Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/06/abu_jihaad_verdict/

Caution - FBI fit-ups of Muslim patsies in progress

Loose-tongued loser tagged with international terrorizing

By George Smith, Dick Destiny

Posted in Law, 6th March 2008 16:01 GMT

The trial of ex-Navy signalman Hassan Abu-jihaad took merely a week, ending with the bang of a one-day deliberation in which Connecticut jurors found the man guilty, sending him over for providing material support to terrorists.

The prosecution employed a strategy in which the jury was shown videotapes Abu-jihaad was said to have purchased from Azzam Publications in 2000 and 2001. The orders for videos were recovered from the computer in Babar Ahmad's bedroom at his parent's house in Upper Tooting, London, in 2003. It was explained that the US government obtained the e-mails in fragmentary fashion, requoted in replies from Azzam Publications.

The videos showed jihadis killing Russians in Chechnya and it was argued that in purchasing them, Abu-jihaad showed a predilection for martyrdom and that he materially aided an agency that was supporting terror. When e-mail about Abu-jihaad's battle group was sent to Azzam, it was said to be a demonstration that the author, presumably Abu-jihaad, wanted harm to be inflicted upon it.

"Prosecutors [said] the videos, which also showed Osama bin Laden, [were] important evidence because they [proved] not only that Abu-Jihaad leaked the ship details but intended to kill Americans by sending the information to those who promoted terrorism, reported the Associated Press on February 26. "They say the videos depict martyrdom, explaining why Abu-Jihaad would allow his own ship to be targeted."

From the beginning, the government's case was not strong. It could not forensically link Abu-jihaad to the e-mails recovered from the computer of Babar Ahmad, who is officially regarded in the States as a terrorist awaiting extradition. However, it sought the means to allow a jury to infer that the recovered e-mails were, in fact, Abu-jihaad's. This seemed obvious and Abu-jihaad's defense relied on an ultimately futile argument that the information on the Navy battle group passed to Azzam was not sensitive.

All of the transmissions to Azzam occurred prior to 9/11. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2002, long before the materials were found on Ahmad's computer and, quite obviously, well after the Navy battle group had passed through the Straits of Hormuz without incident. After 2004, the US government began surveilling Abu-jihaad and eventually placed an informant next to him in connection with another case, that of a man already convicted of terror conspiracy, Derrick Shareef.

In previous stories on pre-trial maneuvering, the emails to Azzam were analyzed in detail and it was the opinion here that, generally, they did not contain information that "could have doomed" (as assessed by AP) the destroyer Benfold, the ship Abu-jihaad served on. Certainly their content was of ugly tone, easily interpreted as the utterances of someone who was radicalized, insulting to US Navy officers and loose with praise for martyrs.

Although the writer attested to being a "brother serving a kuffar nation," the writer never called for an attack on the Benfold. These were thought crimes only. However, intimations of messing with the American military, particularly when serving in it, along with gruesome video, are incendiary stuff in American courtrooms. And the jury immediately linked Abu-jihaad to the transmissions and thought harshly of his intent.

The government deployed its professional witness, Evan Kohlmann, to dub Azzam an instrument of al Qaeda in its distribution of the usually cited materials regarding training and support for holy war.

The prosecution also brought forward the retired commander of Abu-jihaad's battle group, Rear Admiral David Hart, Jr. Hart testified that the information sent to Azzam was highly sensitive and had he known of the emails, he would have changed the time of the battle group's operation. The battle group did not however pass through the Straits of Hormuz on the day indicated in the email to Azzam anyway. As for the "diagram" of the formation emailed to Azzam, it was deemed inaccurate. In the original, two submarines were shown straddling part of the formation. Hart called this "tactically unfeasible," according to the Associated Press.

A vulnerability of units in the battle group said to be revealed in the email was also called incorrect by another Navy man. The emails were apparently full of small errors. Interestingly, a shipmate of Abu-jihaad's said the defendant showed him one of the Azzam-sold videotapes of Chechen rebels attacking Russians while on the Benfold.

