'Former US sailor assisted terrorists'

Hassan Abujihaad disclosed secret information; faces up to 25 years in prison.

US navy 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
US navy 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A federal judge ordered a former Navy sailor to remain behind bars Friday on charges that he supported terrorism by disclosing secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them. Hassan Abujihaad, 31, appeared briefly in US District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut but did not enter a plea or make a statement. He is due to return to court on March 30 for an arraignment. "Obviously this is a very serious matter," US Magistrate Holly Fitzsimmons told Abujihaad, who stood quietly and wore an orange jumpsuit. His attorney, Dan LaBelle, declined comment after the hearing but told Fitzsimmons that his client has a job and two small children and will ask to be released on bond at some point. Abujihaad, an American-born Muslim convert also known as Paul R. Hall, was arrested March 7 in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was apparently working as a delivery man. He was charged with one count of providing material support to terrorists with intent to kill US citizens and one count of disclosing classified information relating to the national defense. Federal authorities say they recovered e-mails about videos Abujihaad ordered that promoted violent jihad. Friends said they knew the former sailor was unhappy with American foreign policy but were surprised when he was arrested on charges of supporting terrorism. "He was very opinionated," said Miguel Colon, a friend who said he was extensively questioned about Abujihaad by FBI agents this week. "He would talk about things in regard to the way the Iraq war was going. It was something he disagreed with." Deedra Abboud, former executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Phoenix, said Abujihaad told her when they met a few years ago that he disagreed with some aspects of American foreign policy. "He still considered himself a US citizen and a member of the US military and would never have betrayed them," Abboud said. The investigation began at an Internet service provider in Connecticut and followed a suspected terrorist network across the country and into Europe and the Middle East. Abujihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism. Ahmad is awaiting extradition to the US to face trial. During a search of Ahmad's computers, investigators discovered files containing classified information about the positions of US Navy ships and discussing their susceptibility to attack. Abujihaad, a former enlisted man, exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit. In those e-mails, Abujihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, according to the affidavit. Abujihaad received an honorable discharge from the Navy in 2002, according to the affidavit. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.