US antiterror tactics crimp new terror case
Some of the strongest evidence against Jose Padilla, whose trial begins Monday, was coerced and can't be used in court.
(Page 2 of 2)
The third defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, founded and ran several humanitarian organizations that allegedly contributed money to suspected terror groups. He also produced "The Islam Report," a publication that prosecutors say promoted violent jihad as a religious obligation.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The defendants deny that they supported violence. They say that they were helping fellow Muslims in need.
According to the indictment, the North American support cell was active for about eight years from October 1993 to November 2001. During that period, $58,700 was allegedly sent overseas to various Muslims. In its most active year – 1998 – the group transferred $19,800 to Egypt and Kosovo.
In November 2001, three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a $2,000 check was issued for "Afghan relief."
Although the indictment tracks the movement of money, it does not identify how the money was spent. Prosecutors say Mr. Hassoun and others used coded language to disguise their support for terror operations. For example, some checks were designated to support "tourism," another noted simply "for brothers."
But other checks suggest there was no attempt to conceal the destination of the money. Some checks were marked "Chechnya," "Kosovo," and "Somalia." One included the notation: "one for Bosnia one for Libya."
Prosecutors say coded language was also used in thousands of conversations secretly monitored and recorded by US intelligence officials acting under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In February 1998, Hassoun was recorded discussing that $3,500 sent to Lebanon had been used to purchase "zucchini."
One of the strongest pieces of evidence in the case against Padilla is a "Mujahideen Data Form" that Padilla allegedly filled out in July 2000 before attending an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
Key document from unknown Afghan
Padilla's lawyers are raising questions about the document. They say it was delivered to the government by an anonymous Afghan citizen who drove up to a Central Intelligence Agency officer in December 2001 and handed him a number of documents that the Afghani said were recovered from an abandoned house once occupied by "Arabs."
According to a forensic expert for the defense, the data form was filled out using two different kinds of ink that are typically not found outside North America. The form was completed at different times with three different types of handwriting, according to the defense expert.
The suggestion is that someone else might have signed Padilla's name or somehow tampered with the form to help shore up the government's case.
Prosecutors dispute such allegations. They say they will call the CIA officer to testify. But they refuse to reveal his identity to defense lawyers. And in a highly unusual request, they've asked the judge to allow the CIA officer to don a "light disguise" while on the witness stand.
"This witness has been working for the CIA since 1991. The government has a duty to protect his identity," Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Pell told Judge Cooke in a recent pretrial hearing.
Padilla's lawyers disagreed. "For us to do our job, we have to know who this person is. We have to investigate," said Assistant Federal Public Defender Orlando do Campo. "We oppose the disguise. It is silly and disrespectful of this court."