Former Navy Sailor Charged With Passing Secrets to Al Qaeda

Former sailor allegedly passed information on U.S. Navy movements in Middle East

A former U.S. Navy sailor has been charged with allegedly passing military secrets about U.S. Navy movements through waters in the Middle East to al Qaeda-related Web sites during the spring of 2001, just months after the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen.

Hassan Abujihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall, allegedly passed information about U.S. Navy warship movements in the Straits of Hormuz in April 2001 while he was a member of the Navy. The information passed along contained details about vulnerabilites of U.S. vessels -- including susceptibility to small boat attacks by terrorists.

Abujihaad was arrested today in Phoenix, according to a criminal complaint unsealed tonight that charged him with providing material support to terrorists who planned to kill U.S. nationals.

The complaint claims Abujihaad was an associate of Derrick Shareef, who allegedly tried to explode grenades at the CherryVale Mall outside Chicago during the height of the holiday shopping season last December. Shareef was arrested on Dec. 6, 2006, when he traded stereo speakers for dud grenades in an FBI sting operation.

Abujihaad's arrest arises out of the investigation of Babar Ahmad, who is suspected of developing radical Islamic Web sites popular with members of al Qaeda and other mujahedeen. Ahmad was indicted in the United States in 2004 for allegedly providing material support to Chechen terrorist groups and the Taliban. Ahmad is currently battling his extradition to the United States in British courts. The British government has said that Ahmad can be extradited to the United States to face trial. Lawyers for Babar Ahmad have filed an appeal with Britain's High Court. The earlier charges mentioned that Ahmad had received critical information about ship movements from a U.S. Navy sailor, but the serviceman was not identified at the time.

From 1997 until his arrest in 2004, Ahmad allegedly ran Web sites for Azzam Publications, which used to carry propaganda for al Qaeda, including bin Laden's 1996 Declaration of War against the United States. The Azzam Web site was a key recruitment and propaganda tool for al Qaeda and mujahedeen.

According to an indictment in a related case unsealed last July, a defendant named Sayed Talha Ahsan, "In or about April 2001 the defendant [Ahsan] … possessed, accessed, modified and resaved a document containing then-classified United States Navy plans of a United States Naval Battle Group operating in the Straits of Hormuz and discussing the Naval Group's vulnerabilities to terrorist attack."

According to the indictment, Ahsan allegedly helped run the Web sites with Ahmad.

The Abujihaad case is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut, since some of the Web servers they allegedly used were based in Connecticut.