Peoria Journal Star

April 12, 2006

Feds release al-Marri documents
Declassified papers detail alleged al-Qaida links, orders

By Dori Meinert and Andy Kravetz
of Copley News Service and the Journal Star

WASHINGTON, D.C. - An alleged al-Qaida sleeper agent arrested in West Peoria in December 2001 was chosen by Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in part because he was a family man and could travel with less scrutiny than a single male traveling alone, according to recently declassified court papers.

Ali Saleh Kahlab al-Marri, a Qatari national, came to the United States on Sept. 10, 2001, with his wife and five children, and enrolled in a master's program at Bradley University, according to documents filed in federal court in South Carolina last week.

His mission? Al-Qaida sent al-Marri to the United States to help its other operatives carry out post-Sept. 11 attacks, according to government prosecutors.


Al-Marri court documents

Read a now-declassified federal court document that provides details of Ali Al-Marri's relationship with al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

In addition, al-Marri was tasked with exploring the possibility of hacking into the main computers of U.S. banks "to wipe out balances and otherwise wreak havoc with banking records in order to damage the U.S. economy," the government alleged in the documents filed last week.

The documents also allege that al-Marri was trained by al-Qaida in the use of poisons. An FBI analysis of his laptop computer found files on how to make hydrogen cyanide, a potentially lethal toxin, the government contends.

"The highly technical information found on al-Marri's laptop computer far exceeds the interests of a merely curious individual," stated the declassified portions of the document, which is the basis for holding al-Marri as an enemy combatant.

The newly declassified document is a sworn statement by Jeffrey N. Rapp, director of the Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism, dated Sept. 9, 2004. A redacted version was filed 18 months ago.

Most of the 16-page document was released publicly for the first time last week - only after a federal magistrate sternly told government prosecutors that al-Marri had a right to see the evidence against him so that he could properly defend himself. About two-thirds of one page remains classified.

Government lawyers had fought the release of the document. But attorneys for al-Marri, who maintains his innocence, called its release long overdue.

"We've been seeking it from the get-go," said attorney Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Hafetz is trying to schedule a visit with his client to show him the full allegations for the first time since al-Marri was taken from federal court in Illinois to a military brig in Charleston, S.C., in 2003.

However, Hafetz said: "They still haven't shown a shred of evidence in court to justify his detention. The declaration is entirely hearsay, multiple levels of hearsay."

Worse, some of the allegations may come from individuals who reportedly were tortured, such as Mohammed, Hafetz said. He's imprisoned under American supervision at a secret location.

The Rapp document didn't identify the government's sources for its information, but it stated that information on al-Marri's relationship with activities on behalf of al-Qaida "has been obtained from and corroborated by multiple intelligence agencies."

In summer 2001, al-Marri was introduced to Osama bin Laden by Mohammed and volunteered for a martyr mission or anything else that al-Qaida requested, the document contends. In August 2001, he allegedly traveled to Dubai, where al-Qaida financier Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi gave him $10,000 to $13,000 and another $3,000 for a laptop computer.

The FBI analysis of the computer's contents also found more than 1,000 credit card numbers and lists of Web sites including "Jihad arena" and "martyrs," the document stated. Other computer files included sites related to weaponry and satellite equipment, it stated.

Al-Marri was arrested at his West Peoria home three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and authorities later said he was affiliated with the al-Qaida network. In June 2003, just before he was to go on trial on charges he lied to the FBI and committed credit card fraud, President Bush named him an "enemy combatant" and he was whisked away to the Charleston Naval Brig.

While government prosecutors sought to restrict the information available to al-Marri and the public for national security reasons, federal Magistrate Robert Carr told them in February that he wouldn't consider any information that al-Marri wasn't permitted to see.

"You need to make your choice, because this deals with a man's freedom," Carr told government lawyers in a telephone conference call that included lawyers for both sides. "He has been removed from the battlefield, so to speak, for many years."

"This isn't blind man's bluff or any of those children's games where he has to try to rebut or present more persuasive evidence . . . without seeing what the government has. I mean, that's just not the right way to do this."

Carr is expected to make a recommendation to a federal judge, who will decide whether al-Marri should continue being held as an enemy combatant. Al-Marri is the only enemy combatant being held in the United States.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or