This morning, before the jury entered the courtroom, Mr. Carney submitted to show two video clips to the mujahideen who defended the Afghani Muslims from the Soviets. Aloke Chakravarty objected on the grounds that they were irrelevant and that the witness who would be viewing and commenting on the clips, FBI Agent Andre Khoury, had no expertise in the area. Mr. Carney said that the clips, both of which featured Ronald Reagan praising the mujahideen as freedom fighters, show a stated support that the US government has historically had for mujahideen fighting to defend Muslims from oppressive forces. Mr. Carney argues that from the resistance in Afghanistan to Bosnia to Iraq, there is no difference in the concept of defense, only in which forcers are attacking. Judge George O’Toole viewed the two clips and sustained the government’s objection. Mr. Chakravarty then announced that he had about 10 minutes worth of video clips that he intended to show. Judge O’Toole chose to pre-screen the videos during the 11am recess.
After a brief discussion of the day’s line up, the jury was brought in and court resumed with Mr. Carney’s cross-examination of the government’s witness, FBI Agent Andre Khoury. Mr. Carney pulled up a map of Yemen which had been displayed by the government the day before. He asked Mr. Khoury if he was familiar with the city of Sanaa; Mr. Khoury was. Mr. Carney asked if he was aware that Sanaa is the location of a famous Islamic school that teaches classical Arabic and Islamic law (“Are you aware that there is a prominent Islamic school in Sanaa?”). “No,” Mr. Khoury responded, after Mr. Carney requested that he answer the questions with “yes” or “no” answers when possible.
Mr. Carney then produced a map of Saudi Arabia that had been referenced on Day 10 by the government.
Mr. Carney: “You testified that this is an accurate map of Saudi Arabia. Please point to Riyadh.”
(Mr. Khoury points to Riyadh).
Mr. Carney: “Are you familiar with the King Fahd Medical City?”
(Criticizing Mr. Carney’s pronunciation, Mr. Khoury acknowledges that he is aware of it.)
Mr. Carney: “And is it fair to say that it is the most notable medical center in Saudi Arabia?”
Mr. Khouri: “One of them, yes.”
Mr. Carney: “Are you aware that’s where Tarek was going to work?”
Mr. Khouri: “No, I was not aware.”
Mr. Carney then turned his questioning to the videos presented by the government the day before, starting with “State of the Ummah.” Mr. Carney established the meaning of “Ummah” as relating to the “global Islamic community.” This was followed by Mr. Khoury’s confirmation that the video in question is a compilation of several clips shown on Aljazeera and other prominent news sources. Mr. Carney then focused on the content of the film, and drew the court’s attention to the fact that the majority of the video addressed not scenes of violence against US soldiers, but rather the hardships in the Muslim world, the impact of wars, scenes from a hospital in Baghdad with children dying due to the embargo. Mr. Khoury stated that he didn’t remember all parts of the video, that he’d only seen it once or twice. Mr. Carney asked if seeing it only once or twice qualified him to testify on the video. He responded yes. Mr. Carney continued describing the content – women and children dying, excerpts from the Qur’an showing the obligations of Muslims worldwide to this suffering, a speaker urging people to respond in defense of such Muslim countries. He asked if the video included “graphic depiction of suffering.” Mr. Khoury responded “Sure.” “Intended to move people to action?” Mr. Khoury responded “Sure.” He asked if Mr. Khoury was aware that the depiction of the USS Cole attack was not actual footage. Mr. Carney repeats that the attack is not real footage. Mr. Khoury raises his voice stating, “I’m very well aware of that. I just said that”. Mr. Carney responds, turning and pointing to the jury, purposefully stating: “Well, I just want to make sure you’re not the only one aware of that.”
Before moving on to the next video, Mr. Carney closed on the “State of the Ummah” discussion by mentioning the video’s accessibility, that it’s been played on Al Jazeera among other sources, and that it’s been seen by millions, including Tarek. Mr. Khoury confirmed this. He also confirmed that Tarek had nothing to do with the video. Tarek was not involved in “creating it,” “translating it,” or “editing it.” He only “downloaded, “viewed” and “talked about it with friends, like millions of other people did.”
