Examiner : Former reporter testifies in Phoenix sailor's terrorism trial

Monday, March 03, 2008

Former reporter testifies in Phoenix sailor's terrorism trial

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, The Associated Press | March 3, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The attorney for a former Navy sailor tried to show Monday that many details of ship movements he is accused of leaking to suspected terrorism supporters were publicly available through news reports, press releases and Web sites.

Hassan 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.

Prosecutors rested their case Friday. Abu-Jihaad does not plan to take the stand.

Abu-Jihaad, an American-born Muslim convert formerly known as Paul R. Hall, is accused of leaking information that could have endangered his own ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, and other ships. He was a Navy signalman and was honorably discharged in 2002.

He is accused of passing along details that included the makeup of his Navy battle group, its planned movements and a drawing of the group's formation when it was to pass through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf on April 29, 2001.

The only witness his attorney plans to call is Molly Knight Raskin, a former reporter hired to do research.

She testified Monday about an article in a San Diego newspaper that detailed the departure of Abu-Jihaad's battle group and listed ships that would be deploying. The paper also had a column called "Standing the Watch" that allowed readers to follow a battle group's movements.

On cross-examination, Knight Raskin said the column included only a ship's present location, not its future movements, and was at one point discontinued due to security concerns.

She testified that she found several other Web sites and articles indicating that the battle group would deploy March 15, 2001. A press release from the Canadian military indicated that one of its ships would participate in the deployment and would leave that day.

Prosecutors acknowledge they don't have direct proof that Abu-Jihaad leaked details of ship movements, but they cite e-mails he exchanged with the suspected terrorism supporters.

Navy officials have testified that, as a signalman, Abu-Jihaad would have had access to details of ship movements.

Prosecutors say investigators discovered files on a computer disk recovered from a suspected terrorism supporter's home in London that included the ship movements, as well as the number and type of personnel on each ship and the ships' capabilities. The file ended with instructions to destroy the message, according to testimony.

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.

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