Saturday, November 26, 2016

Little hope for justice for Hamid Hayat

Abbie VanSickle is a true investigative journalist!

Star Witness in "Sleeper Cell" Case Blazed a Trail of Lies From Pakistan to California

By Abbie VanSickle, The Intercept

20 November 16

    Hamid Hayat didn’t want to believe that his closest friend was a paid government agent. Then, awaiting trial, he learned Naseem Khan would be the star witness against him.

he prison warden’s letter arrived three days before Christmas.

Last fall, I wrote a letter to a medium-security prison in Arizona, requesting an interview with an inmate named Hamid Hayat. He was serving a 24-year sentence after being convicted of receiving terrorist training in Pakistan. Although Hayat’s case made international headlines when he was arrested as part of an alleged al Qaeda “sleeper cell” in Lodi, a rural California town, he had never talked with a reporter before.

Prison interviews aren’t uncommon. Typically, a reporter fills out the required forms and then works with the facility to set a date and time. Hayat’s lawyer and his family assured me that Hayat was a model prisoner, so I was optimistic. I filled out the proper forms in October. A month later, the federal prison asked me to provide a letter from The Intercept, which I did. In early December, a prison staffer assured me that he was working to “clear up one last issue.” But on December 22, the prison warden denied my interview request because of “safety, security, and orderly management considerations.” The warden declined to talk with me, and there was no appeals process.

Stymied by the prison, I gave Hayat’s lawyer a list of questions about the specifics of his case and his life now. I had seen Hayat only in videos of his FBI interrogation — a decade old and a lifetime ago. When I got his answers and saw recent photos of him in prison, I was surprised. Gone was the thin, timid young man with the hunched shoulders and wispy beard. In his place was a muscular man with a tight ponytail and sunglasses who stared coolly into the camera.

Hayat didn’t say much about prison conditions, other than that he had little contact with the outside world — just one visit a year, from his family — and that his father hadn’t been granted permission to visit him in eight years. His phone time, too, was limited compared to other inmates.

Although the restrictions on phone calls and visits clearly irritated Hayat, he said the prison had, in an odd way, broadened his perspective by giving him his first exposure to people of diverse backgrounds and faiths. To an outsider, his childhood, split between California and Pakistan, sounds worldly. In reality, he grew up cloistered in a community of rural Pakistanis, who held tight to religious traditions and conservative culture regardless of whether they remained in an ancestral village or moved across the world to Lodi or London. “I was just in my community, so I really didn’t know much about what was going on around me,” he said. “I look back almost every day and think, ‘I wish I could have met more people out there.’”

His experience with other inmates had made him ashamed of some opinions he’d grown up with. As a teen, he’d celebrated the news that Pakistani terrorists had kidnapped and beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. In recorded conversations introduced by prosecutors at his trial, the jury listened as Hayat gleefully told an FBI informant, “They killed him. So I’m pleased about that. They cut him into pieces and sent him back. That was a good job they did. Now they can’t send one Jewish person to Pakistan.” In prison, he has remained a devout Muslim, he said, but now takes a more inclusive view of his faith and others and is friendly with Christian and Jewish inmates. “I was wrong, what I said,” Hayat said of Pearl. “I totally disagree with myself. I didn’t know much then. I was pretty much not open-minded then about a lot of stuff.”

At 19, Hayat had just returned to the United States after a decade of studying at a religious school in Pakistan. He had suffered a nearly fatal brain infection and needed a place to recover. He had only an elementary school education and hadn’t spoken English in years. He tried to enroll in high school, but he had aged out. He dabbled in community college, taking a single course in English grammar. He slept on a mattress in his parents’ garage. Most days, he hung out around the mosque. That’s where, in 2002, he first met an undercover FBI informant named Naseem Khan, the man who would befriend him and then betray his trust.

Hayat’s father was the first to catch on — something in one of Khan’s conversations struck him as odd. “He had a bad feeling about him,” Hayat recalled. But even after Hayat’s parents warned their son about his friend, Hayat kept talking with him. He didn’t want to believe that his closest friend was really a paid government agent. But he didn’t get proof of Khan’s involvement in the case until he was already in jail, waiting for his trial, and his lawyer told him that Khan would be the star witness against him. That’s when Hayat realized he’d never really known Khan, that his parents had been right all along.

