updated 4/20/2005 9:41:25 PM ET 2005-04-21T01:41:25

An Algerian convicted of plotting a millennium eve bombing at Los Angeles International Airport stopped cooperating with federal investigators, jeopardizing at least two cases “of vital interest to national security,” the government said Wednesday.

Ahmed Ressam provided information on more than 100 potential terrorists in interviews over two years, and federal prosecutors and public defenders had agreed his sentence would be at least 27 years.

In a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday, however, federal prosecutors recommended a 35-year term because Ressam stopped cooperating in 2003, “breaching his agreement and effectively terminating at least two criminal cases of vital interest to national security.”

He’ll be sentenced April 27 by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, who has described the information Ressam provided as “startlingly helpful.”

Federal public defenders representing Ressam did not immediately return a call for comment.

In December 1999, Ressam was caught smuggling a car trunkload of bomb-making materials into the United States from Canada through Port Angeles, about 120 miles northwest of Seattle.

‘Hundreds of innocent people’
The explosives “would have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent people,” prosecutors said in the sentencing memorandum.

He was convicted in April 2001 of terrorist conspiracy and other charges, and faced up to 130 years in prison. He agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department.

Up until April 2003, Ressam spent more than 200 hours speaking with authorities about terrorist networks — and 65 hours testifying during depositions or trials, his lawyers wrote last week in documents outlining Ressam’s cooperation.

Among the topics he covered were training camps in Afghanistan, terrorist recruitment, training, cell locations, general targets, the ideology of the movements, weapons and technology, explosives making, chemicals used in constructing explosives and the use of safe houses. Much of the information remains secret.

By early 2003, however, Ressam began to wear down, showing the effects of two years of interrogations and three years of solitary confinement that included “vicious verbal harassment” and a physical assault by a prison guard at a detention facility shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, according to his lawyers.

Lawyers: Ressam willing to testify
According to a defense memo, meetings became less frequent and less productive, and then were called off as Ressam sought to regain his health.

The lawyers have said Ressam’s current condition does not diminish his past help and he is still willing to testify if called.

Ressam’s testimony helped convict Mokhtar Haouari of supplying fake identification and cash for the millennium bomb plot. Haouari was sentenced in New York to 24 years in prison.

Ressam also provided information about two other suspects in the millennium bomb plot. Haydar Abu Doha, an Algerian national, is in British custody awaiting extradition to the United States. Samir Ait Mohamed awaits extradition from Canada.

But without further cooperation from Ressam, these cases may never go to trial.

“The United States currently finds itself in the extremely difficult situation of trying to proceed with these critical prosecutions after the most significant evidence (Ressam’s testimony) has evaporated,” the memorandum stated.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments