Accused bomb-plotter Najibullah Zazi remains in federal custody after he entered a plea of not guilty and was denied bail in a Brooklyn federal courtroom on Tuesday, September 29.
Both the 25-year-old resident alien from Afghanistan and his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, were arrested on Saturday, September 19 in Denver. Zazi was put on a plane and flown here on Monday.
The father is charged with lying to federal agents about phoned warnings to his son from Queens’ Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, who has been a FBI informant. Afzali is also charged with lying to the feds. Both men are out on bail.
In Flushing, near the Mosque Zazi attended, Afghan men were found discussing the situation. Ibriham Barak, 41, and Mohammed Zaey, 51, spoke to The Queens Courier, largely through an interpreter, dubbed “Mack,” who asked not to be identified.
“Since 9/11, American authorities are losing trust in Muslim people,” Zaey bemoaned. “If he did these things, he could have hurt innocent people – now he has hurt all his own people even more,” he said, as Barak nodded in agreement.
“When you first come here it is asylum,” Barak said in halting English. “America gives school for your children, hospital, a chance to make money,” he said before continuing in Pashto.
“You are protected, and all you have to do is swear allegiance,” Mack translated. “If he did these things, he broke his oath and he should be punished,” he continued, before Barak added in English, “To prison for his whole life.”
The indictment against Zazi alleges he went to a terrorist camp in Pakistan for instructions in bomb-making, returned to the U.S., researched explosive materials and devices with his laptop computer and bought quantities of materials needed to make explosives.
The FBI said Zazi, who had lived in Queens and attended Flushing High School, returned to New York on September 10, “in furtherance of his criminal plans.”
Authorities also say that Zazi was helped by as many as three unnamed accomplices, whose roles in the conspiracy and whereabouts have not been revealed. A nationwide investigation proceeding from this investigation has been reportedly tracking up to 20 suspects in terrorist plot.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that the plot “has been broken up,” continuing, “I see no danger emanating . . . from the people involved in this investigation.”
Zazi was silent at the seven-minute arraignment, other than responding, “Good morning,” when federal Judge Raymond Dearie said, “Good morning, Mr. Zazi,” entering the plea through his attorney, Michael Dowling.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Knox said evidence against Zazi will include surveillance information from foreign intelligence sources and ample classified information.
The alleged conspiracy to detonate bombs in New York was “international in scope,” Knox told the judge.
He is due back in federal court on Thursday, December 3.
Zazi’s defense insists that he went to Peshawar, Pakistan to visit his wife, downloaded the suspect information “inadvertently” while retrieving religious texts, and maintains that he broke no law by purchasing quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone at a beauty supply store.
However, published reports say that Zazi declared that he was “unmarried” in a bankruptcy filing in a Long Island federal court this year.
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing was entered in March. Zazi declared he was a “self-employed street vendor” with a monthly income of $800. He said he had just $2,400 in assets.
Zazi claimed a total of $51,491.11 in mostly credit card debts to Bank of America, Chase, Capitol One and Discover, as well as four cards from HSBC with over $13,000 owing.
In five months between April and August 2008, Zazi opened up 15 separate credit card accounts and ran up more than $38,000 worth of debt on those cards.
He was officially discharged from his debts on August 17 by Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth S. Stong.
POLS CALL FOR FUNDING
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and Representatives Yvette Clarke and Peter King called for the Obama administration to fully restore city security funding at a press conference on Sunday, September 27.
“We know that New York is still a target for terrorists and we aren’t going to let our guard down,” Bloomberg said at the conference in Manhattan’s Citigroup Center, the target of a thwarted 2004 terrorist plot.
Bloomberg and the others challenged Congress to restore funding for the Securing the Cities, a program for putting sensors along bridges, toll plazas and waterways around the tri-state area, that can detect nuclear and radioactive material.
The program originally called for $90 million for the high-tech devices to prevent a nuclear weapon or “dirty” bomb attack on the city, after at least one credible warning emerged from internet traffic around Al Qaeda-supportive web sites.
However, funding was cut in the last years of the Bush administration, after a 2007 test of an instrument-equipped helicopter failed to detect a sample of radioactive cesium in New York harbor.
This spring, the Obama administration called for no money for the program in the 2010 budget that took effect on Thursday, October 1, but local lawmakers were reportedly able to restore $12 million. Local lawmakers had been hoping to get $40 million.
Vayl S. Oxford, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, had called for the funding and “cost-benefit” studies. “Together with the high risk New York always faces, we feel this is a prudent step to help secure that city, as well as to determine, ‘Does this model work?’” he said at the time.
“We don’t want to wait until someone has attacked a city with a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb and wait to figure that out,” he said.