Hayat remembered their conversations. At first, they talked about movies and cricket — cricket is one of Hayat’s favorite topics, but Khan always wanted to talk politics. They’d hang around their imam’s house or drive to a local park. Khan was frequently at Hayat’s house, even spending the night. When Hayat returned to Pakistan for a visit in the spring of 2003, Khan often called him. At first, Hayat was glad to hear from his friend, but he grew annoyed that Khan aggressively steered their conversations toward jihad.

“Every time he’d call, he always wanted to talk about politics,” Hayat said. “I was like, ‘Why does he always want to talk about this?’ … I started having a different view, thinking different about him.”

Eventually, Hayat got so frustrated by the conversations that he stopped answering Khan’s calls. It’s during this time period, roughly from October 2003 to November 2004, that the FBI claimed Hayat left his village to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Hayat said he’d mostly hung out around his small village, playing video games and taking care of his mother, who suffered from hepatitis. A couple of times a month, he’d venture to the nearest big city, Rawalpindi, for a weekend. Once, he went to a wedding in the southern part of the country, the opposite direction from the alleged camp. In the answers he provided to his lawyer, Hayat remained adamant that he never attended a jihadi camp or received any kind of terrorist training.

While Khan was pretending to be Hayat’s confidant in Lodi, he was living a dual life in a town 500 miles to the north in the foothills of the Cascades.

Khan shared a home near Bend, Oregon, with his then-girlfriend, Josée Hennane, who was in the dark about much of what he was doing in Lodi. Hennane, a tall woman with a kind smile and a mane of curly dark hair, agreed to meet me in a coffee shop in early May. She remembered her time with Khan fondly and still struggled to understand its ending.

Hennane and Khan had met around 2000 through Hennane fell for Khan immediately. He was good-looking and a great cook. They lived a quiet life. He worked as a clerk at the K Market convenience store. She worked in sales. She envisioned their time together stretching far into the future — kids, a house, an ordinary life. He seemed to be looking forward, too, she said, away from rocky relationships with his family and past heartache.

Then, the September 11 attacks happened. One of only a handful of Muslims in Bend, Khan kept a Quran in his apartment, but Hennane didn’t think of him as devout and certainly not radical. Somehow, Khan’s name and social security number came up during an FBI investigation into an Islamic charity accused of funding terrorist groups. FBI agents showed up in Bend to question him. During their conversation, the agents determined that Khan had nothing to do with the terrorist financing case, but he caught their attention with a fabricated story about seeing terrorist leaders at a mosque he used to attend in rural California.

Intrigued by his story, the agents hired him as an informant. He told Hennane he was going to California for a while to help out on a case. He also said that if he impressed the FBI, perhaps he could work as an agent or get a job with the CIA. Although he didn’t have an American high school degree, he spoke Urdu and Pashto and understood Pakistan’s culture and politics, important and rare skills in a post-9/11 world.

“I think he got drawn in,” Hennane told me. “It fed him, and it fed his ego. Helping out, making this place safer.”

Khan didn’t give her details about his work. He disappeared for long stretches of time and didn’t say much about where he’d been or what he was doing. He began carrying a locked briefcase. She assumed he kept his case paperwork inside. His work strained their relationship, so much so that he invited her to Portland to meet with FBI agents so he could prove he actually worked for the agency. Hennane said she remembered meeting the agents at a coffee shop.

Her boyfriend’s secretive behavior continued until the Lodi case became public in the summer of 2005. As Hayat’s trial neared, Khan told her that he feared for their safety. The FBI paid to install a security system on the couple’s house. Shortly before the trial, Hennane went out to her car in the morning and found a note. In it, Khan apologized and said that he needed to end their romance. Hennane was so devastated and confused that she drove to the Sacramento FBI office, where she begged the agents to tell her Khan’s whereabouts.

“I went to their office, and they said, ‘Let it go, it’s over,’” Hennane said.

Khan vanished from her life. Years later, she said, she received a ticket for a toll violation on the East Coast and assumed that Khan still listed their old address in Oregon. She thought perhaps he’d moved to the East Coast and started over. She never heard from him again.

“Looking back, I think he thought of it as his family, his law enforcement family,” Hennane said. “From the sound of it, I think he wasn’t going to look back.”

In many ways, Khan fits the profile of the type of dubious informant the FBI has used in the aftermath of 9/11. He had a troubled past and a rocky relationship with family — he told his ex-girlfriend that relatives had abused him by dropping him down a well in Pakistan when he was a child. He had falsely accused his mother of abuse when he was a teen, and he had been convicted of burglary in Yuba City, California. But as a Pakistani immigrant, he could slip easily into Lodi’s Muslim community — and this was crucial for the FBI.

“After 9/11, the FBI realized it hadn’t been paying enough attention to terrorism,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who spent 16 years with the agency on undercover operations and domestic terrorism and is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The demand to identify people who could provide information was enormous, and unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of solid information by which the informants could be vetted.”

The FBI did vet Khan, checking his immigration, criminal, and employment records, but it didn’t check with the one person who likely had stronger feelings about his truthfulness than anyone else — his mother.

Khan’s mother, Nazhat Shaheen, didn’t learn about her son’s role in the Hayat case until the trial was underway. A relative showed her a news story about the star witness in the trial, a Pakistani immigrant named Naseem Khan. At this, Shaheen began to worry.

It had been years since she had spoken with her firstborn son, but based on her previous experiences with him, she worried that he wasn’t telling the truth about Hayat attending a training camp. Shaheen wrote a letter to Hayat’s lawyer. “While neighbors in Lodi might be surprised by his unconscionable scheming for self-gain, I find his behavior in keeping with his dishonest past,” she wrote. “He is a bagful of lies, deceit, and air. He will betray and deceive any and all parties for his own gain. … He can even take the FBI for a ride without their knowing it.”

It was too late, however. By the time the letter was written on May 10, 2006, the jury had convicted Hayat. Shaheen’s letter was never presented in court or in the appeal.

It was not easy to find Shaheen. I wanted to find Khan’s family because I thought they might be able to tell me about Khan’s side of this story, but every address and number proved a dead end. When I mentioned to one of Hayat’s lawyers that I wanted to understand more about Khan, the lawyer said that years before, someone on the legal team had gotten a phone call from a man who claimed he was related to Khan. That man turned out to be Khan’s half-brother, who told me the person I really needed to talk to was Khan’s mother.

Shaheen, 67, lives in a quiet suburb in Ohio. I agreed to use her maiden name and not mention the town where she lives because community members don’t know that her son worked as an FBI informant, and she is ashamed of his role. We sat at her dining room table and, over several hours, she told me her story.

Shaheen grew up in a conservative family in Pakistan. Her family supported her ambition for education, and she received a master’s degree before her parents decided it was time to find a match for their daughter. She had a disastrous marriage to a Pakistani military officer that lasted only three months before the couple divorced. By then, though, she was pregnant.

Her parents decided that Shaheen would give her child, Naseem, to be raised by her ex-husband’s parents. Shaheen, meanwhile, moved to the United States, where she settled in the Midwest. Eventually, she married a doctor, had two sons, and became an English teacher. She was living a comfortable, upper-middle-class life when, in 1988, she heard from relatives in Pakistan that Naseem, then 16, wanted to join her.

Shaheen went to Pakistan, sponsored his green card, and brought him to America. The problems began immediately. Khan complained that he didn’t fit into their family. At first, Shaheen pitied her son because he’d told her wild stories that his family in Pakistan abused him, shocking him with electricity, beating him with sticks, locking him in a bathroom, and hanging him upside down in a well.

Then, she said, the lies began. He lied to her about trivial things, like pretending to rake leaves but really just filling garbage bags with air. She thought it was typical teenager stuff. Things turned serious about two months into his stay, when social services knocked on Shaheen’s door. Khan had made a claim of abuse against his mother, telling his high school that he wasn’t getting enough to eat and was being kept in poor conditions. Shaheen said she took the workers through her four-bedroom home and showed them the well-stocked refrigerator and a freezer full of halal meat. No charges were filed, and the social workers determined that “the youth is neither a neglected nor abused child,” and his mother was taking “proper and responsible measures” to care for him, according to a letter from the local social services agency.

The relationship between Shaheen and her son never recovered.

