A federal judge sentenced Navy signalman Hassan Abu-Jihaad to 10 years in prison on Friday for sending classified information about his fleet's travel plans to a terror-supporting website.
Abu-Jihaad served on the destroyer Benfold. He was charged after British authorities found the fleet's plans on a floppy disk in a bedroom drawer of an Azzam Publications official in 2003. Investigators later discovered that Abu-Jihaad purchased videos from Azzam Publications, which prosecutors say recruited mujahideen and raised money for the Taliban in Afghanistan and for Chechen rebels.
The disk found at Azzam offices, and traced back to Abu-Jihaad, included an estimated date when the fleet Benfold was part of would pass through the narrow Straits of Hormuz. One file, showing the expected formation included an instruction that "They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc. except their Seals' stinger missiles."
Abu-Jihaad received the maximum sentence from U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz. Earlier, Kravitz tossed out a second conviction of providing material support to terrorists, which jurors convicted Abu-Jihaad of doing after last year's trial in New Haven, CT. The Associated Press reported:
"I cannot really overstate the seriousness of this crime," Kravitz said. The leak "does constitute a fundamental betrayal of your country and of your oath. You endangered your colleagues, you endangered your vessel and other vessels and other sailors, and you endangered your country."
That echoes the argument by federal prosecutors, who urged Kravitz to issue the maximum sentence in a sentencing memorandum:
"By leaking classified information about U.S. Navy ship movements and outlining theirperceived vulnerabilities to attack, Hassan Abu-Jihaad was trying to help foreign terrorists replicate the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. It is hard to say which aspect of his crime is the most serious. Abu-Jihaad betrayed the trust his country placed in him by granting him access to classified information, when he released it to a website that advocated violent jihad against the United States. Hassan Abu-Jihaad is a traitor, and he should be sentenced accordingly."
Following his 2004 indictment, a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) officials challenged the allegations against Abu-Jihaad.
Abu-Jihaad "was very surprised to hear he might be connected to anything related to terrorism," CAIR-Arizona Executive Director Deedra Abboud told the Los Angeles Times. "He's now scared he might get picked up for something he can't imagine being a part of."
Abu-Jihaad has appealed his remaining conviction.