Friday, May 19, 2006

Bangladesh Born US Intell Officer "Kamil Pasha" testifies in Court


This surveillance photo shows Shahawar Matin Siraj, the defendant, with an informer, left, and a man who has pleaded guilty, right.

Officer Details His Work Undercover Amid Muslims

by WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

A young police detective testified yesterday at the Herald Square bombing plot trial that he was recruited from the Police Academy 13 months after 9/11 to work deep undercover in the Muslim community to investigate Islamic extremists.

The detective, a Muslim who came to America from Bangladesh when he was 7, testified that he was a 23-year-old college graduate when he was plucked from the academy in October 2002. He took an apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where, he testified, his assignment was to be a "walking camera" among Muslims there.

He said he had no regular contact with the department other than through his handler, to whom he reported by e-mail at first. During two years of living in Bay Ridge, he was involved in "numerous" investigations, he testified, and was at times shadowed by a field team to ensure his safety.

The Police Intelligence Division's program to post detectives overseas has been widely publicized. But this detective's testimony yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn provided the closest look yet at how the division is using undercover investigators to penetrate mosques, bookstores and other places where Muslims gather in the city.

His testimony confirmed what many Muslims have believed since the Sept. 11 attacks: that law enforcement agencies have worked to infiltrate their community during terrorism investigations. It also revealed the extraordinary steps the department took to create a fictitious identity so a Muslim investigator could live for years in an insular neighborhood where people have become highly suspicious of the authorities.

Beyond the detective's testimony, police officials yesterday would not discuss the scope of the program and provided no details about its structure, its guidelines or its successes or failures. Several officials, however, suggested it was in its early stages. The witness was identified only by a pseudonym — Kamil Pasha — in order, prosecutors said, to protect continuing investigations.

The detective was the final witness at the four-week trial of Shahawar Matin Siraj, 23, a Pakistani immigrant who is charged with plotting to blow up the Herald Square subway station in 2004. His lawyers have argued that he was entrapped by a paid police informer, a 50-year-old Egyptian-born nuclear engineer who they say was the driving force behind the plot. They have argued that their client was an inept dupe who was not predisposed to commit an act of terrorism until the informer inflamed him.

The undercover detective was called as a witness to rebut the defense arguments that the informer had drawn Mr. Siraj into the plot. He told the jury about statements Mr. Siraj had made long before he met the informer, which prosecutors contend show he had often spoken about violence and terrorism. The detective was not involved in the investigation of Mr. Siraj but came across him during his undercover work.

Much of the detective's testimony focused on Mr. Siraj's statements, but strands of information about him and his work were interlaced with his answers. And while prosecutors sought to limit testimony about his background, objecting several times to questions by one of Mr. Siraj's lawyers, Martin R. Stolar, the judge, Nina Gershon, overruled the objections.

The detective testified that he graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and entered the Police Academy in July 2002. In the middle of October, roughly halfway through his academy training, he left early when he was recruited to join the Intelligence Division, where he was assigned to the Special Services Unit, which runs the undercover program.

Within three weeks, according to his testimony, he made his first appearance at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a mosque on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, next door to the Islamic bookstore where Mr. Siraj worked. He testified that he spent time there periodically. Mr. Stolar, while questioning the detective, indicated that his reports showed he had seen Mr. Siraj 72 times over the two years, mostly in the bookstore.


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