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Day 20: Daniel Spaulding, Direct then Cross Examination

**Note: No court this Thursday or Friday**

Continuation of Direct Examination and lack of memory of Daniel Spaulding

Jeffrey Auerhahn (JA) asked what kind of texts Tarek and Ahmed Abousamra (AAS) translated, and Daniel Spaulding (DS) replied, miscellaneous texts, especially on Tarek’s part, but that AAS’s translations were of more jihadi texts. JA asked what the purpose of translating jihadi texts was, and DS said it was to create ideological awareness. DS testified that he didn’t recall ever discussing fighting Americans with Tarek, although AAS spoke about fighting Americans at home and abroad (more on that later). JA asked about Tarek’s purpose of translating 39 Ways to Serve & Participate in Jihad; DS didn’t recall, and even after an attempt at having his recollection refreshed by JA, he still didn’t recall specific conversations. He did say that the document provided other options besides fighting. At this point, JA became disturbed and annoyed by DS’s lack of memory and his being difficult to question. JA asked DS a number of times during the direct examination if DS had reviewed the chats and emails provided to him before his testimony. “It was a rather thick document, sir,” DS responded, “I don’t recall every word.” He had reviewed them two weeks ago, and although he testified in the grand jury that he had “certain recollections,” DS pointed out that that was two years ago.

JA then tried to ask DS about how much the “online jihadi community” (the government’s extremely and intentionally broad term) respected Tarek. DS couldn’t answer broadly, but said that certain people on certain forums respected him. It seemed as if JA wanted to get across that Tarek was a highly valued member of some tightly woven online jihad network, when in reality he a participant in some online forums.JA reviewed a number of chats today—over 25 carefully chosen online interactions. Even with the chats in front of him, often times DS’s recollection was not refreshed (and if the reader recalls from yesterday’s update, in order for the witnesses to testify on a certain subject, they have to testify from their memory, not the exhibit) and the questioning could not proceed. As Judge O’Toole reminded the jury yesterday, only answers given by witnesses are counted as evidence, not questions from prosecutors.
Back to 39 Ways and the criminalizing of prayer, speech, and self-defense
JA asked if Tarek ever followed any of the 39 ways to “serve and participate in jihad” as the document had enumerated. “Beyond praying for the mujahideen and speaking in support of them, no.” JA mentioned translation and dissemination, which DS agreed were listed in the document. What about physical activity? DS replied that he didn’t recall any time that Tarek said he was getting physically fit for that specific reason. Did Tarek participate in training? DS said he wouldn’t use the word training, but that he did briefly attend a martial arts class at MIT. For what reason, JA asked. To be ready. Ready for what? In case you needed to do something. Do what? JA asked, exasperatedly, emphasizing that they are talking about jihad, not just something. According to DS, Abu Dawood (AD) was the martial arts teacher, and DS and Tarek would occasionally hang out with him. JA asked if AD was salafi jihadi, and DS responded that AD did not have clearly defined beliefs, but that he talked about the need to be ready.
In 2004, when DS first met Tarek, he learned about the trip to Yemen from AAS and Tarek. Tarek spoke about the different places he and AAS had gone to. He said Kareem Abouzahra (KAZ) went part of the way then turned back because of the excuse a family member getting sick. Tarek and AAS believed that he never actually wanted to go, he said. What was the purpose of going to Yemen? JA asked. To obtain paramilitary training, DS responded. DS believed that Tarek saw this as KAZ “chickening out.” DS testified that AAS and Tarek only talked about the trip with a select group of people that they knew closely, for example Hassan Masood, Ali Aboubakr and Daniel Maldonado (all of whom have testified already). DS testified that AAS said after getting training he expressed a desire to participate in the armed conflict somewhere that preferably involved the US, like Iraq. When JA asked why Tarek didn’t go to Iraq like AAS did, he said that Tarek said he got a call from his parents and it was his obligation to return to them. According to DS, other reasons Tarek expressed for not going to Iraq were that it was a waste of time, and that he was disillusioned by their lack of success. DS said that AAS had said the purpose of visiting schools was to find people who could connect them with training. JA asked if AAS or Tarek had ever encouraged DS to “go on jihad.” Tarek had not, but AAS had, in a more general sense.

