Examiner : Prosecutors: Documents Matched Ship Path

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Prosecutors: Documents Matched Ship Path

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, The Associated Press | February 28, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Prosecutors at the federal trial of a former sailor accused of supplying information that could have doomed his ship tried to show Thursday that a stop by his vessel in Hawaii matched details in leaked documents.

Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 32, an American-born Muslim convert, 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.

Dennis Amador, a quartermaster and Abu-Jihaad's supervisor on the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, testified Thursday that keeping ship movements confidential is so important that he uses code even to tell his wife where he is.

"We in the Navy are taught from the minute we come in that loose lips sink ships," he said.

Abu-Jihaad 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 Straits of Hormuz on April 29, 2001.

Files found on a computer disk recovered by authorities from the home of an alleged terrorism supporter, Babar Ahmad, also included the number and type of personnel on each ship and the ships' capabilities and ended with instructions to destroy the message, according to testimony.

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

Adam Conaway, a Navy quartermaster, testified that Abu-Jihaad's ship stopped in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for ammunition on March 20, 2001. One of the leaked documents recovered by authorities indicated that some ships would load Tomahawk missiles on that date.

On cross-examination, Abu-Jihaad's attorneys pointed out that the leaked document referred only to some ships and did not specifically mention the Benfold. Prosecutors rebutted that by asking Conaway to confirm that the Benfold was the only ship from the battle group that stopped in Hawaii that day.

In testimony Thursday, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jay Wylie, who served on the Benfold with Abu-Jihaad, agreed with a question by a defense attorney that the battle group document was "riddled" with inaccuracies. He said his initial impression was that details about the ship listed in the document came from a publication available to the public, but also said that publication would not predict ship movements.

Abu-Jihaad, of Phoenix, was charged in the same case that led to the 2004 arrest of 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. Formerly known as Paul R. Hall, the Navy signalman received an honorable discharge in 2002.

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