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DAY 24: KAREEM ABU-ZAHRA, DIRECT EXAMINATION COMPLETED; CROSS-EXAM BEGINS, CONT. TO DAY25
Day 24: (11/30/2011):
1. Completion of direct-exam of Kareem Abu-Zahra [“KAZ”] via Chakravarty [“AC”];
2. Initiation of cross-exam; to be continued through Day 25 via Carney [“JC”];
Today’s testimony picked up with the 2nd meeting that KAZ recorded for the government. This meeting was with AAS outside a local mosque. KAZ told AAS that he’d mentioned DM when the FBI was questioning him, which AAS seemed disturbed to hear. KAZ further described the FBI visit. The FBI asked about Tarek, AAS, and one other person whose photo was shown to KAZ. KAZ did not know who the 3rd individual was, but from the description it seems as though he may have been Jason Pippin (aka Abu Muthana, Abu Umar). He told AAS that the FBI told him, “we know you financed everything, we know you lied to border patrol agents and we know you know this guy [the individual assumed to be Pippin].” AAS had a series of responses, “its just our word vs. theirs…everything they hear is just speculation…the only thing they can use against us is our own testimony…don’t be too paranoid…they probably have testimonies from people who know us through our parents.” “So you never told anybody?” KAZ asked. AAS said he didn’t. AAS advised him to tell the FBI he wanted a lawyer, later saying, “so they don’t trick you into saying something you forgot and use it against you.” The recording went on for a while, discussing the FBI visit and their experiences travelling. KAZ testified that sometime soon after their meeting, AAS left the country and he hasn’t seen him since.
The prosecution then showed another recorded meeting, between Tarek and KAZ, that had taken place in January of 2007. This meeting also consisted of talking about the FBI visits. Tarek described his experience saying the FBI told him, “we have evidence to show that that’s not why you went to Yemen.” He told KAZ that he told the them, “we went to study. If we were really going to do what you’re thinking, we wouldn’t have come back…if you really have evidence show it to me right now” but the FBI responded, “no, its classified.” Tarek told them that they hold people’s details against them to say they lied to them and pointed out, “if you really had evidence, we wouldn’t be talking, you wouldn’t be letting me go home right now.” In the recording Tarek went on to describe to KAZ their experiences in Yemen. He said that everyone they were trying to find was on hajj. He mentioned Abu Hassan, a well-known scholar in Yemen. They agreed that the FBI didn’t have evidence of anything wrong, “the only thing they know is where we went…what their gonna do is go around and create a profile…they’re gonna try and build a case.”
After that meeting between Tarek and KAZ, DM was arrested overseas. The prosecution displayed an email from KAZ to Tarek regarding DM’s arrest. The email said: Read the news? In an email Tarek responded: Sure did. KAZ met with Tarek again soon after, wearing a wire, once again. According to KAZ they met outside a mosque. They discussed DM’s arrest, the circumstances under which he took the plea bargain, his call to Tarek from Somalia, the media’s claim that there was a corroborating witness involved in the indictment against DM and the information about them that DM may or may not know. KAZ was upset that AAS spoke so openly with so many people, especially because his money was tied to their “stuff.” But the end of their conversaion they agreed, “there’s still no proof of anything.” KAZ, the one wearing the wire, expressed much more concern and frustration about the corroborating witness in DM’s case and who knew what in regards to their travels overseas. This behavior was displayed by KAZ in all of the conversations he recorded, as he asked questions seeming to dig for statements.
AC then asked a few final questions. [KAZ: Confirmed that his mindset had changed from ’03-’07 and then further changed from ’07 till now].
Jay Carney Cross Kareem Abu-Zahra
The long awaited cross examination of KAZ by JC followed. He began by reestablishing the relationship between KAZ and Tarek, that they were childhood friends and their parents knew each other. JC asked if T was closer with Hilaal than with KAZ. He wasn’t sure. JC then pointed out that KAZ is 3 years older than Tarek, which is big age difference when it comes to the teen and early twenties years. They reconnected when KAZ saw Tarek leaving a mosque in 2000. The fact that he had grown out a beard indicated to KAZ that Tarek, 18 at the time, was likely a practicing Muslim.
