Video: Convicted terrorist's taped confession

updated 11/30/2005 3:14:03 PM ET 2005-11-30T20:14:03

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — An American citizen was convicted last week of plotting with al-Qaida to kill President Bush. Now, for the first time, we hear his videotaped confession, from inside a Saudi prison.

Ahmed Abu Ali graduated from an Islamic school in Virginia as a member of the Honor Society. In 2002, he went to Saudi Arabia to study.

In the confession, Abu Ali describes how he was then recruited by a top Saudi al-Qaida operative.

"He started urging me to engage in jihad against America," says Abu Ali on the video released by the U.S. Department of Justice. "I immediately accepted because of my hatred of the U.S. for what I felt was its support of Israel against the Palestinian people."

Abu Ali and his handlers talked about targeting stadiums and amusement parks and killing a U.S. senator, but settled on a plan to assassinate President Bush.

"I and Ali agreed to either use at least three snipers who would fire simultaneously to increase the hit probability or to carry out a martyr operation when the U.S. president goes out to greet the people," says Abu Ali on the confession tape.

Though he claimed he was tortured into confessing, Abu Ali appears at ease, even playful. Al-Qaida also urged the 24-year-old American to go home and marry a Christian to blend in and become a sleeper agent.

"They're thinking about how to put their people in, how to burrow them right into the fabric of our society," says Skip Brandon, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent. "It provides the perfect cover."

Now Abu Ali faces 20 years to life in prison, and U.S. law enforcement is left to wonder how many other Abu Alis may be out there.

Lisa Myers is NBC's Senior Investigative Correspondent


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