“It was all about tricks,” Shaheen said. “It was all about lying and deceit. I could see that I could not trust him.”

She made arrangements for her son to return to Pakistan. She took Khan’s green card and mailed it to immigration officials with a letter explaining that she would no longer sponsor him. Then, she took him to New York and watched him get onto a plane. “I was devastated,” Shaheen told me. “I went through so much to get him.”

Two or three months later, she heard from her son. He’d somehow managed to get a ticket back to the United States and to convince immigration authorities to let him re-enter. He sent her a cassette tape on which he apologized for his behavior, she said. He tried calling. He told his mother that he had no desire to live with her, but he did want money, a monthly allowance. She refused. He wrote her letters, apologizing for his behavior. None of his efforts swayed her.

She said she believes that once, while she was back in Pakistan for her mother’s funeral, Khan tried to get inside her house, and that he might have been looking for his green card, which she’d already turned over to authorities. When she returned from Pakistan, she noticed that someone had broken in and searched through paperwork. She filed a report with the police, but nothing came of it. The last time she heard from Khan was around 1992 or 1993, when he told her he was living in Texas, she said, and again tried to apologize. She didn’t believe the apologies he offered were sincere. “I was done with him, I really was,” she said.

At the end of our interview, Shaheen said that she wanted to know the truth from her son. She wanted him to promise on the Quran that he believed Hayat really had attended a terrorist training camp. But when we talked again a few months later, she’d changed her mind. She said she didn’t think that promising on the Quran would ensure her son’s honesty.

Like Khan’s mother, I wanted to hear the truth, whatever it was. Did Khan really believe his claims about Hayat? What prompted Khan to tell the FBI that he’d seen al Qaeda leaders in Lodi, something the government later determined was false? Did he continue to work in the intelligence world after Hayat’s trial?

I first reached out to Khan just after New Year’s 2015. Although the Hayat family told me they’d heard rumors that Khan had remained in the Lodi area, working in insurance, public records showed that he first moved to the East Coast, near Washington, D.C., around the time of Hayat’s trial, and had since returned to Oregon. His address at the time was in Salem, the state’s capital.

I pulled off a busy four-lane road of fast-food restaurants and chain stores, down a side street and into an apartment complex of bland, two-story gray condominiums. I walked up the short sidewalk to his door and rang the bell. A few seconds later, the door opened slightly and a thin man in his late 30s or early 40s wearing a white T-shirt answered.

“Hi, I’m looking for Naseem Khan,” I said.

He nodded slightly.

I quickly said that I was a reporter, and as soon as I mentioned Hayat, he began to close the door.

“Can you tell me if you’re still involved with the FBI?” I asked.

“No, I’m not,” he said. He took my business card before closing the door.

I followed up by sending a letter explaining that I hoped to sit down and talk with him, that I wanted his perspective. I heard nothing.

In March 2015, I tried again. This time, as I stood at his door and rang the bell, I noticed a small security camera in the window. No one answered. I wrote a note, once again saying that I was writing a story and hoped to hear his perspective. I left it on his door, and I again heard nothing.

All of that happened before I talked with Khan’s mother and his ex-girlfriend, before I’d heard Hayat’s version of events. I felt it was important to try to reach Khan one more time, to give him another chance to respond. Before heading to Oregon, I checked public records and found that he had registered a new company, a tourist shop selling Pakistani fabrics, sunglasses, and earrings in a small beachside town in the state.

In late June, I arrived at his shop. I got there before it opened and waited on a bench outside. Just before 10 a.m., Khan walked past me, clean-cut and athletic-looking in a red T-shirt and dark pants. He unlocked the door to his small shop, which had a sweeping view of the ocean. After he went inside, I knocked on the glass door. When he came to the door, I explained, yet again, that I was a reporter working on a story about the Hayat case.

He shook his head no.

I told him that I’d talked with his mother, who said she didn’t think he’d told the truth about Hayat attending a terrorist camp. He looked directly at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m not interested,” he said.

He tried to close the door, but my boot was blocking the doorway. He tried again, and I moved out of the way. He closed the door and turned the lock.

The life that Hayat lost when he went to prison no longer exists.