JC established that KAZ had a history of partying, drinking alcohol, smoking weed and even traveling to Amsterdam for the partying experience. Such activities made KAZ’s father push him to drop out of Stony Brook College in Long Island. JC pointed this out as a way to show that KAZ was not interested in his religion prior to 2000. He also pointed out that Tarek had never engaged in these activities himself.
JC then directed the questioning back to the relationship between Tarek and KAZ. [KAZ: Confirmed having met AAS a few months after reconnecting with Tarek and agreed that AAS was also older than Tarek; stated they attended a “salafi club” in Quincy and programs at the Wayland mosque]. JC elaborated on how the 3 of them would go out to dinner, many times on Friday nights, sometimes with Hassan Masood. JC asked about places they’d met, listing off specific restaurants. When KAZ said that he didn’t recall a couple places, JC demanded, “so you didn’t discuss this with the prosecutors so you don’t remember it?” He moved on. They talked primarily about Islam, he established, and Tarek was trying to find his way. Tarek was seriously interested in learning about Islam. He asked if, out of the 4 of them, Tarek was the most interested in Islamic jurisprudence? KAZ responded that he wasn’t. JC asked if he brought hadith to the meetings in order to discuss and interpret them. He wanted to figure out how to apply them to his life. After much pressing from JC, KAZ agreed. That’s what Tarek focused on, what is in the Qur’an and hadith, KAZ agreed. JC said Tarek brought books to their meetings and described Tarek’s room, filled with bookcases and books.
JC further described Tarek’s dedication to Islam and interest in the history of Islam. He said that Tarek was very interested in the history, and also present-day problems facing Muslims. He mentioned the sanctions on Iraq that prevent medicine from coming in, causing the countless deaths of children. The genocide in Bosnia, where people were being killed because they were Muslims. The Russian “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims in Chechnya. And Tarek was upset about that. [KAZ confirmed this was true]. Russia invaded Afghanistan and tried to place it under communist control which precluded Muslims from practicing their religion. [KAZ: I don’t know much about that]. JC: (Pause) “You weren’t so much concerned about history, were you?”
In mass emails, Tarek would sometimes send out info about this suffering. [KAZ: I can’t recall].
JC displayed a mass email sent by Tarek, with the subject “Tribute”, on Sept. 11th 2003. The email listed millions of Muslims around the world who had been killed in recent history through 2003. “Did that email accurately reflect Tarek’s feelings towards Muslims around the world?” JC asked. [KAZ confirmed this was true].
JC: He considered them his brothers and sisters. They discussed what was the duty of Muslims in response to such suffering. [KAZ: Showed reluctance about confirming that this type of discussion was common, but agreed that it was common for those who embraced the salafi ideology to discuss this in terms of interpreting the Qur’an and hadiths].
There was more talk about 9/11, opinions and justifications presented, etc. JC asked if KAZ said the US deserved it.[KAZ: I don’t remember if I used that phrase, but that was more or less my sentiment].
JC asked if the prosecutors showed him the grand jury transcripts. [Yes, but I only read some of it].
JC: if that’s because he just looked at the parts that they showed him. [Yes.] KAZ affirmed that he did not think he asked to read all of it, because he didn’t know it was an option to do so. JC asked if he had been satisfied just reading what they cherry-picked for him. [Yes.]. Auerhahn and Chakravarty looked restless and shifty at this point.
JC then moved on to the recorded conversations. He asked if, in the meeting in AAS’s basement, he and AAS were the most dominant speakers. [KAZ: declined to confirm this (Note: it was clear to anyone else who’d listened to the recording that in fact, this was clearly and indisputably the case)]; When asked again, KAZ blurted out that AAS’s father spoke a great deal as well.
JC “refreshes KAZ’ memory” with yesterday’s transcript of the audio recordings.
JC: Count the pages one by one. [KAZ counted 31 pages].
JC then asked him to count all the pages in which AAS’s father was noted as having spoken. [KAZ counted again, turning up only 2 of 31 pages].
JC: “On those 29 pages he’s not in it, is it fair to say that you and AAS were the dominant voices?” [KAZ: I don’t know.]
