The case drew attention at the highest levels of government, FBI officials told ABC News, when TEDAC forensic investigators tasked with finding IEDs from Bayji dating back to 2005 pulled 170 case boxes and, incredibly, found several of Alwan's fingerprints on a Senao-brand remote cordless base station. A U.S. military Significant Action report on Sept. 1, 2005 said the remote-controlled trigger had been attached to "three homemade-explosive artillery rounds concealed by gravel with protruding wires."
"There were two fingerprints, developed on the top of the base station," Katie Suchma, an FBI supervisory physical scientist at TEDAC who helped locate the evidence, told ABC News at the center's IED examination lab. "The whole team was ecstatic because it was like finding a needle in a haystack."
"This was the type of bomb he's talking about when he drew those pictures," added FBI electronics expert Stephen Mallow.
Word was sent back to the FBI in Louisville.
"It was a surreal moment, it was a real game changer, so to speak, for the case," FBI agent Beam told ABC News. "Now you have solidified proof that he was involved in actual attacks against U.S. soldiers."
Worse, prosecutors later revealed at Hammadi's sentencing hearing that he and Alwan had been caught on an FBI surveillance tape talking about using a bomb to assassinate an Army captain they'd known in Bayji, who was now back home – and to possibly attack other homeland targets.
"Many things should take place and it should be huge," Hammadi told Alwan in an FBI-recorded conversation, which a prosecutor read at Hammadi's sentencing last year.
Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller briefed President Obama in early 2011 as agents and Louisville federal prosecutors weighed whether to arrest Alwan and Hammadi or continue arranging phony arms shipments to Iraq that the pair could assist with, consisting of machine guns, explosives and even Stinger missiles the FBI had secretly rendered inoperable and which never left the U.S.
But agents soon determined there were no other co-conspirators. An FBI SWAT team collared the terrorists in a truck south of Bowling Green in late May 2011, only weeks after al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan and Obama had visited nearby Fort Campbell to thank the SEALs and Army Nightstalker pilots for their successful mission. The Kentucky al Qaeda case drew little attention as the nation celebrated Bin Laden's death.