September 2, 2008 -- Aafia Siddiqui, the alleged Mata Hari of Al Qaeda, was indicted by federal authorities in New York today for allegedly attempting to kill the FBI agents, US soldiers, interpreters and others who attempted to interview her following her July capture in Afghanistan. The seven count indictment detailed her alleged possession of detailed handwritten notes on "dirty bombs," terrorist recruiting, New York targets, and the relative casualty rates for various weapons of mass destruction.
Siddiqui, who holds degrees from MIT and Brandeis in biology and neuroscience, allegedly had in her possession when captured by Afghanistan's National Police on July 17th detailed chemical, biological and radiological weapon information that has been seen only in a handful of terrorist cases, as well as a thumb drive packed with emails, according to the indictment. That information was first reported by ABC News on August 12th. In addition, ABC has learned, the chemicals the indictment alleges Siddiqui had in her possession included about a liter of cyanide.
She also allegedly had with her a list of potential targets that included the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, Wall Street and the animal disease center on Plum Island.
According to the indictment, Siddiqui's notes contained the details of casualty rates for various weapons of mass destruction. Her hand written notes, the indictment stated, "referred to the construction of 'dirty bombs' chemical and biological weapons, and other explosives."
Those handwritten notes included details on other methods of attack by "destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs and using gliders," the indictment stated.
The haul of information, plus a one gigabyte thumb drive packed with what the indictment described as information referring to "specific 'cells'" and "attacks" by those cells terrorist cells" as well as notes on recruiting and training has led multiple government sources to describe Siddique, 36, as a potential "treasure trove" of information on terrorist supporters, sympathizers or 'sleepers' in the United States and overseas.
Only a "handful" of captured alleged Al Qaeda associates have had the kind of detailed information on weapons of mass destruction that Siddique, who attended MIT as an undergraduate and earned her PhD in neuroscience at Brandeis, had in her handbag, multiple current and former US intelligence and law enforcement officials told ABC News.
"She is the most significant capture in five years," noted CIA officer John Kiriakou, who said she lives up to her reputation as an alleged terrorist 'Mata Hari.'
And there is an eagerness to see what, if anything, she can add to the thin trickle of fresh information on the activities of terrorists and terrorist supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as what if any risk she might pose to national security.
"She is a very dangerous person, no doubt about it," said a senior US counter terrorism official.
"This is a major haul, a major capture for the FBI," said Kiriakou. "To find someone who has such rich information, computer hard drives, e-mails, that is really a major capture."
US authorities have been analyzing Siddiqui's saliva, hair, and fingernail scrapings to determine, if possible, what evidence they can find of any exposure to chemical, biological or radiological materials with potential use in weapons of mass destruction, sources said. ABC is not aware of the outcomes, if any, of those tests.
"Her education troubled us. We know that she's extremely bright. She's radicalized. We knew that she had been planning, or at least involved in the planning, of a wide variety of different operations, whether they involved weapons of mass destruction or research into chemical or biological weapons, whether it was a possible attempt on the life of the President," said Kiriakou. "We knew that she was involved with a great deal and we had to bring her into custody."
She also carried excerpts from "The Anarchist's Arsenal" and "documents detailing United States military assets", according to the federal complaint against her filed July 31st in Manhattan. It was about that time when Siddiqui was shipped to New York on an FBI jet accompanied by an FBI doctor, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the New York Joint Terror Task Force, a New York City Police Dept. detective and a number of other U.S. law enforcement personnel.
Interest in Siddiqui is in itself not new. On May 26th, 2004 she became the first woman wanted by the federal government in connection with Al Qaeda when then Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller asked the public's help in finding her and six men suspected of links to Al Qaeda.
At that same time they warned, in advance of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, that Al Qaeda was preparing to "hit the United States hard" that summer.
By then Siddiqui had been linked to an "ill conceived" and perhaps amateurish plot to "kill all living US presidents", according to sources from three federal agencies. One of those plots included a poison attack on the life of Jimmy Carter. By then she had already vanished from public view for about 16 months.
She has also been twice married; once to a nephew of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Her name reportedly rolled from KSM's lips when he was captured and interrogated by US intelligence officers. She has also been linked to Adnan El Shukrijumah, a pilot and suspected al Qaeda member also on the Ashcroft-Mueller list.
Shukrijumah, Ashcroft noted, had once lived in Florida, had left the United States and had later attempted to re-enter the country using a variety of passports.
"We know that he has been involved in terrorist planning with senior al Qaeda leaders overseas and has scouted sites across America that might be vulnerable to terrorist attack," Ashcroft added.
By the time of Siddiqui's capture last month, she had become something of a cause celebre among some human rights activists who believe she was "disappeared" five years ago by the Pakistani government, perhaps at the request of the United States.
At a federal court hearing in Manhattan on Monday August 11th, the number of supporters who showed up required the US Marshals to move the Magistrate's Court proceeding to a larger courtroom and also open an overflow courtroom where spectators could listen to and watch the proceedings on closed circuit TV.
They saw Siddiqui slumped over in a wheelchair, the result of having been shot with a nine millimeter side arm after she allegedly grabbed a US Army Warrant Officer's M-4 Carbine and opened fire as a team of FBI agents, US Army officers including the Warrant Officer and a Captain, and interpreters prepared to interrogate her on July 18th, the day following her arrest. Those actions are at the heart of the indictment unsealed today. It charges her with the attempted murder of United States Nationals, the attempted murder of United States Officers and Employees, and related charges.
The details on which the charges were based earlier had been outlined in the federal complaint filed on July 31. According to it "The Warrant Officer saw and heard Siddiqui fire at least two shots as Interpreter 1 tried to wrestle the gun from her. No one was hit. The Warrant Officer heard Siddique exclaim 'Allah Akbar!' Another interpreter (Interpreter 2) heard Siddique yell in English 'Get the f--- out of here,' as she fired the rifle," the complaint stated. Siddiqui was then shot .
"Her medical condition is that, she was shot in the abdomen. There are stitches that run from the breast plate area down to the belly button area...layers and layers of tissue have been sewn, sutured. We have heard reports that she has lost a kidney; we don't know if those are accurate but we are concerned about that. There has been intestinal damage, part of the intestines, we understand, have been removed," Elaine Whitman Sharpe, one of a team of three attorneys present for Siddique, said following the court appearance on August 11th.
Her friends and family say the young woman, a mother of three, is innocent and being persecuted by the US. There is some dissent in the intelligence community on Siddique's potential value and some have characterized her as mentally unbalanced and operationally insignificant.
But in an intelligence and law enforcement community that has exhausted the useful information from high value prisoners it has had in custody for as long as six years and has watched the stream of new intelligence go from a torrent to a trickle, she is seen by many as having at least the potential of holding valuable current intelligence about members and associates of Al Qaeda both overseas and in the United States.
Telephone calls to three members of Siddiquis legal defense team have not yet been returned.