(JC pauses, realizes KAZ is not being facetious, then suggests KAZ try to get a refund for his college degree and his current PHD studies.)
AAS had strong opinions. [KAZ: At times yes.] Did you embrace them? [KAZ: At times yes]. AAS had a style where he would continue debating until he won or people will be silent.
Tarek approached you to say that AAS’s views were far out there. [KAZ: I have a vague recollection of that.]
(JC “refreshes KAZ’ memory” with a Grand Jury Testimony transcript).
JC: Does that refresh your memory that Tarek and you would speak after meetings? [KAZ: The memory I have wasn’t from after meetings.]
JC: Tarek talked to you privately, saying that AAS’s views were really far out there. AAS went to Pakistan twice and you were supportive of that. You gave him $500 to give a group fighting Jihad. AAS gave the money to either Al Qaeda or Taliban. And that’s what you intended for him to do with the money. [KAZ: Grudging confirmation and conceding of points after rephrasing to ask the same thing multiple times by JC]
Jihad videos. You downloaded these videos to watch at your convenience. You said these videos had 2 purposes; The first was a way to get the other side of the story, you thought it was good to see how muslims saw things.
JC: Did you feel it was illegal? [objection. sustained]
JC: Did you feel you were committing a crime? [objection. sustained]
JC: Did you hide these videos? [No.]
Were you embarrassed to have these videos? [KAZ: Yes, I wouldn’t have shown these to people at work.]
JC: Why? [In the US, people are still scarred from the attacks and I didn’t want people to know that he supported these attacks.]
JC: Even though they were to get the other side of the story? You could watch some of these videos on aljazeera and even download them. [KAZ: Yes.]
JC: It was important to you to get that different view? [In some respects.]
(The second reason cited by KAZ during direct-exam was ‘entertainment’).
JC: You didn’t watch videos on how to build IEDs or construct suicide vests? [KAZ: Correct.]
JC: These videos never inspired you to commit a “terrorist attack”? [KAZ: No.]
The intent of the invasion of Iraq was to topple the government, KAZ agreed. Do you know the meaning of Jihad? Yes. Is it fair to say islamic resistance and struggle? I’m not sure about resistance, but yes, struggle. In the grand jury, he said, Jihad was related to resistance and armed struggle. Do you know the document “39 ways to serve and participate in Jihad” ? [KAZ: Yes].
Do you know that a scholar from Saudi Arabia wrote the book? [KAZ: No].
Do you know that it was written in Arabic? [KAZ: Yes].
Prior to the inditement, he didn’t know that Tarek translated it. Do you know that the document quotes heavily from the Quran and the Hadith? [KAZ: I don’t know].
JC moved on to questioning about the so called “plots” regarding Condoleeza Rice, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a shopping mall and Hanscom Airforce Base. “I want you to make something crystal clear: At no time was there ever an agreement to actually carry out any of those things that you were talking about.” [KAZ: No.] (e.g., confirmation).
JC recalled much anti-Muslim rhetoric in the news, often coming from the Bush Jr. administration, whose officials often said things that were insulting and offensive. [KAZ acknowledged he felt this way]. JC elaborated that it was typically under this context that AAS would suggest taking retributive action [KAZ acknowledged this as well].
JC stated that KAZ had liked these discussions to a knee-jerk reaction [KAZ: confirmed this].
JC: “In a previous testimony, you even compared it to a reaction to being cut off by somebody while driving, a desire to follow them and do something to them that vanishes after a minute of cooling off.” [KAZ: Confirmation].
JC continued, stating that KAZ at the time felt that Condoleeza Rice was a figurehead of the U.S government and its endorsement of the suffering of Muslims around the world, and KAZ acknowledged this to be true.
JC: “This occurred between you and AAS; Tarek was not even there, was he?” [KAZ: No, he was not].
JC stated that Attorney General John Ashcroft had made virulent anti-Muslim statements, and that in response it was KAZ and AAS who discussed that he should be shot while walking into church, but also that the discussion did not proceed any further than a one-two minute sequence of comments. [KAZ confirmed].
