The District of Connecticut’s national security practice is a multi-pronged approach that includes the aggressive investigation and prosecution of national security matters by its national security prosecutors and investigative agencies; an active Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (the “ATAC”); and a robust training program.
The National Security and Major Crimes Unit is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of matters involving international and domestic terrorism, threats and hoaxes, the unlawful export and proliferation of our military’s technology and controlled material, acts of economic espionage and the theft of trade secrets from Connecticut’s businesses and industries, and cyber intrusion matters. AUSA Douglas P. Morabito, a member of the National Security and Major Crimes Unit, serves as the District's National Security / ATAC Coordinator and, accordingly, has the responsibility and authority to coordinate and manage the activities of the ATAC, including the promotion of effective interaction between the ATAC and the JTTF.
Keeping our Community Safe
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut aggressively investigates and prosecutes international and domestic terrorism‑related offenses; terrorism financing offenses; threatening communications and terrorism‑related hoaxes; cases involving the export of restricted technology; theft of trade secrets and cyber-intrusions; and cases involving espionage and the loss or compromise of national security information and classified materials.
Although not all of the work results in criminal cases or makes headlines, every day our Office works closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal, state and local agencies on national security, counter‑terrorism and intelligence matters, in order to provide legal guidance on investigative steps; to assist, as appropriate, in obtaining subpoenas, warrants, court orders, and other process to further such investigations; and to aggressively pursue and bring criminal charges when they are available.
Together with our partners in local, state and federal law enforcement, our Office has pursued or participated in a number of recent international terrorism, domestic terrorism, or national security cases, for example:
The Times Square Case. Our Office and the FBI’s JTTF participated in the successful investigation and prosecution of Bridgeport, Connecticut resident Faisal Shahzad for attempting to bomb New York’s Times Square.
United States v. Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan. British nationals Ahmad and Ahsan were charged with, extradited for and convicted of providing material support to terrorists. Ahmad and Ahsan, through an entity known as “Azzam Publications,” were members of a group that provided material support to the Taliban through various means, including the administration and operation of various web sites promoting violent jihad. The Azzam Publications websites, including, e.g., Azzam.com and Qoqaz.net, were hosted for a period of time through the unwitting services of a web-hosting company located in Connecticut. Ahmad, using both cyberspace and real-world efforts, assisted the Taliban by providing funds, military equipment, communication equipment, lodging, training, expert advice and assistance, facilities, personnel and other supplies. Certain of this conduct took place while the Taliban allowed territory under its control to be used as a base of operations for Usama bin Laden and Al-Qaida, and after Al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa, the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. During a search of Ahmad’s residence in the United Kingdom in December 2003, Ahmad was also found in the possession of an electronic document containing what were previously classified plans regarding the makeup, advance movements and mission of a United States Naval battle group as it was transiting from California to its deployment in the Middle East. The document discussed the battle group’s perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack. Forensic analysis revealed that Ahsan created the electronic version of the document, carefully altered metadata to hide his authorship, and then delivered the material to Ahmad. Ahmad and Ahsan were indicted in the U.S. and detained in the U.K. in 2004 and 2006, respectively. In October 2012, following eight years of litigation, Ahmad and Ahsan were extradited to Connecticut. On December 10, 2013, Ahmad and Ahsan each pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide, and providing material support to terrorists. At sentencing proceedings that took place over several days in July 2014, Ahsan was sentenced to 8 years and Ahmad was sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison.
United States v. Hassan Abu-Jihaad. Our Office investigated and prosecuted Hassan Abu-Jihaad, an enlistee in the U.S. Navy, who betrayed his shipmates and his country by leaking then-classified information about the upcoming movements of his battle group to Azzam Publications. Abu-Jihaad was convicted by a federal jury in New Haven of espionage in 2008 and, in 2009, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. To read more about the case, click here.
