I am joined by Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida, and Deputy Director of the FBI John Pistole.
Earlier today, a superseding indictment was unsealed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida charging Jose Padilla with providing - and conspiring to provide - material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder individuals who are overseas.
The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting in “violent jihad” - a short hand term to describe a radical Islamic fundamentalist ideology that advocates using physical force and violence to oppose governments, institutions, and individuals who do not share their view of Islam. These groups routinely engage in acts of physical violence such as murder, maiming, kidnapping, and hostage-taking against innocent civilians.
Mr. Padilla is now a new co-defendant - along with Canadian national Kassem Daher - in a criminal prosecution that previously charged defendants Adham Hassoun, Mohomed Youssef, and Kifah Jayyousi with terrorism-related crimes. All of these defendants are alleged members of a violent terrorist support cell that operated in the United States and Canada. As you know, under our criminal justice system all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
As alleged in the indictment, this cell supported terrorists by sending money, physical assets, and new recruits to overseas jihad conflicts. These defendants also allegedly took steps to disguise their fundraising and recruitment activities by speaking in code and using non-Governmental organizations as a front for illegitimate activities.
As outlined in the indictment, Mr. Padilla was one of the individuals recruited by this terrorist support cell to fight in violent jihad overseas. With the assistance of co-defendant Hassoun and others, Mr. Padilla allegedly left the United States in September 1998 and traveled overseas for that purpose, where he met up with co-defendant Youssef in Egypt. While overseas, Mr. Padilla continued to advise and seek assistance from co-defendant Hassoun in the United States, as he sought to obtain the necessary training to pursue these violent jihad activities. The indictment specifically alleges that, as part of the conspiracy, Mr. Padilla filled out a terrorist training camp application form in July 2000 in preparation for his violent jihad training in Afghanistan and, shortly thereafter in September 2000, was reported to have arrived in Afghanistan by his co-conspirators.
The criminal case brought against these defendants will involve the use of declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - or FISA - intercepts that chronicle jihad recruitment in the United States and travel overseas for the purposes of fighting violent jihad.
The Department of Justice is prosecuting this case in part because prosecutors and law enforcement agents were able to share information and use declassified FISA material from a multi-district intelligence investigation under the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. By tearing down the artificial wall that would have prevented this kind of investigation in the past, we’re able to bring terrorists to justice. President Bush has directed his administration to utilize all available tools to protect America from acts of terrorism. This case, which began as an intelligence investigation, is a classic example of why the criminal justice system is one of those important tools. This investigation has been underway for quite a while now - and has resulted in charges against Padilla, which he will now face in a court of law. If convicted of these charges, he could face a sentence of life in prison.
Before answering a few questions, I’d like to thank Assistant Attorney General Fisher, U.S. Attorney Acosta, and the team of prosecutors handling this case: Russell Killinger, Stephanie Pell, Brian Frazier, and Julia Paylor. I also want to thank the many investigators from the Department of Justice, the FBI, ICE, and ATF for their work on this case - and their continued determination to help protect Americans from the threat of terrorism.