JC demanded that KAZ confirm for the court that the “shopping mall” plot that had been circulated by the government and the media since the day of Tarek’s 2009 arrest were in fact KAZ’s ideas, that KAZ spoke about. [KAZ: I don’t recall]. Jay pressed, “You don’t recall if the shopping mall plot originated from you?” [KAZ: I don’t recall]. JC: “IT WAS YOUR IDEA!” [KAZ: I don’t recall that statement].
JC ‘refreshes KAZ’s memory” with an excerpt from the Grand Jury transcript: “I don’t know about them, but I was thinking and talking about a shopping mall.” [KAZ: I still don’t recall….].
JC: “Did I read your words exactly verbatim?” [Yes.]. “The shopping mall was your idea?” [No.]. “Whose was it?” [I don’t remember].
JC: “And the Hanscom Airforce Base, that was your idea?” [Yes. (KAZ elaborated that he had taken a motorcycle training course there and this had given him familiarity with the grounds and layout of the base, including a “guard shack”)].
JC pressed KAZ about a statement he made that “the purpose of terrorism is to cause terror” (e.g, JC clarified: “to cause fear and ???? among people”).
JC also got KAZ to confirm that it was he who approached Daniel Maldonado (although KAZ insisted it was following discussion by ‘the group’); JC clarified “But you are the one who sought him out.” [Yes.]
JC then led KAZ through a discussion of why he approached DM, including his assumption (implicitly based on racist beliefs) that DM had a history with violent drug dealing gangs, and when confirming that he assumed DM had such connections despite the absence of any indicators to suggest it, KAZ’s responses were oddly callous and insensitive to how racist his remarks clearly were (DM is Puerto Rican).
JC highlighted the discrepancies between KAZ’s testimony regarding soliciting weapons from DM and the testimony that DM previously gave regarding the same interactions.
1. KAZ, knowing DM has a legal and valid gun license and owns a registered glock handgun, asks to see it, then asks if DM can acquire automatics if asked to
2. DM flat out rejects assisting KAZ about automatics, and when pressed about handguns, again rejects immediately on basis of serial numbers being traceable back to him (DM).
3. KAZ: mumbles awkward rationale for making this inquiry and terminates conversation immediately.
1. KAZ chose to ask DM about the guns not because he knew DM had a license and registered firearm; rather, because he believed DM to be a gang member or to have prior history of involvement with a gang. No evidence to suggest this would be true, and DM’s own testimony included under cross-examination: JC: Have you ever been involved with or part of a gang? [DM: Never]
2. KAZ approaches DM to ask him to acquire automatics; DM says he cannot get them, and discourages KAZ from acquiring handguns on basis of lengthy reload times, “tied to bodies” (e.g., presumably be traceable to previous crimes???)
3. DM never rejected acquiring the handguns, it was more KAZ’s decision not to follow through.
4. DM cautioned KAZ “you do not want to get caught with these handguns” [KAZ: We do not play to have them for long] (e.g., statement of bravado).
JC: You’re definitely sure you asked him for automatic weapons? [Yes] And he said he could not acquire automatic weapons? [Yes].
JC: “You are sure, as you sit here today, that you asked him for automatic weapons?” [Yes]
(JC “refreshes his memory” using Grand Jury Testimony transcript)
JC: During the Grand Jury Testimony, Ass. U.S. Attorney Chakravarty asked about wheter you had asked DM for anything more than a handgun. Your response was “To the best of my recollection, I did not.”
JC: After your discussion with DM, the mall plot idea was abruptly dropped. You could not remember why the idea was dropped when you testified before the Grand Jury. In fact, you said it was a dumb idea, and nothing that any of you actually agreed to do.
JC then segwayed the discussion into one about the concept of “Aman,” the term from Islamic jurisprudence he had referenced before and a common conversation topic between TM/AAS/KAZ and other youth, that describes the Muslim’s covenant with the non-Muslim society they reside in to follow that society’s laws observantly so long as the society does not inhibit their practice of Islam. JC emphasized the fact that to commit a crime against an American citizen would be a violation of that covenant, and something Tarek viewed very critically. JC led KAZ through confirmation that this concept was important to Tarek while establishing to the court and jury that KAZ was not very familiar with it, at least not on a scholarly level.