None of this mattered. American juries are proven liable to convict anyone who can even be remotely connected with Islamic radicalism. That Abu-jihaad, in over half a decade, never did anything which physically harmed his country was irrelevant. A race element is also in play. The outsider other - anyone not white, Muslim and not well to do - is viewed as an enemy.

Babar Ahmad, coincidentally and unnoticed by US sources, was back in the news over the Milton Keynes prison bugging scandal in which he and Tooting Muslim Labour MP Sadiq Khan were bugged under orders from Scotland Yard senior officials during a visit to the jail by the latter. How this might effect Ahmad's being shipped to the States, if at all, is difficult to assess. But it is now fairly safe to predict that Ahmad will be quickly convicted in the same court once he is extradited. At which point he will be tossed in a US dungeon for close to life.

Meanwhile the US government has already scheduled professional witness Kohlmann for action in another terror trial this month.

This concerns Marwan el-Hindi, a naturalized American citizen. Along with two others, he stands accused of materially aiding terrorists in Toledo, Ohio. This case also looks dodgy, fitting a now established pattern in which a financially unsuccessful Muslim man is approached at a local mosque by a paid government informant who then works the target into an alleged sting plot aiding terrorism.

In this particular case, the plot was to train insurgents for Iraq. In the government's indictment of el-Hindi, the informant is a character in shadow known only as The Trainer. He has been revealed as Darren Griffin, an ex-military man who has been characterized as an entrapment specialist in dire financial straits by local newspaper reports. Also at the center of this case are alleged seditious materials from jihadist websites, a suicide bomb vest video which the government accuses el-Hindi of downloading and sending to the informant with the suggestion that recruits in Chicago be trained with it.

And here is where it gets sticky. Griffin had personal access to el-Hindi's computer and the defense has filed motion to compel the US government to produce all evidence gained from when the informant was on the defendant's computer. The implication is that the paid source engaged in a frame-up.

The Abu-jihaad verdict is just the latest in what has been a string of convictions of Muslim patsies and men of unfortunate means who appear to have been set up by a network of criminal paid informants in the employ of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. None have appeared to have been serious threats, just people - at worst unlikeable and on the fringes of society - accused of concocting ridiculous plots, never apprehended with weapons or explosives which would be required for the crimes they're accused of and convicted on.

The benchmark was set by Jose Padilla, an incompetent petty criminal, driven half mad by incarceration, originally accused of being a potential dirty bomber, a charge which proved so ludicrous even the Bush administration was compelled to drop it.

This was followed by the conviction of Hamid Hayat, a man of diminished mental capability living in Lodi, California, his family targeted by the FBI because of the town's Pakistani community. In the Hayat case, the FBI employed an informant, Naseem Khan - paid to the tune of about a quarter of a million dollars, who testified that al Qaeda #2, Ayman al Zawahiri, had once been seen in Lodi.

In Albany, New York, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, the latter a pizza shop owner, were convicted in a case which was built upon another FBI sting operation; they were lured into a money-laundering operation/fake terror plot said to be for the financing of the sale of a shoulder-fired missile for the killing of a Pakistani diplomat in New York. The case has been viewed as another entrapment operation and that US government secret arguments given only to the judge and prosecution abridged the right to a fair trial for both men.

Hassan Abu-jihaad was probably not a terrorist threat, unless one considers being an inflammatory big mouth internationally terrorizing. He bought tasteless videos and sent careless e-mail. His one-time friend, Derrick Shareef, who pled guilty in another FBI sting, was so crazy and anile that his conversations with Abu-jihaad were ruled inadmissable in the latter's case. Both alleged terrorists were served by another of the FBI's entrapment men, William Chrisman, a former felon with multiple wives - a functional harem - and a stack of children to support.

If you're a Muslim, lower class, and attending mosque in the US, beware of bolt-out-of-the-blue new acquaintances who appear to be in your income bracket. Stung within an inch of its life by 9/11, seven years later the US government is conducting undercover search and destroy missions and it doesn't care if it gets civilians. It wants terrorists and it employs those eager to fit people for al Qaeda jackets on demand, cost being no object. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.