United States v. El Mehdi Semlali Fathi. In 2014, our office investigated and prosecuted El Mehdi Semlali Fathi, who had made repeated and recorded statements about his desire and aspirations to conduct bomb attacks at Harvard University in Massachusetts and at federal buildings in Connecticut. While investigating the bomb threats, the investigation determined that Fathi, a Moroccan national, had committed immigration fraud by fabricating an asylum claim that allowed him to remain in the United States. Acting quickly to disrupt the threat and detain Fathi, the government charged and arrested Fathi on criminal immigration fraud charges. In July 2014, Fathi admitted that he had fabricated his asylum claim, and that he had repeatedly lied in his immigration application and in testimony before an immigration judge in support of his application for asylum. In October 2014, Fathi was sentenced to two years in prison, the high end of the applicable sentencing range. After completing his sentence, Fathi will be deported to Morocco.
United States v. Alan Zaleski. In March 2009, our Office tried Alan Zaleski in a case that raised domestic terrorism concerns. Zaleski had been found in the possession of more than 67,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of weapons on his property in Berlin, Connecticut, including fully automatic and semi-automatic machine guns, silencers, fragmentation grenades, chemical grenades, smoke grenades, homemade bombs and IEDs. Zaleski’s property was found to be covered with trip wires and booby traps to repel intruders. Zaleski was also found in the possession of anarchist, white-supremacist, anti-Semitic and domestic terrorism-related literature. In February 2011, Zaleski was sentenced to nearly 8 ½ years in prison.
United States v. Yung Tang. Our Office prosecuted Yung Tang, who pled guilty to possessing illegal explosives and a silencer. In January 2008, Tang was found in the possession of two IEDs, two partially assembled IEDs, two remote-controlled detonators, two firearm silencers, and materials for disguising a person’s appearance, while parked in a van located in the parking lot of a kindergarten and child care facility in Wallingford, Connecticut. In February and July 2008, law enforcement officers found two additional vans belonging to Tang in New York City; the vans contained additional IEDs, weapons, a silencer and several other containers filled with explosives and incendiary chemicals. In February 2009, Tang was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
United States v. Noel Davila. In 2004, our Office tried and convicted Noel Davila for threatening the use of a weapon of mass destruction, and delivery of that threat through the mail. Evidence at the trial indicated that in August 2002, while incarcerated at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, Davila sent an envelope containing a white powdery substance, a piece of paper with foreign handwriting and prayers, and another piece of paper with the words “ANTRAX a/k/a Bin Laden” written on it to the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office in Bridgeport. Davila had previously been prosecuted by the State’s Attorney’s Office at Bridgeport and subsequently convicted for aggravated sexual assault and five counts of risk of injury to a minor. At his federal sentencing in 2005, Davila was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.
Export and Counter-Proliferation Cases:
United States v. United Technologies Corporation, Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation and Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp. Our Office investigated and prosecuted United Technologies Corporation (UTC), Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation (HSC) and Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp. (PWC) (the “UTC Entities”) for criminal export violations and serious historical concerns about export compliance, for which the UTC Entities fully and appropriately accepted responsibility. In June 2012, PWC pleaded guilty to violating the Arms Export Control Act and making false statements in connection with its illegal export to China of U.S.-origin software that was used in the development of China’s first modern military attack helicopter, the Z-10. In addition, UTC, HSC and PWC agreed to pay more than $75 million as part of a global settlement with the Justice and State Departments for various export violations. As part of the global resolution, the companies were also required, pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) and a consent decree, to retain an independent monitor to assess their compliance with an extensive remedial action program over several years. In June 2014, the government dismissed the remaining charges, consistent with the terms of the DPA, and insofar as the UTC Entities responded to the case and the resulting monitorship with transparency, professionalism, cooperation and care; the UTC Entities made sweeping changes demonstrating a genuine and lasting commitment to export and trade compliance that was the result of significant investment and effort; and the UTC Entities and the independent monitor not only met but exceeded the terms of the DPA, in a genuine and good faith pursuit of a robust trade and export compliance program. The combination of the guilty pleas, $75 million in penalties, and extensive corrective actions was one of the largest resolutions of export violations against a major defense contractor in Justice Department history, all of which has had positive and far-reaching implications for export compliance throughout the defense industry as a whole.