Back in late ’03, AAS was still desperate to go to the battlefield. he talked about it constantly. You wanted to go. THis was how you were going to fulfill your duty. AAS talked to someone online; KAZ recognized the usernames of this individual online, and AAS told KAZ that Jason Pippen had previously been to Yemen and received training, and that he had returned a second time there and now wished to return yet again specifically for rigorous Arabic language schooling.
JC established through KAZ’s testimony that people recognized Yemeni schools as “for study of pure Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence,” and that people around the wold would go there to study. AAS expressed uncertainty about non-Muslims studying there, but otherwise confirmed JC’s assessment. KAZ also confirmed that AAS went to visit Pippen in California on at least two occasions, and KAZ stated that he believed that AAS’ goals both times were to seek direction in finding a military training camp so that he could go overseas to fight in Iraq. KAZ confirmed that he strongly desired Pippen to join himself and AAS in their planned trip to Yemen, and that he provided him with $5000 to release him from obligations that would bar him from accompanying them. KAZ very hesitant to confirm the entire $5000 check cashed around that date was given to Pippen; JC referenced Pippen’s testimony, where Pippen stated he had received $5000 in cash from KAZ through AAS. JC emphasized how bizarre it was that KAZ gave Pippen this money so Pippen would accompany them to Yemen, and yet even though Pippen ended up NOT accompanying them to Yemen, KAZ never asked for the money back. KAZ could provide no rationale for this.
JC had KAZ confirm that AAS had no particular group in mind when he was searching for a training camp; he just wanted to engage in fighting. He then had KAZ confirm that some of the Yemeni language schools had relationships with training camps and that one could go there to study Arabic or to train for fighting; KAZ confirmed that if a group of individuals with mixed intentions for traveling to Yemen divided between training versus schooling wanted to stick together during their trip, they could visit these schools and find the things that both sides were interested in without splitting up in a strange foreign country.
JC: “Did you have any specific intent, any sincere hope, to study in Yemen?” [No.] “Neither did AAS?” [No.]
JC: You didn’t realize that there were no training camps in Yemen after 9/11? [I didn’t know.] Pippen was not intending to go there post 9/11 for military training; he was last there for training during the 1990s, before 9/11. There were no post-9/11 Yemeni training camps.
JC then asks about Tarek’s involvement in the Yemen trip, and highlights the fact that KAZ paid for Tarek and AAS’ tickets and travel costs without asking to be reimbursed at any point. “You paid his ticket in full. You didn’t ask for him to pay you back for it later.” [KAZ: confirmation]. JC presses on, pointing out that Tarek could not otherwise have afforded the ticket, because he was still in school, participating in an internship, and not working a job that allowed him to afford the trip on his own: “Tarek was not independently wealthy, right?” [KAZ: No, he was not.]
JC continued on, reminding the court and jury that KAZ had a 2 month old baby as well as another child, and that KAZ believed he would be gone for a long time and possibly never return, as evidenced by his requested leave from work and the video he had made as parting message to his family. He pointed out also that Tarek did not give such notice that he was not returning, that Tarek did not trim his beard when traveling and that this angered KAZ at the time, given that he and AAS had in fact trimmed their beards. The implication here is that KAZ and AAS felt the need to make cosmetic alterations to avoid attracting undesirable attention or to avoid appearing suspicious, likely due to their heightened paranoia given their intentions for the trip, while Tarek was semi-oblivious to that sense of urgency they felt, the implication being that Tarek was traveling for different reasons that did not raise in him such concerns over suspicion.
A final bombshell dropped in the last few minutes of the hearing was the revelation that KAZ had supposedly told the FBI on at least two separate occasions that it was TAMER, Tarek’s brother, who had driven ‘the group’ to the airport for their trip to Yemen. JC revealed this by referencing the notes of KAZ’s ‘interviews’ with the FBI, to which KAZ denied and protested that he had said it was Hassan Masood. The notes were confirmed to state that KAZ indicated Tamer, not Hassan, however. On this note, the hearing concluded with the phantom of perjury hanging in the air for KAZ, and food for thought for the jury to consider overnight.