FBI: Texas man accused of trying to help al-Qaida referred to terror network as his 'brothers'
HOUSTON – HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas man who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he tried to help al-Qaida referred to members of the terrorist group as his "brothers," was eager to prove his dedication to the organization and wanted to die fighting alongside them, according to court documents.
Barry Walter Bujol was arraigned Tuesday on charges he tried to supply al-Qaida with personnel, currency and other items. He was arrested last week after a two-year investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy ordered Bujol be held without bond until his trial, to be held sometime before the end of summer.
Bujol, 29, is facing one charge of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one charge of aggravated identity theft. Bujol, who is from Hempstead, which is located about 50 miles northwest of Houston, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Joseph Varela, Bujol's attorney, said he could not "comment intelligently" on the case until he's had a chance to review the evidence authorities have that would "back up" the charges against his client.
"This is a very complex case," he said. "What I want people to remember is the Constitution (protects) everyone accused of a crime, no matter what that crime is."
A recently unsealed FBI search warrant application described Bujol as eager to prove his dedication to al-Qaida by engaging in physical and covert communications training.
He used at least 14 e-mail addresses to hide his activities from authorities and advocated attacking U.S. facilities where military weapons were manufactured, according to the court document.
The FBI task force determined Bujol had been e-mailing Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born, al-Qaida-linked cleric believed to be hiding in Yemen.
Al-Awlaki also is believed to have exchanged e-mails with Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in last November's Fort Hood shootings. He is also accused of helping inspire the Times Square bombing attempt in May and the failed Christmas Day airline bombing.
In one of the e-mails, al-Awlaki allegedly gave Bujol a document titled "42 Ways of Supporting Jihad."
According to the search warrant application, Bujol referred to al-Qaida members in the Arabian peninsula as "brothers" and that he wanted to "die with the brothers for the cause of Allah, and to be in Heaven."
Bujol made three unsuccessful attempts during February and March 2009 to travel overseas to Yemen or the Middle East. After this, an informant working for the FBI befriended Bujol in November 2009, and Bujol believed the informant was a recruiter of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Bujol created a secret code that he used to communicate with the informant and gave himself the Arabic moniker of "Abu Abuadah," according to the search warrant application.
The informant had Bujol retrieve items from "dead drops," pre-arranged secret locations in public places used to exchange messages and other items. In one of these dead drops, Bujol retrieved two false identification cards from a hollowed rock FBI agents placed in a park, the warrant application said.
The cards were supposedly identification cards issued by the Transportation Security Administration that Bujol used on May 30 to gain access to a secure part of a Houston-area port with the alleged intention of boarding a ship bound for the Middle East, the court documents said.
Bujol was arrested after he boarded the ship. He had been given a military-issue compass and other materials that he allegedly agreed to courier to al-Qaida operatives in a Middle Eastern country.
The informant had previously given Bujol currency, prepaid telephone calling cards, mobile telephone SIM cards, global positioning system receivers and public access-restricted U.S. military publications, according to the court documents.
Before he was arrested, Bujol told the informant during a May 3 meeting that "if he never saw 'this place' (i.e., the United States) again it would be fine with him," the warrant application said.
Bujol told the informant he had left a hidden video recording on his laptop computer to explain to his wife what he would be doing overseas, the documents said.
Neighbors at Bujol's apartment complex in Hempstead said Tuesday that he and his family kept mostly to themselves.
Esmerelda Villanueva said Bujol's wife wouldn't let her daughter talk to other kids in the complex and that Bujol didn't talk to anybody.
"I can't believe that would happen here in Hempstead," she said. "They looked like a normal American family, you would never think."
Associated Press Writer Sarah Portlock in Hempstead contributed to this report.