He then shifted to the next video, one focused on Iraq. According to the video’s transcript, the video compared the situation in Iraq to Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kashmir, and compared to Afghanistan expelling the Soviets. The video also cited the well-known Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization that no one could argue is biased in favor of mujahideen. The HRW report stated that “the ill treatment and torture in Iraqi prisons exceeds that of what was present under Saddam.” Mr. Khoury acknowledged that this was the content of the video. Mr. Khoury confirmed Mr. Carney’s description of the video as “calling out to Muslims to come and defend a Muslim country,” (e.g., not calling for attacks against Americans). After Mr. Khoury confirmed the previous point, Mr. Carney asked if Tarek created the video or wrote the dialogue. Mr. Khoury said no. Mr. Carney asked if, to his “personal knowledge”, Tarek translated or edited the document. Once more, the answer was “No.”
Mr. Carney explained: “If I had asked you to do something, and then you didn’t do it, would you take that as evidence you did do it?” (This to highlight the irrationality of the government’s effort to confuse the court as to whether Tarek did or did not translate the videos; it is now clear he did not translate them).
Mr. Carney asked a few more questions before moving on to the next video. Mr. Carney asked if Mr. Khoury recognized the footage as being of Muslims fighting back against Russian helicopters. Mr. Carney emphasized the fact that the video depicted warfare vs. Soviets, not Americans. Mr. Khoury, very argumentative and hostile at this point, responded that he doesn’t know what war the footage is from. Mr. Carney played another video from the day before, asking whose voice is playing. Mr. Khoury responded that he didn’t know. A few seconds later, when Osama bin Laden appeared in the video, Mr. Carney asked the question again.
Mr. Khoury: “Osama bin Laden.”
Mr. Carney: “Who’s picture is shown?”
Mr. Khoury: “Osama bin Laden”.
(The next clip is played)
Mr. Carney: “And whose voice is playing here?”
Mr. Khoury: “Osama bin Laden.”
Mr. Carney: “Can you spell that?”
Mr. Khoury: “U S M A B I N L A D E N.” (this mispelling is an accurate record of Mr. Khoury’s response).
Mr. Carney (referring back to the map of Saudi Arabia): “And who was born in Saudi Arabia?”
Mr. Khoury: “Osama bin Laden.”
Mr. Carney: “And who did we kill recently?”
Mr. Khoury: “Osama bin Laden.”
Mr. Carney had Mr. Khoury repeat Osama bin Laden’s name several times before asking, almost directed at the prosecution, “do you want to say that name anymore in front of the jury?! Osama bin Laden!”
Judge O’Toole interrupted, telling Mr. Carney to just ask a question.
“I’m just trying to help the government, your Honor…they want to say Osama bin Laden’s name as many times as possible to scare the jury”, Mr. Carney responded, exasperated.
Soon afterwards Mr. Chakravarty steps up for a re-direct of Mr. Khoury. He asked about the city of Ma’rib, Yemen, which Mr. Khoury described as “a lawless area, outside the capital…controlled by the tribes…Al-Qaida takes refuge there.” Mr. Chakravarty moved on to the transcripts of one of the videos that were shown. Mr. Khoury stated that the speakers in the video were inflammatory. Mr. Chakravarty pointed out statements from the video about martyrdom operations that caused the deaths of American soldiers. He asked if there were many instances like these. Mr. Khoury responded, “Too many instances.” They establish that the video was a collection of clips from various times, some recent footage, and that it was attributed to Al-Sahab.
Under re-cross by Mr. Carney, Mr. Khoury acknowledged that he had never been to the city of Ma’rib and thus was not testifying from personal knowledge in that area. Mr. Carney asked him if, when he said that inflammatory speakers were featured in the video Mr. Chakravarty referenced, did he mean impassioned speakers? The Mr. Khoury claimed that, as English is his third language, he didn’t understand what Mr. Carney meant by impassioned. Mr. Carney elaborated. Mr. Khoury stated that the speakers were trying to persuade.
