February 25, 2008
Pg. 4 Prosecutors say details on warships disclosed
By John Christoffersen, Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A former Navy sailor faces a trial beginning today on terrorism charges alleging he communicated with suspected terrorists while on duty and leaked information that could have doomed his own ship.
Prosecutors allege that Hassan Abu-Jihaad sent details of the location and vulnerabilities of a Navy battle group to suspected terrorism supporters in London.
"If we have members of our military who are aggressively passing on secrets to terrorists, that's cause for concern," said Michael Greenberger, director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland. "It's a very aggressive act which would have brought real danger to the United States."
Abu-Jihaad, 32, of Phoenix, has pleaded not guilty to charges he provided material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosed classified information relating to the national defense. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Abu-Jihaad, an American-born Muslim convert formerly known as Paul Hall, was a signalman until he received an honorable discharge in 2002. He worked in a warehouse in Phoenix and has two children, friends said.
"He was very opinionated," Miguel Colon, a friend questioned about Abu-Jihaad by FBI agents, said last year. "He would talk about things in regard to the way the Iraq war was going. It was something he disagreed with."
Colon said he rarely saw his friend angry. Colon, who met Abu-Jihaad at a Phoenix mosque, said Abu-Jihaad was dedicated to his prayers, Islamic literature and following rules against drinking.
Abu-Jihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and awaiting extradition on accusations of running websites to raise money, appeal for fighters and provide equipment for terrorists. The websites were the premier English-language mouthpiece of terrorists, according to Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism expert and a government witness for the trial.
The investigation was one of the first to target online terrorism financiers after the 9/11 attacks and experts have cited Abu-Jihaad's case as an example of how Internet propaganda fuels the radicalization process.
Authorities say investigators searching Ahmad's computers discovered files containing classified information about the positions of Navy ships and discussing their susceptibility to attack.
Prosecutors acknowledge they don't have direct proof that Abu-Jihaad leaked details of ship movements.
However, an FBI affidavit says he 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. In those e-mails, Abu-Jihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Osama bin Laden and the people who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, investigators say.
Abu-Jihaad's attorneys say the government's case is weak.