By Pete Williams Justice correspondent
NBC News and news services
updated 3/7/2007 8:17:32 PM ET 2007-03-08T01:17:32

A former Navy enlisted man was arrested and charged with violating terrorism and espionage laws by passing along sensitive information about the vulnerability of Navy ships to al-Qaida associates, sources told NBC News on Wednesday.

Officials already knew naval information had been relayed but just recently named a suspect.

Paul R. Hall, now known as Hassan Abujihaad, 31, was arrested Wednesday in Phoenix, Ariz., said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He is accused of sending classified information about the movements of a Navy battle group deployed to the Persian Gulf in the spring of 2001. The document discussed potential vulnerabilities to attack. It was sent to the operators of a London Web site, Assam Publications, who have since been arrested on terrorism charges. Their arrests in 2004 first exposed the contacts.

Federal agents said Abujihaad described the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbor in Yemen as a "martyrdom operation" and said that such tactics were working and taking their toll on the Navy.

He was discharged from the Navy in January 2002, before his contact with the Web site was discovered.

Abujihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism. Ahmad is schedule be extradited to the U.S. to face trial.

Investigators discovered computer files containing classified information about the positions of U.S. Navy ships and discussing their susceptibility to attack during Ahmad's investigation.

Abujihaad exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001, according to an affidavit released Wednesday. He allegedly purchased videos promoting violent jihad.

The documents retrieved from Ahmad show drawings of Navy battle groups and discuss upcoming missions. They also say the battle group could be attacked using small weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades. The ships were never attacked.

Abujihaad had a secret security clearance that would have allowed him access to that material, according to the affidavit.

The investigation was run out of Connecticut because Ahmad allegedly used an Internet service provider there to host one of his fundraising Web sites.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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