As investigators continue to probe a possible espionage plot at the Guantanamo Bay prison, NBC News has obtained new details on the founder of the Muslim chaplain program for the U.S. military.
Abdurahman Alamoudi is a prominent American Muslim leader, welcomed by presidents and founder of the Muslim chaplain program for the U.S. military.
Now he’s in jail, caught heading to Syria with $340,000 in cash, money prosecutors believe came from Libya. According to FBI counterterrorism chief Steve Pomerantz, “It’s very hard to explain in any innocent way a suitcase full of money going from one terrorist-sponsoring nation to another terrorist-sponsoring nation.”
U.S. investigators speculated in court that the money was headed for Hamas or another terror group in Syria. A British document obtained by NBC News describes Alamoudi as “evasive” and at one point untruthful when caught with the cash in London.
But May Kheder, Alamoudi’s lawyer, insists the money was legally obtained and not intended for terrorism. “Dr. Alamoudi maintains that he has no connection whatsoever to any terrorist activity,” Kheder says.
However, in an audiotape of a conversation obtained by NBC News, Alamoudi seems to embrace violence. Speaking Arabic, Alamoudi criticizes Osama bin Laden — not for acts of violence, but for his choice of targets, specifically the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Africa. A translator quotes Alamoudi as saying, “Many African Muslims have died and not a single American died.”
In fact, 12 Americans were killed. Alamoudi adds, “I prefer to hit a Zionist target in America, or Europe, or elsewhere.”
White house protest
When a partial transcript of the same tape was read in court, Alamoudi’s lawyer said the remarks were part of a two-hour conversation. She now tells NBC her client doesn’t remember ever saying such things.
At a protest outside the White House in 2000, he did support terrorist groups. On tape, he’s heard saying, “Hear that, Bill Clinton. We are all supporters of Hamas. Allah Akbar!”
So far, the criminal case against Alamoudi does not touch on his role in the chaplain program. But the allegations against him intensify concerns about the selection of Muslim chaplains, since Alamoudi served as a consultant to the Pentagon on the program until his recent arrest.
Lisa Myers is NBC News’ senior investigative correspondent.