In one of a long series of chats, all selected to show only the parts of the conversation where Tarek and DS were discussing jihad. Tarek mentioned that Abu Anas combined two of the greatest things a Muslim can be: a scholar and a mujahid. In another, DS complained that “some brothers are a lot of zeal but no knowledge.” JA showed pictures from the group of friends’ trip to NYC and used them to discuss how the group felt about 9/11. JA asked about whether they watched jihadi videos as a group; DS recalled a few occasions. With Tarek, he recalled watching a video about Bosnia. Nothing else stood out, and DS didn’t recall if he watched the 9/11 tribute video by himself or with anyone else.

In many of the chats, DS and Tarek talk about how to call people to Islam. They were dedicated to doing this; on several occasions, Tarek has mentioned calling people to Islam as a means of dealing with difficult people that he doesn’t agree with. JA insinuated that this was a brainwashing process by Tarek, after DS explained “progression” entailed beginning with basic concepts and working up to more advanced concepts in Islam.  But there is clear reason for this that has nothing to do with wanting to harm people unjustly.  With regards to jihad, DS testified, one had to build a foundation before talking about it because it is controversial. The purpose of the videos they watched and shared with people they were calling to Islam, DS explained, was to create enthusiasm for mujahideen. Together they talked generally about how these videos were inspiring and energizing. Since jihad is a part of Islam, naturally this was a part of their call.
Warning to Muslims

JA brought up an email that DS forwarded along to his friends, with a short introduction from DS. The email described how Jews didn’t see the holocaust coming, and that if Muslims weren’t careful and vigilant, history would repeat itself. DS told his friends that Muslims were the proverbial frog in boiling water, and urged them to keep their guards up and be on the defense. This email is a perfect response to JA’s questioning about why Tarek was learning martial arts and what he wanted to be ready for. At some point, Tarek and DS became suspicious of Abu Dawood’s pushy behavior and his over-insistence on the “you need to be ready” stuff, and Tarek advised DS to only go to the “martial arts thing for sports, not for anything else.”
Tarek’s khutbah
Tarek’s khutbah, or sermon, at the Sharon mosque got him in trouble with some community members and also his father, according to a chat that DS read from (more about the sermon in cross examination). Tarek’s father got mad at him for the sermon: “My dad thinks I’m part of a group. I mean, if I was actually doing something suspicious, then I’d understand.” In the chat, Tarek told his friends how he had to put away his books and wasn’t allowed to read online or give khutbahs anymore. Someone had told Tarek’s father that, if they didn’t know Tarek was his son, they would have thought he was an Al-Qaeda member. To hear somebody from his community say this was something that Tarek found extraordinarily offensive.
DS:  “He was very upset about that.”
DS:  “In his anger, he called the person who said it a devil.”
In another chat, Tarek expressed to DS that he was concerned that DM had called him from Somalia, since now DM was being detained and investigated. JA had DS testify that Tarek was concerned that he had lied to the FBI with regards to the phone call from DM.
Shopping mall
DS testified that AAS talked about domestic attacks, presumably the plot to shoot in a mall, and that Tarek thought that was silly. According to his testimony in the grand jury in ’09, KAZ had put forward the so-called mall plot, and Tarek said emphatically that he thought it was stupid and impractical (more about this in cross).Suddenly salafi jihadi?
While relating their social occasions JA tried to get DS to say a member of their circle held “salafi jihadi” beliefs, or that a video was a “salafi jihadi” video. All of the prosecutors have been bringing up the concepts of apostates and making takfir frequently, even though these concepts have nothing to do with the case. DS kept trying to clarify the dangerous generalization, dangerous because of the prosecution’s massive ignorance of Islam and their sloppy application of theories and terms. At one point, when asked whether the progression of introducing people to Islam was salafi jihadi, DS said “If that’s what you want to call it.” JA asked, “Well what do you want to call it?” And DS expounded: “The context goes beyond jihad—social institutions, democracy, modernism, world view, politics.” The focusing on salafi jihadi is a relatively new direction the prosecution is going in this case; there was no mention of salafi jihadi or even salafi in the beginning of the trial, much less when Tarek was first arrested. So many of the concepts and theories this prosecution is claiming their case is founded upon are shifting under our feet or being formulated as we go along.  Most likely they are framing this case as salafi jihadi so that the cookie cutter testimony the prosecution’s “expert witness,” Evan Kohlmann, will give regarding global trends will fit right into the theories of  global conspiracy this trial is purporting.

