Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft Regarding
the Criminal Indictment Announcement of Hassoun and Youssef
Thursday, September 16, 2004
I am joined by Assistant Attorney General, Chris Wray of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez of the Southern District of Florida, Gary Bald, FBI Assistant Director for Counter-terrorism, and Michael J. Garcia, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Earlier today, a federal grand jury in Miami indicted two individuals on terrorism charges related to material support of a conspiracy to commit violent jihad overseas.
The 10-count superseding indictment returned today charges Adham Amin Hassoun, a/k/a "Abu Sayyaf," and Mohamed Hesham Youssef, a/k/a/ "Abu Turab," with:
Hassoun, a Palestinian national living in Florida, was previously indicted for:
Hassoun is currently in custody on the prior charges. Youssef is in custody in Egypt.
I note that criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The indictment alleges that Hassoun engaged in recruiting and fundraising to send individuals, including Youssef and an unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator, to Somalia, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kosovo. The alleged purpose of this travel was to receive violent-jihad training and to fight jihad, which would involve acts of murder, kidnapping and maiming. The purpose of these terrorist activities was the imposition on states of radicalized Islamic law.
The indictment recounts, for example, a September 2000 conversation between Hassoun and Youssef in which Hassoun supported the travel and violent-jihad training of an unindicted co-conspirator. This co-conspirator was a U.S. citizen, who allegedly filled out an application to the training camp and then traveled to what the defendants called "the area of Usama" for that training, and then returned to the United States in May 2002.
As part of the conspiracy, Hassoun allegedly wrote a series of checks over more than seven years - from 1994 to late 2001 - to unindicted co-conspirators and organizations including the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation. These funds - which totaled more than $53,000 - were allegedly to be used to support violent jihad.
In July 2004, the Holy Land Foundation and seven of its leaders were indicted on charges of providing material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization. The Treasury Department has designated the Global Relief Foundation as an organization that funneled money for terrorist-related activities.
According to the indictment, the defendants also participated in a series of coded conversations from 1996 through 2000 suggesting participation in violent jihad around the world.
On May 23, 1996, Hassoun participated in a coded conversation with an unindicted co-conspirator in Lebanon. Hassoun asked if there was a way to deliver, quote, "stuff to soccer teams in Chechnya or Bosnia."
In September 1996, Youssef, who was in Egypt, called Hassoun and is alleged to have said that he was "ready for trade immediately." Hassoun allegedly responded: "By God, there is now trade in Somalia … get yourself ready to go down there and see," and then clarified that "there is jihad" in Somalia.
The previous indictments charging Hassoun allege that he lied to Department of Homeland Security and FBI agents investigating his activities in recruiting and funding for violent jihad activities. It is also alleged that he made false statements to the immigration judge who was conducting Hassoun's immigration proceedings. The gun charge alleges that Hassoun was a non-immigrant alien illegally in possession of a Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter pistol.
The prosecution of this case was significantly propelled by the USA PATRIOT Act and the information-sharing it promotes. As a result of the PATRIOT Act, investigators and prosecutors can use in criminal prosecutions of national security matters not only information gathered through traditional law enforcement methods, but also information gathered through lawful intelligence efforts - intelligence that often provides the pieces that complete the puzzle and make the prosecution possible.
Because the artificial wall that prevented robust information-sharing in the past was torn down after September 11th, chatter about "sports" and "tourism" gathered through intelligence wiretaps can be evaluated in context, and the full, alleged conspiracy to provide material support to terrorist acts abroad - the full puzzle instead of just some of the pieces - can then be presented in a court of law. Many of the overt acts alleged in today's indictment are the direct result of the information sharing authorized by the PATRIOT Act.
These tools are playing important roles in protecting our nation and our citizens from the threat posed by terrorists and those who support them.
I thank Assistant Attorney General, Chris Wray of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez and their staffs for their dedication in prosecuting this case. I also commend the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in conducting this investigation.