Phoenix Man Sentenced to 10 Years for Passing Secrets to Potential Terrorists

A former sailor and Phoenix UPS driver was sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison today for passing secrets to a Pakistan man who ran an Al-Qaeda recruitment Web site.

Paul R. Hall, who has apparently changed his name to Hassan Abu-Jihaad, was arrested in Phoenix in 2007 and charged with terrorism- and espionage-related crimes. Hall/Abu-Jihaad was convicted a year ago, but in early March a judge dropped the terrorism charge, delaying his sentencing.

Hall was a bona fide rat in the grain house -- the kind of spy Americans can only hope rank in small numbers. While serving on the U.S.S. Benfold in 2000, the former sailor e-mailed detailed instructions on how jihadists could launch an attack similar to the one of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. At the other end of the e-mails was Ahmad Babar, a Pakistani man who moved to London in the 1960s and has a master's degree in engineering. Babar, who ran Web sites for an Al-Qaeda propaganda group, was supposedly in on the scheme to use the the details for an actual attack. He's fighting extradition to the United States.

A counterintelligence Web site has an easy-to-digest page with more details. Scroll down for the full text of a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix. Below that is an e-mail from Hall posted on the above-linked site.


        Nora R. Dannehy, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and other federal officials announced that Hassan Abu-Jihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall, 33, of Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Mark R. Kravitz in New Haven to 120 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for disclosing previously classified information relating to the national defense.

        "This defendant provided classified information to others with the understanding that it could be used to endanger the lives of hundreds of members of the United States Navy, and we are pleased that the court imposed the maximum prison term allowed under the law," Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy stated.  "I want to acknowledge the efforts of all the agents, analysts and prosecutors involved in this matter who have worked diligently over the course of several years to bring this defendant to justice."

        According to the evidence provided at trial, in 2001, four or five months after the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, Abu-Jihaad provided classified information regarding the movements of a United States Navy battle group, which was charged with enforcing sanctions against the Taliban and engaging in missions against Al Qaeda, to Azzam Publications, a London-based organization that is alleged to have provided material support and resources to persons engaged in acts of terrorism through the creation and use of various internet web sites, e-mail communications, and other means, including  Between approximately February 2000 and the end of 2001, the web site was hosted on the computer web servers of a web hosting company located in Trumbull, Connecticut.  At the time the classified information was disclosed to Azzam Publications, Abu-Jihaad was an enlistee in the United States Navy on active duty in the Middle East and was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Benfold, one of the ships in the battle group whose movements were disclosed.

        Evidence presented at trial indicated that, in December 2003, British law enforcement officers recovered a computer floppy disk in a residence of one of the operators of Azzam Publications.  Forensic analysis of the disk disclosed a password-protected Microsoft Word document setting forth previously classified information regarding the upcoming movements of a U.S. Naval battle group as it was to transit from San Diego to its deployment in the Persian Gulf in 2001.  The document went on to discuss the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack.

        According to the evidence at trial, subsequent investigation uncovered several email exchanges from late 2000 to late 2001 between members of Azzam Publications and Abu-Jihaad, including discussions regarding videos Abu-Jihaad ordered from Azzam Publications that promoted violent jihad and extolled the virtues of martyrdom; a small donation of money Abu-Jihaad made to Azzam Publications; and whether it was "safe" to send materials to Abu-Jihaad at his military address onboard the U.S.S. Benfold.  In another email exchange with Azzam Publications, Abu-Jihaad described a recent force protection briefing given aboard his ship, voiced enmity toward America, praised Usama bin Laden and the mujahideen, praised the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole - which Abu-Jihaad described as a  "martyrdom operation," - and advised the members of Azzam Publications that such tactics were working and taking their toll.  The email response from Azzam Publications encouraged Abu-Jihaad to "keep up... the psychological warefare [sic]."       

        The evidence at trial also indicated that Abu-Jihaad's contact information - namely, his Navy email account - was among the few saved in an Azzam Publications online address book.

