CT Post : FBI informant testifies in terror case

Friday, November 30, 2007

FBI informant testifies in terror case

MICHAEL P. MAYKO | mmayko@ctpost.com | November 29, 2007

NEW HAVEN — William "Jamaal" Chrisman was considered a gem in the U.S. Muslim terrorist world.

He is white, young and well versed in the teachings of his religion.

His whiteness, he was told, "helps facilitate our cause, gives us credibility" and allows the cell to operate "under the radar."

But unbeknownst to his newfound friends Chrisman has spent the last five years working for the FBI helping them infiltrate cells.

"What brought me to the government was after 9-11 Muslim scholars in Saudi Arabia and Morocco said it was incumbent on Muslims to stop terrorists," he testified in federal court Thursday. "Anyone involved in terrorism was deemed the brother of the devil."

For the past two days, Chrisman has been testifying about his conversations via e-mail and telephone with Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 31, an honorably discharged U.S. Navy signalman accused of providing details of ship movements to an al-Qaida support cell in London. He also discussed his conversation in person, through e-mail and over the telephone with Derrick Shareef, a 23-year-old Rockford, Ill., man who pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempting to purchase grenades for a planned Dec. 22, 2006, attack on the Cherry Vale mall in Rockford. Chrisman said Shareef considered Abu-Jihaad his mentor and the later looked upon Shareef as his "little brother."

For the past two days, U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz heard more than a dozen recorded conversations Chrisman made for the FBI.

Kravitz listened as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Reynolds and William Nardini played tape recordings of Chrisman and Shareef discussing Abu-Jihaad's alleged plans to attack the U.S. Naval base in San Diego by creating turmoil near a barracks or mess hall and then picking off personnel as they ran out. He listened to a conversation about an attack on a Phoenix military recruiting station.

The judge also heard Abu-Jihaad deny any involvement in all of this to Chrisman.

Early next year Kravitz will rule if these uncharged plots can be used as conspiracy evidence against Abu-Jihaad when he goes to trial in late February.

At the end of Thursday's session, Kravitz asked Chrisman several questions including whether there were any concrete plans to attack the military sites.

"There were no logistics, it was basically in the works," said Chrisman. "We were to go to Phoenix and hook up with sniper training. "

He said Shareef told him Abu-Jihaad mapped out an entrance and escape route to the naval base.

"But you never met Abu-Jihaad in person?" asked Robert Golger, one of two Fairfield County lawyers appointed to represent the defendant.

"No," replied Chrisman, saying he only spoke with him on the phone.

"What I need help on is determining when does talk become a conspiracy to act," Kravitz said. "There's a lot of talk going on here — a lot of talk about doing things. How specific does talk have to be to become a conspiracy?

Kravitz gave both sides until next month to brief the issue. He said he would hear oral argument on Jan. 4 and then write a decision.

During questioning by Golger, Chrisman maintained "I never got involved with this for the money."

He claims he received $8,500 for the two months he worked on this case last year and $1,200 for the first four years working cases in Buffalo, N.Y., Philadelphia and Atlanta.

FBI Special Agent David Dillon said Chrisman was paid $22,000 by the FBI since 2001.

In this case, Chrisman said he moved to Illinois from Buffalo and was "tasked to meet Shareef" who was working in a video game store.

Within hours after meeting Shareef, Chrisman persuaded the target to move in with him.

"He was supposed to move in with his manager," said Chrisman. "I told him he was better off staying with me, a Muslim staying with a Muslim."

That same night, Chrisman said Shareef was already talking about "issues with the U.S. government."

Within weeks Chrisman had Shareef talking about terrorist plots and implicating other people including Abu-Jihaad.

Within a month, they planned and wrote Shareef's martyrdom video, which was to be released if something happened to him in the mall attack.

On Dec. 6, 2006, Shareef was arrested.