AP : Feds: Ex-Sailor Ordered Violent Videos

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feds: Ex-Sailor Ordered Violent Videos

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN | February 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Prosecutors played videos promoting violent jihad Tuesday at the trial of a former sailor accused of communicating with suspected terrorists and leaking information that could have doomed his own Navy ship.

Prosecutors allege that Hassan Abu-Jihaad ordered the videos. His attorneys have said in court papers that they don't dispute that he was in contact with the company that sold the videos, but that pictures and videos don't prove he passed classified information.

Abu-Jihaad, 32, of Phoenix, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges alleging he provided material support to terrorists and disclosed classified national defense information. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

On Tuesday, prosecutors showed e-mails from 2000 and 2001 in which Abu-Jihaad ordered violent videos from Azzam Publications. They say he later destroyed his copies of the videos after news reports about the case.

The videos, filled with explosions, flames and dead bodies, feature Muslim fighters in Chechnya and Bosnia. In one segment played in court Tuesday, a group of fighters in Chechnya find an injured Russian soldier, then force him to stand despite his injuries. They eventually kill him with an assault rifle.

Prosecutors say the videos are important evidence because they must prove not only that Abu-Jihaad leaked the ship details but intended to kill Americans by sending the information to those who promoted terrorism. They say the videos depict martyrdom, explaining why Abu-Jihaad would allow his own ship to be targeted.

Abu-Jihaad, an American-born Muslim convert formerly known as Paul R. Hall, was a Navy signalman and received an honorable discharge in 2002. Prosecutors offered evidence Tuesday that he changed his name to Abu-Jihaad in 1997.

Abu-Jihaad was charged in the same case that led to the 2004 arrest of Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist accused of running Web sites to raise money, appeal for fighters and provide equipment such as gas masks and night vision goggles for terrorists. Ahmad is to be extradited to the U.S.

Abu-Jihaad is being prosecuted in New Haven because the federal investigation first focused on a Connecticut-based Internet service provider.

On Monday, the first day of the trial, British investigators described how they found details about the vulnerability of Abu-Jihaad's Navy battle group in the London home of Ahmad's parents, where Ahmad had a room.

Prosecutors acknowledge they don't have direct proof that Abu-Jihaad leaked details of ship movements.

Craig Bowling, a computer expert with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, testified Tuesday that e-mail service providers regularly purge their accounts. He also said there was evidence that a computer program that wipes out information was applied to a floppy disc containing the information about the ships and other files.

According to an FBI affidavit, Abu-Jihaad exchanged e-mails with Ahmad in 2000 and 2001 while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer that was part of the battle group formation. In those e-mails, Abu-Jihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, investigators say.

In an e-mail sent to Azzam Publications and presented Tuesday in court, Abu-Jihaad called the attack on the USS Cole a "martyrdom operation" and praised "the men who have brong (sic) honor ... in the lands of jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc."

He signed the e-mail: "A brother serving a kuffar nation." Bowling defined kuffar as nonbeliever or infidel.

Prosecutors hope to bolster the case by playing intercepted phone calls to show what they say is Abu-Jihaad's coded speech and obsession with security. Abu-Jihaad's attorneys say the statements are irrelevant and the government's case is weak.