A former Navy sailor from Phoenix was convicted Wednesday of leaking information about the movements and vulnerabilities of ships in his battle group to suspected terrorism supporters.
In their second day of deliberations, jurors convicted Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 32, of providing material support to terrorists and disclosing classified national defense information.
He faces up to 25 years in federal prison when he is sentenced May 23. He showed no visible emotion as the verdict was read Wednesday. Family members declined comment as they left U.S. District Court.
The leak came amid increased wariness on the part of U.S. Navy commanders whose ships headed to the Persian Gulf in the months after a terrorist ambush in 2000 killed 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole.
Abu-Jihaad, who was aboard the USS Benfold, was accused of passing along details that included the makeup of his Navy battle group, its planned movements and a drawing of the group's formation when it was to pass through the dangerous Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf on April 29, 2001.
Abu-Jihaad, who did not take the stand during six days of testimony at his trial, was a Navy signalman honorably discharged in 2002.
Abu-Jihaad's attorney said an investigation that spanned two continents over four years failed to turn up proof that Abu-Jihaad leaked details of ship movements and their vulnerability to attack.
Federal prosecutors had urged a jury to convict him, saying he sympathized with the enemy and admitted disclosing military intelligence. But they acknowledged they did not have direct proof that he leaked the ship details.
Signalman had access
Authorities said the details of ship movements had to have been leaked by an insider, saying they were not publicly known and contained military jargon. The leaked documents closely matched what Abu-Jihaad would have had access to as a signalman, authorities said.
But Dan LaBelle, Abu-Jihaad's attorney, tried to show that many details of ship movements he was accused of leaking to suspected terrorism supporters were publicly available through news reports, press releases and Web sites. He also noted that Navy officials testified that the details were full of errors.
Prosecutors say investigators discovered files on a computer disk recovered from a suspected terrorism supporter's home in London that included the ship movements, as well as the number and type of personnel on each ship and the ships' capabilities. The file ended with instructions to destroy the message, according to testimony.
Abu-Jihaad was charged in the same case 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, who lived with his parents where the computer file was allegedly found, is to be extradited to the U.S.
Abu-Jihaad was prosecuted in New Haven because the investigation first focused on a Connecticut-based Internet service provider.