The trial of a former Navy sailor accused of helping suspected terrorists, including leaking information that could have doomed his own ship, opened Monday with British investigators describing evidence they found.
Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 32, has pleaded not guilty to charges he provided material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosed classified information relating to national defense. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege that he sent details of the location and vulnerabilities of a Navy battle group to suspected terrorism supporters in London.
Abu-Jihaad's attorneys say the government's case is weak.
Abu-Jihaad was charged as a result of an investigation that led to the 2004 arrest of Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist accused of running Web sites to raise money, appeal for fighters and provide equipment such as gas masks and night vision goggles for terrorists. Ahmad is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Three British investigators testified Monday that agents who searched Ahmad's parents' house, where he had a room, in 2003 found a computer floppy disk.
Computer expert Samantha Miller testified that the disk contained information on U.S. Navy ships and planned ship movements.
The information on the disk, revealed in court Monday, included statements such as "They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), etc., except their SEALS' stinger missiles."
Prosecutors have said files found on Ahmad's computers contained classified information about the positions of Navy ships and discussed their susceptibility to attack. They also allegedly listed the ships in a Navy battle group, its planned movements and a drawing of the group's formation when it was to pass through the Straits of Hormuz on April 29, 2001.
Honorably discharged in 2002
Abu-Jihaad, an American-born Muslim convert from Phoenix formerly known as Paul R. Hall, was a Navy signalman. He was honorably discharged in 2002.
The investigation that led to his arrest was one of the first to target online terrorism financiers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and experts have cited Abu-Jihaad's case as an example of how Internet propaganda fuels the radicalization process.
The Web sites run by Ahmad were the premier English-language mouthpiece of terrorists, according to Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism expert and a government witness for the trial.
Prosecutors acknowledge they don't have direct proof that Abu-Jihaad leaked details of ship movements, but an FBI affidavit says Abu-Jihaad exchanged e-mails with Ahmad in 2000 and 2001 while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer that was part of the battle group headed for the Straits of Hormuz. In those e-mails, investigators say, Abu-Jihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000.