Jay Carney Cross Examination
In typical Jay Carney fashion, he asked questions and had the witness answer only yes or no, allowing him to create the flow of a narrative. JC started out by addressing DS’ account of Tarek’s saying that it was impractical to “do anything in the US.” That wording suggested that Tarek thought logistically it was not worth it, when really, morally he was against it. JC explained the concept of “aman,” a law of Islam in which a Muslim enters into an unspoken covenant with the country he or she is living in to obey the laws of that country if it allows that Muslim to practice his or her religion. Tarek was (and still is) very serious about obeying Islamic law, and he made sure DS knew he had that covenant with the US. AAS did not agree with Tarek about this, and neither did KAZ. Tarek felt that such attack were contrary to fundamental principals of Islam, and he helped convince DS why it was wrong, outlandish. DS testified that they never again discussed doing something in the US.

Explanation of salafi and progression
DS described meeting DM soon after DS converted in ’02. DM was a salafi, which JC described as a sect of Islam that advocated for a return to a pure Islam. People who called themselves salafi try to live their lives as the Quran and hadiths instruct, and use these ancient tools to guide their lives in 2011. It seemed that, in direct examination, JA was suggesting that their call to Islam was a sneaky way for the friends to indoctrinate people slowly to a cult of senseless violence. JC explained that, when you are considering converting to any religion, you’re not given all of the religion on the first day, that this is the path anyone would learn about a religion. When JA objected to JC directly asking DS about how JA was demonizing the term progression, JC used a more creative means of getting his point across. Leaning in close to the mic, JC menacingly said “prrrrogresssssionnn” as menacingly as he could. Pause. “Tarek used prrrrogresssssionnn with you. You both used prrrrogresssssionnn to call people to Islam.” His point was well taken, and entertained the jury, spectators, and judge at the same time.JC described once again how charismatic AAS was, and DS testified that he was extremely influenced by AAS. He would argue with people until they gave up or were worn down. Was AAS was the driving force behind many of the views in the group? JC asked. In so many words, DS conceded.

And once more, jihad means…
JC never seems to tire of calming the frenzy of the prosecution’s buzz words and cherry-picked chats by using his cross examination to carefully explain what these concepts really mean in practice. He demonstrated, through DS’s assent, that jihad is mentioned many times in the Quran and fundamentally has to do with the obligations or duties of Muslims to lead a good Muslim life. One of these duties, he explained, is coming to the aid of other Muslims under siege. Is that the essence of the jihad we are talking about? JC asked. Much of it, DS replied. All of Tarek’s friends shared these beliefs? Yes. Jihad is a duty of all Muslims, JC continued, but not everyone had to be on the battlefield. There are other ways to help repel invading forces, which is the subject of the 39 Ways document that Tarek translated. JC explained that Tarek translated it so people could see that they could help with the Islamic resistance even if the only time they saw a battlefield was in a video. “An armchair jihadi—my term—could help expel invading forces,” JC posited. Tarek’s translation of 39 Ways was eventually sold on the internet, and Tarek didn’t even care that he didn’t receive the money. He told DS that it’s not about the money, it’s about serving God.

JC asked DS if Tarek was a lot of bluster (venting, not really substantive), to which he responded, “We all were at that time, sir.”

Tarek’s khutbah

Tarek’s khutbah was regarding his anger about the US was being advised by a Rand report to favor certain sects of Islam; it didn’t seem right for the government to get involved in religion. Tarek was upset that after his khutbah, people compared him to a member of Al-Qaeda. Tarek loved books, and he was at one point interested in a books regarding the American resistance to against British colonists because he wanted to compare the Revolutionary War with modern Islamic resistance to see if that might help in dawah, or calling people to Islam.

Thoughts on cross-examination
The defense will finish cross tomorrow, and, just as they have done so skillfully with Ali Aboubakr, Hassan Masood, and Daniel Maldonado, we expect them to illuminate the other side of Daniel Spaulding’s testimony, discrediting each of the prosecution’s arguments. As we have seen time and again, whenever an informant testifies in a manner that seems like it is against Tarek, the defense mounts a point by point counter-attack that leaves doubt about Tarek’s intentions and beliefs behind.

Please join us in court! There are at most five trial days left for the prosecution to present their case: they will be important days! Let’s show Tarek our support. We will be at Moakley Courthouse in Boston 9am-1pm, Monday through Friday (except Thurs and Fri of Thanksgiving week). Email freetarek@gmail.com for more details.


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  1. Updates: The Trial of Tarek Mehanna - Page 26 - November 23, 2011

    […] was posted, seems like it hasn't been. Sorry to go out of order, but I'm sure we're all curious: Day 20: Daniel Spaulding, Direct then Cross Examination **Note: No court this Thursday or Friday** Continuation of Direct Examination and lack of memory […]

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