        The evidence at trial included the testimony of six Navy witnesses indicating, among other things, that as a Signalman in the Navigation Division of the U.S.S. Benfold during the 2001 deployment, Abu-Jihaad had access to certain classified information, including advance knowledge of the battle group's movements.

        The evidence at trial also included court-authorized wiretap recordings, during which Abu-Jihaad used coded conversation to refer to jihad; admonished others not to speak openly about jihad over the phone or on the Internet because it was "tapped"; and discussed having conversations with associates using a shredder and after frisking them for electronic components.  The calls played for the jury also included Abu-Jihaad's use of the terms "hot meals" and "cold meals" in reference to his current and former ability, respectively, to provide inside information or intelligence about potential U.S. military targets.  Abu-Jihaad told an associate that he "hadn't been on that job in X amount of years . . . to see . . . what the fresh meal is," and in 2006, told another associate that he had not "been in the field of making meals" for more than four years.  The evidence established that Abu-Jihaad had left the U.S. Navy in 2002.

        On March 5, 2008, a federal jury in New Haven found Abu-Jihaad guilty of one count of providing material support of terrorism, and one count disclosing previously classified information relating to the national defense.  On March 4, 2009, Judge Kravitz partially granted a defense motion for a judgment of acquittal on the material support of terrorism charge.  The charge of disclosing previously classified information relating to the national defense carries a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

        Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy commended the substantial efforts and cooperation of the several federal law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"); the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven, Phoenix and Chicago; the United States Attorney's Offices in Phoenix and Chicago; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Internal Revenue Service' Electronic Crimes Program.   Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy also praised the substantial efforts of law enforcement authorities from the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter-Terrorism Command within New Scotland Yard, whose efforts and assistance have been essential in the investigation of this matter.

        This case is being pursued by a Task Force out of Connecticut consisting of law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Internal Revenue Service's Electronic Crimes Program; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

        The case is being prosecuted by a team of federal prosecutors including Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen Reynolds and William Nardini from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut, Trial Attorney Alexis Collins from the Counter-Terrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division in Washington and Trial Attorney Rick Green from the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist David Heath.

Text of Hall/Abu-Jihaad e-mail:

US Navy sailor Paul Hall/Hassan Abujihaad email to Azzam Publications six months after the October 2000 USS Cole attack:

"Brothers/Sisters of Al-Islam: I am a Muslim stationed onboard a US warship currently operating deployed to the Arabian Gulf.

It shall be noted before Usama's latest video was viewed by massive people all over the world. That psychological anxiety had already set in on America's forces everywhere. All this is due to the martyrdom operation against the USS Cole. Since then every warship station either on the Western or Eastern shores of America who come to operate in the 5th Fleet op area has to be given a force protect brief. Well during the brief, I attended there was one thing stuck out like thorns on a rose bush. I do not know who was the originator of this either top brass or an American politician. Well here is his/her statement: "America has Never faced an enemy with no borders, no government, no diplomats, nor a standing army that pledges allegiance to no state."

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! I give takbirs because I know deep down in my heart that the American enemies that this person has discribe [sic] is the Mujahideen Feesabilillah. These brave men are the true champions and soldiers of Allah in this dunya. I understand fully that they are the men who have brought honor to this weak ummah in the lands of jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc. Alhamdulillah! With their only mission in life to make Allah's name and laws supreme over this world.

I want to let it be known that I have been in the Middle East for almost a total of 3 months. For these 3 months you can truly see the effects of this psychological warfare taking a toll on junior and high ranking officers. But after the latest video supporting Palestine, the top brass and American officials were running around like headless chickens very afraid, wondering if there is a possible threat. But this time the American population got wind of this and they came to know just how afraid the US government is. Thomas J. Friedman wrote an article in the New York Times called: "What it takes to make the Americans turn tail, run" This article was distributed on my ship and most of the sailors said it was so true about the American government, and they feel like they are working for a bunch of scary pussies.

[signed] A Brother serving a Kuffar nation, Astaghfir'Allah....Hassan

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.