Skip to comments.FBI monitored Tampa terrorist cell for decade (Al-Arian, unsealed affidavit details investigation)
Posted on 12/12/2003 1:22:11 AM PST by Stultis
FBI agents monitored a group of Palestinian men in Florida for more than a decade and drew the connections between Middle East terrorists and the group of seemingly quiet academics through a web of money transfers, faxes and scanned mail, according to court documents released Thursday.
In an affidavit more than 100-pages long, FBI Agent Kerry Myers detailed the long investigation of former University of South Professor Sami Al-Arian and three others who are named in a 50-count federal racketeering indictment.
The affidavit was used to obtain a judge's permission to search the defendants' homes when they were arrested in February. It was unsealed Thursday after Al-Arian's defense attorneys requested it.
Many of the details of the evidence gathered in the case has been made public since the document was presented to U.S. District Judge Thomas McCoun in subsequent court hearings. The FBI was seeking to convince the judge that Al-Arian and the others constituted a "terrorist cell" of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the United States and said years of money transfers, wire taps and intercepted faxes backup their case.
Myers said in the sworn affidavit that FBI wiretaps dated back to December 1993, years before it became publicly known that Al-Arian and Palestinian Islamic Jihad head Ramadan Shallah were under investigation, the affidavit said. Shallah headed up Al-Arian's think tank until 1995, when he left to assume the leadership of the PIJ.
Shallah, who is in Syria, is among four other men named in the indictment who have not been arrested.
Calls to Al-Arian's attorneys were not immediately returned Thursday. Al-Arian, Sameeh Hammoudeh, Hatim Fariz and Ghassan Zayed Ballut have said they are innocent of the charges and are scheduled to go to trial in January 2005.
Al-Arian has denied that he supports terrorism and has accused the government of persecuting him for his anti-Israeli views.
Steve Cole, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, declined to comment on the newly revealed evidence.
The first pieces of evidence tying Al-Arian to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad came following the February 1992 slayings of three people at an Israeli military camp in the occupied territories, the records said. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack and four members of the group were arrested.
In June 1993, Al-Arian sent four wire transfers of $2,000 each from his bank in Tampa to the bank accounts in Israel established for the spouses or close relatives of the four terrorists, the affidavit said.
Scores of other telephone calls and faxes between the men and terrorist leaders in the Middle East followed, the affidavit said.
"The intercepts reveal that the defendants were members and heavily involved in PIJ, its financial operations and its ongoing violent efforts to replace the state of Israel with a Palestinian Islamic Republic modeled after the Islamic Republic of Iran," Myers wrote.
Myers, an anti-terrorism expert who once testified in the case against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, also said Al-Arian and the others provided advice on the terrorist group's structure, financing, organization and relationships with other terrorist groups, including Hamas. They used USF as a cover and brought other terrorists into the United States "under the guise of academic conferences, meetings and employment."
Dec 12, 2003
The allegation against Al-Arian, a former computer science professor at the University of South Florida, was contained in documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge at the request of Al-Arian's defense team.
Among the unsealed documents was an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Kerry L.Myers requesting searches of the homes of Al-Arian and his co-defendants. The searches were conducted on Feb. 21, when they were arrested on charges they provided material support to the Islamic Jihad. The organization has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings in Israel.
The affidavit described the sought- after evidence, which included computer equipment and software. Noting that Al-Arian has a doctoral degree in computer engineering, Myers wrote that Al-Arian had a 1994 conversation with his brother discussing the creation of an ``impenetrable computer system.''
It is alleged that the brothers later discussed a computer network with stations in the United States, Europe and Turkey. They also reportedly talked about encrypted information.
The affidavit also describes a 2002 telephone conversation between Al-Arian and a co-conspirator about relaying a message to an Islamic Jihad official. The man described as a co-conspirator, Taysir Al- Khatib, allegedly told Al-Arian not to discuss the matter on the telephone, but to wait until they could communicate online.
In his order Thursday, McCoun also released copies of documents related to 1995 searches of Al-Arian's home and offices. Although the court's original copies of those documents were accidentally shredded, McCoun wrote in an order releasing the papers that he had obtained copies of many of the documents from federal law enforcement officials. The 1995 documents were first released in 1996.
Thursday's order was the first time Myers' affidavit became available for public view. The affidavit contains new details of the case against Al-Arian and his co-defendants, including:
* The court-ordered wiretaps of co-conspirators and defendants, as well as what the government refers to as terrorist cover organizations, began on Dec. 27, 1993.
* The first official confirmation that the person described in the indictment as ``unindicted co-conspirator twelve'' is Mazen Al-Najjar, Al-Arian's brother-in-law. Al-Najjar was jailed in 1997 and deported last year after a lengthy battle over secret evidence.
* An allegation that in 1994, Al-Arian and several other co- defendants, including Bashir Nafi and Abd Al Aziz Awda, represented a majority of the voting members on the 10-member Shura Council, the organization's governing body.
* In the spring of 1995, the defendants received faxes of articles ``glorifying terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of Israelis and demanding the release of PIJ terrorists being held in Palestinian prisons.
``The defendants also advised [group founder] Fathi Shiqaqi and others,'' the affidavit says, ``about how to engage in effective propaganda while avoiding the scrutiny of the United States and European law enforcement. The defendants communicated with persons in Iran and Syria about the possibility of procuring encrypted communications equipment to facilitate information sharing.''
Included in the document are new details about an informant who gave authorities information about a 1988 conference in St. Lous of the Islamic Concern Project, an organization founded by Al- Arian. The confidential source was an Arab Muslim cleric, who told authorities that Al- Arian told him that the funds raised at the event were really for Islamic Jihad, the affidavit says. The source also said under oath that Al-Arian tried to get him to join Islamic Jihad. He declined because he had heard rumors that Shiqaqi was a thief.
The affidavit summarizes the results of wiretaps, saying that from 1994 on, ``The defendants in the United States communicated with each other and other PIJ operatives about specific PIJ and HAMAS terrorist attacks shortly after they occurred, detailing who committed them, who organized them, what types of explosives were used, the total cost of the operations, and who had been arrested as the result of the terrorist act.''
Reporter Michael Fechter contributed to this story. Reporter Elaine Silvestrini can be reached at (813) 259-7837.
Can you give me another incident, any incident, similar in nature to this decade long investigation? I'd like to see that.
You've yet to give me another example similar to this one!
When to cease surveillance and prosecute is a judgement call.
While it might be hard to say in this case, intelligence's judgement is known to have erred on the side of continued surveillance as evidenced by the planes that hit the WTC when there was surveillance that terrorists were training for something involving crashing planes.
The female author is an Iraq Jew who's father was hung by Saddam Hussain.
She has dedicated her life going undercover in radical Islamic conferences with a hidden camera and a wire to obtain info for the feds.
She also researches public information, available to anyone with enough time on their hands. She has given a LOT of information on Al-Arian to the FBI which she details in the book.
After reading what she has to say about the pissing contests between the various intellegence agencies of the US Government (even after 9-11) and pure simple incompetence, I'm less than impressed with the state of our FBI.
To anyone wanting more information on the various "Muslim Charities" laundering money for multiple terrorist organizations as well as Al-Arian read this book. I couldn't put it down, it was fascinating and disturbing both.