NEW YORK – An Arab graduate student who visited Web sites about dangerous chemicals and had information on U.S. dams and railroads was charged Monday with lying to the FBI about phone calls to a financier of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri was charged in federal court in New York, where he was already scheduled to go to trial Jan. 13 on charges he unlawfully possessed more than 15 credit cards.
On Monday, Al-Marri was also charged with lying to FBI agents in December 2001 when he said he had not called a telephone number used by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi in the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors said he placed several calls to the number between September and November 2001.
Prosecutors have said al-Hawsawi transferred tens of thousand of dollars to the hijackers before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Al-Hawsawi is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the Sept. 11 hijackings.
Prosecutors said Al-Marri also lied to agents about aspects of his background during an October 2001 interview at his Peoria, Ill., home.
Al-Marri allegedly told the FBI that he was a Qatari citizen who came to the United States in September 2001 on a student visa to study for a master's degree in computer information systems at Bradley University. He said he was last in this country in 1991, when he attended Bradley as an undergraduate.
But prosecutors say Al-Marri re-entered the United States in May 2000, when he used a stolen Social Security number to open fraudulent bank accounts in Macomb, Ill. They say he left the United States in August of that year.
Al-Marri said nothing during a brief appearance in court Monday on the new charges, and no plea was entered.
His lawyer, Richard Jasper Jr., noted outside court that his client was "not charged with participating in any way in the tragic circumstances of Sept. 11."
"We, of course, deny all the charges in the complaint," he said.
During a December 2001 search of Al-Marri's computer, FBI agents found an Arabic oath or prayer asking God to "protect" and "guard" Usama bin Laden, audio files containing lectures by bin Laden and his associates and pictures of the Sept. 11 attacks, prosecutors said.
They said the computer also contained lists of Web sites with titles such as "Jihad arena" and "Taliban."
One computer folder called "chem" contained bookmarked Web sites providing fact sheets for hazardous substances, the amounts of certain chemicals "immediately dangerous to life or health" and information on how to buy them, prosecutors said.
In addition, the computer contained bookmarked Web sites relating to weaponry and satellite equipment and computer files containing more than 1,000 credit cards, the majority of which had been fraudulently used, prosecutors said.
In a search of Al-Marri's home after his arrest, agents found an almanac with bookmarked pages providing information about major U.S. dams, reservoirs, waterways and railroads, they said.
If convicted, Al-Marri faces up to 30 years in prison on charges relating to false statements to banking institutions, five years for lying to the FBI and up to 15 years for using a stolen Social Security number.