The government then called several Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers to the stand. None of them were expected to remember Tarek Mehanna or their interaction seven years ago; each CBP officer relied on his notes from questioning Tarek at the airport in February 2004. According to Paul Ryan, Tarek stated that he was going to Yemen to look at schools and that he was traveling with two friends. Mr. Ryan said that Kareem Abuzahra was also present and gave the same answer when asked where and why he was traveling. Mr. Auerhahn asked if Mr. Ryan received information that would be useful to law enforcement would he share the information. Mr. Ryan responded yes, he would detain a passenger or inform law enforcement if he believed a person was going to commit a crime, which he clearly did not feel was the case when questioning Tarek, as he let him and Kareem Abuzahra continue through with no suspicion. When Mr. Ryan had stepped down and left the courtroom, his colleagues in the hall outside the courtroom asked “Did you survive okay in there?”
The next officer, Todd Emory, was an ICE agent, formerly with the CBP. According to Mr. Emory, Kareem Abuzahra said that he was going to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for school, mentioning Dar Al-Mustafa, and that he was returning from his trip early because of an illness in the family. Janice Bassil had a few questions for cross examination, including whether Mr. Emory stopped any other passengers from the flight, whether he saved his notes, and why he questioned Kareem Abuzahra in particular. He responded that he did not remember.
The government called Michael Bonner, Customs and Border Patrol officer, to the stand next. Mr. Bonner questioned Tarek at the airport upon returning to the US. He stated that Tarek explained his time sightseeing in the UAE and checking out schools in Yemen. Mr. Bonner said that Tarek did not tell him that Ahmed Abousamra went on to Iraq. In his cross examination, Mr. Carney inquired as to whether a passenger being uncooperative or hostile would be noteworthy. Mr. Bonner answerd yes. Mr. Bonner’s lack of any such notes showed that Tarek had been cooperative. Mr. Bonner also indicated that it didn’t seem as though Tarek was evasive in answering questions. He testified that nothing seemed “amiss” after all of his questioning of Tarek.
Jeffery Auerhahn called CBP officer Peter Maillox to the stand. Mr. Auerhahn asked him about his interaction with Ahmad Abousamra at the airport on August 12th, 2004. Mr. Maillox testified that Mr. Abousamra did not mention going to Iraq during his trip, that he only mentioned Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and the UAE, a very common layover point. He stated that if Mr. Abousamra had mentioned going to Iraq he would have further questioned him on the trip and potentially reported the information to law enforcement. In cross examination, Janice Bassil asked him whether he had taken more notes than the few on the customs declaration and if he asked the dates when Mr. Abousamra entered and left each country. He responded no. Ms. Bassil also pointed out that there is a visa stamp from Iraq (without a date or indication of entry or exit) on Mr. Abousamra’s passport. “That day, did you just miss that stamp for Iraq?” He did.
A final CBP officer, Kenneth Himila, was called to testify about his questioning of Mr. Abousamra on September 2nd, 2006 at the airport. According to Mr. Himila, Mr. Abousamra told him that he had traveled around Syria with family. When asked about the Yemeni and Iraqi stamps in his passport Abousamra told Mr. Himila that he had traveled to both countries in ’04, saying that he had gone to Baghdad to seek employment as a translator. Mr. Abousamra also said that he needed to get out of the US for a while after his first divorce. Mr. Himila testified that Mr. Abousamra “appeared uncomfortable” while talking about the subject. In her cross examination, Ms. Bassil asked about the many stamps in Abousamra’s passport. Again, no exit or entry indication or date could be identified on the single Iraqi stamp. Mr. Himila also noted that Mr. Abousamra’s second ’04 entry to the UAE was February 12th, a day later than Tarek’s.
As it approached the end of the court session, Mr. Chakravarty called an FBI agent from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Christian Fierabend. Mr. Chakravarty questioned him about email and instant message correspondences between Tarek and other individuals. Mr. Chakravarty and the agent enthusiastically read the instant messages in a manner seeming almost rehearsed. In one chat conversation, Tarek mentioned that he knew that he was being watched and that, while he and his friends were not doing anything wrong, he knew one did not have to do anything more than have a certain creed to be targeted. Other chats showed Tarek’s concern about spies or informants in the community. While the chatters agreed that caution must be exercised with such individuals, Tarek reassured a correspondent: “You have done nothing to incriminate yourself, brother. You don’t have to worry.”
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