Among the Americans who complain about the Patriot Act, Mohammad Junaid Babar probably dislikes it more than most. Absent that often-criticized federal statute, Babar still might stroll the sidewalks of New York, gathering money and equipment for al Qaeda.
According to the unsealed transcript of his June 3 appearance before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, Babar pleaded guilty to five counts of furnishing “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization” including “making or receiving a contribution of funds, goods or services to, and for the benefit of Al Qaeda.”
Babar, 29–a Pakistani-born, Queens-reared U.S. citizen–rose in federal court and confessed his crimes.
“From summer ‘03 to about March of ‘04, I provided night vision goggles, sleeping bags, water proof socks, water proof ponchos, and money to a high ranking Al Qaeda official in southern Waziristan [an Islamo-fascist-friendly Pakistani province]. In summer of ‘03, I handed off to someone else, you know, to send it to South Waziristan. Then in January and February ‘04, I went myself, personally, to South Waziristan and handed over money to, and supplies to a high ranking Al Qadea official.”
The former St. John’s University student continued: “I set up a jihad training camp where those who wanted to go into Afghanistan where they could learn how to use weapons, and also, you know, any explosive devices that they wanted to test over there. And I also provided lodging and transportation in Pakistan for them, and I transported them to and from the training camp.”
“I was aware that some of the people who attended the jihad training camp had ideas about, you know, plotting against some targets in the United Kingdom, and I provided some of the materials, like I mentioned, aluminum nitrate, ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder for them in the use of explosive devices that was [sic] then tested out at the training camp.” The Associated Press quoted one official who implicated Babar in a conspiracy to “blow up pubs, restaurants and train stations” in London.
Babar admitted he was no naif who had been hoodwinked into felonies, as American Taliban fighter John “Johnny Jihad” Walker-Lindh unconvincingly claimed.
“I understood that I was involved in ongoing military operations within Afghanistan,” Babar said, “and also that Al Qaeda was involved in military organizations outside of Afghanistan, namely bombings and hijackings and kidnappings outside of Afghanistan, so that’s what I understood that Al Qaeda was involved in, those kinds of military operations.”
FBI and NYPD officers arrested Babar April 10 as he approached his taxi-driving course in Long Island City, Queens. The FBI had watched for Babar–whose mother fled the ninth floor of 1 World Trade Center on September 11–since he told a Canadian TV crew in Pakistan: “I’m willing to kill Americans.”
The fact that Babar is behind bars and not trolling Gotham chemical suppliers for car-bomb ingredients is yet another Patriot Act success story.
“Those who say that the Patriot Act is unnecessary need to look at cases like the prosecution of Mohammad Babar,” says Paul Rosenzweig, a Heritage Foundation researcher. “The information-sharing provisions of the Patriot Act let us track him, and he was charged under the material support laws that the Patriot Act created.”
The Patriot Act’s most notorious provision, Section 215, bears on Babar’s case. It reputedly lets the FBI storm into libraries to demand patrons’ reading lists. Federal agents already can do this by securing subpoenae from grand juries. Terror cases actually require a higher level of judicial scrutiny. Investigators must petition judges who sit on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“It’s a much, much bigger hassle to do that than it is for a grand jury investigator to get the same subpoena,” Deputy Attorney General James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee September 22.
That might explain why Babar used New York Public Library computers to check his e-mail.
As Comey explained, “We found out after we locked this guy up that he was going there because that library’s hard drives were scrubbed after each user was done, and he was using that library to e-mail other al-Qaeda associates around the world. He knew that that was a sanctuary.” Even in this case, Justice left a library alone.
Nevertheless, thanks to the embattled Patriot Act, this former guerrilla in our midst is a guest of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mohammad Junaid Babar now counts the days until December 3, the morning he returns to federal court for sentencing.