United States v. Mozaffar Khazaee. In early 2014, our Office arrested and charged Mozaffar Khazaee, after he allegedly attempted to ship to Iran tens of thousands of pages of highly sensitive, controlled and proprietary military technology that he had stolen from defense contractors where he had been employed. Khazaee was arrested at Newark International Airport after he had allegedly packed up his belongings and as he was attempting to board a flight with a final destination of Iran. As alleged in charging documents, in November 2013 law enforcement officers inspected a shipment that Khazaee sent by truck from Connecticut to a freight forwarder located in California, which was intended for shipment to Iran. Upon inspecting the shipment, officers discovered that the shipment primarily contained numerous boxes of documents consisting of sensitive technical manuals, specification sheets, and other proprietary material relating to the U.S. Air Force’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program and military jet engines. Upon further investigation, law enforcement learned that Khazaee holds Iranian and U.S. citizenship and, as recently as August 2013, worked as an engineer for defense contractors, including firms that are the actual owners of the technical and proprietary documents and materials involved. As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, a review of Khazaee’s e-mails and computer media revealed that: Khazaee had already provided individuals in Iran with documents relating to the Joint Strike Fighter (“JSF”) program, Khazaee stated that he was seeking to “transfer my skill and knowledge to my nation,” and Khazaee stated that the documents that he had provided “are very controlled. . . and I am taking big risk.” Khazaee remains detained and his case is currently scheduled for trial in April 2015.
The Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council
In addition to our investigations and prosecutions, our Office chairs Connecticut’s Anti‑Terrorism Advisory Council (the “ATAC”), which includes representatives from approximately 100 different local, state and federal law enforcement organizations. The ATAC program provides training for, and ensures collaboration between, federal, state and local law enforcement officers on national security matters.
Over the past several years, ATAC training to law enforcement groups has included presentations by on the Boston Marathon, Times Square and Abdulmutallab cases; trainings on biological and radioactive weapons; improvised explosive devices and active‑shooter scenarios; and protection of critical infrastructure.
As part of our training efforts, our Office also partners with the FBI for its annual Indoor Post‑Blast School, an intensive, week‑long course taught by expert bomb technicians and federal prosecutors, which has taken place in Connecticut at least annually for over a decade and has hosted, each time, approximately 60 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, bomb technicians, and other first responders. The training includes intensive instruction on explosive materials; improvised explosive devices; letter and package bombs; large vehicle bombs; suicide bombings; evidence collection; bombing investigations; WMDs; and investigative techniques / post‑blast analysis. Various explosive devices are detonated under controlled circumstances, and students must process the scene, collect evidence and try to determine the source of the blast and the type and design of the device used, while interacting with AUSAs to obtain subpoenas, court orders and search warrants to further their investigation. To read more about the FBI’s Indoor Post Blast School, click here.
Protecting Civil Liberties
As we aggressively pursue the investigation and prosecution of national security matters, we are also committed to reconciling the demands of security with the important goals of fairness, openness and tolerance in our society. Our nation is strengthened by the diversity of our people, and by the ability of disparate communities to come together, in spite of differences, to share the common values on which our country was founded.
While government has an important role, we also view our communities and community institutions as key partners in our counter-terrorism efforts. In conducting national security cases, this Office and our law enforcement partners rely on the support, cooperation and trust of the communities we serve and protect. Members of our community are valuable partners in a shared effort to combat national security threats.
To that end, our Office and the FBI engage in extensive outreach efforts with many different communities to improve our ability to perform our duties in a manner consistent with civil liberties, diversity and a commitment to freedom.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut are committed to fighting threats to our national security and keeping our communities safe, while protecting and safeguarding civil liberties guaranteed under our constitution.
How You Can Help
Members of the public are invaluable resources in our efforts to safeguard our community. While the law enforcement community is doing its best to keep us safe, you can help as well. If you see any activity that you deem suspicious, or possibly linked to terrorism, please take it seriously and report it promptly to your local law enforcement agency or to the following agencies:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Joint Terrorism Task Force
State of Connecticut Department of
Emergency Services and Public Protection