors said.

It was unclear yet whether Abujihaad would face new charges based on those allegations. Prosecutors have told Abujihaad's attorneys that they might use the discussions to try to introduce evidence of uncharged conduct.

"It's an ongoing conspiracy to engage in attacks on U.S. military personnel," prosecutor Stephen Reynolds said in U.S. District Court.

Abujihaad's lawyers reacted skeptically.

"The government will have a tall task claiming there is a conspiracy out of that," defense attorney Robert Golger said.

Prosecutors alleged Abujihaad had the discussions with his former roommate, Derrick Shareef, 22, of Genoa, Ill., who was accused of planning to use hand grenades to attack holiday shoppers at a mall in a separate case.

Abujihaad, 31, pleaded not guilty in April to providing material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosing classified information relating to the national defense. He has been held without bail since his arrest in March in Phoenix, where he worked at a UPS warehouse.

Abujihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism. Investigators found information about the location of U.S. Navy ships on a computer belonging to Ahmad, who is to be extradited to the U.S.

Abujihaad exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while serving on the USS Benfold, a guided missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit. In those e-mails, Abujihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, according to the affidavit.

The Internet service provider where the investigation started was based in Connecticut.

Abujihaad's attorney, Dan LaBelle, has called the government's case weak.

Reynolds has acknowledged there is no clear forensic evidence connecting Abujihaad to the documents detailing the ship positions. But prosecutors have said that when Ahmad was arrested, Abujihaad told an associate, "I think this is about me," and began to cry.

Abujihaad, who received an honorable discharge in 2002, faces as many as 25 years in prison if convicted. His trial is expected to start early next year.