His parents sold their house in Lodi to pay their legal bills. They moved about 20 minutes away to a neighborhood in disrepair. When I visited them one morning, the neighbor across the street was sitting on a car hood, drinking a can of beer and staring with a vacant look. Trash blew across the pavement.

Hayat is no longer a newlywed — far from it. Tired of waiting for him, his wife divorced him in 2012. His mother told him about the divorce during a prison visit. His life is on hold until his scheduled release in 2026.

Hayat says that he won’t agree to a plea deal that might cut his sentence if he drops his appeal and admits guilt.

“I’m not gonna plead guilty to something I didn’t do,” Hayat told his lawyer in response to the questions I submitted.

Hayat continues to fight. In 2014, he asked a federal judge to overturn his conviction, accusing his trial lawyer of ineffective assistance of counsel and claiming that the government failed to disclose evidence that would have helped his case. In August, his case was assigned to a new federal judge, Deborah Barnes, for further proceedings, which are ongoing.

Even if wins his appeal, prosecutors could decide to try the case again. Hayat is ready for that.

“I’ve been through it once, and I’ll do it again,” he said.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A temporary defeat?

A temporary defeat?

Divided appellate panel upholds terrorist conviction of Lodi's Hamid Hayat

By Sam Stanton, Denny Walsh and Stephen Magagnini

Read more here:

From the article:

Dennis Riordan, a San Francisco appellate specialist who now represents Hayat, said he will ask for a rehearing before an expanded circuit panel of 11 judges.

Failing that, Riordan said, he will file a habeas petition in Sacramento federal court. That is a civil pleading, attacking a conviction and sentence.

The centerpiece of the Hayat petition will be that his trial lawyer, Wazhma Mojaddidi, was "incompetent and later admitted she was incompetent," Riordan said. "She had never handled a criminal case. What she did was inexcusable."

Mojaddidi was admitted to the State Bar of California on Dec. 1, 2003, after graduating from the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law. The Hayat family sought her out in June 2005, after the arrests of Hamid and his father, Umer.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Monday, January 14, 2008

The FBI's Jihad, a short film


Talked with Wazhma Mojaddidi on the phone, today. She told me Hamid Hayat was moved to a prison in Bakersfield about four months ago, and then about month and a half ago he was moved to Indiana. With Hamid's family in Lodi, this several-thousand-miles move must have created a major inconvenience for the visitors.
Is there hope for Hamid? Yes, there is. And the hope is called Dennis Riordan, the appellate attorney who is filing appeal. Riordan is a topnotch lawyer who has taken Hamid’s case out of the goodness of his heart. Unfortunately, Riordan is Hamid’s last hope.

(Dennis Riordan’s photo, from abcnews, courtesy of AP Photo/Ben Margot.)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hoping to meet Maulana Adil Khan

Last year, Frontline team (while working on the documentary 'The Enemy Within') asked Maulana Adil Khan for an interview. Adil Khan refused saying he would give interview to a Pakistani journalist only. Today, yours truly made a trip to Jamia Farooqia where Adil Khan teaches. Adil Khan was in Islamabad; I was asked to check back later.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Convicted on four counts

Read this press release from the Department of Justice

“April 25, 2006 United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Drew Parenti announced today that a federal jury convicted HAMID HAYAT, age 23, of Lodi, California with one count of providing material support or resources to terrorists and three counts of making false statements to the FBI in matters related to international/domestic terrorism.”

Look into this case more carefully and you would find that the four counts are actually all about the same thing, Hamid Hayat’s confession that he attended a training camp.
It is like I interrogate you on Day 1 and ask you if you attended a terrorist training camp, and you deny that charge. I interrogate you again on Day 2 and ask the same thing. Once more you deny. Day 3, the same thing, and your response too is the same. Day 4, I have a mega interrogation session with you and I keep telling you that you indeed attended a camp, and then you break down and say, “Yes, I did.” Well, that confession becomes the first count, and what you told me on Day 1, 2, and 3 become three counts of lying to me. Amazing how it works!
Different people, different rules

Compare two confessions, one is taken at its face value and the confessant is convicted based on that confession alone. In the other case the confession is not believed in, corroboration of confession is sought, and ultimately the confessant is told he was lying. We are talking about the way the judicial system handled Hamid Hayat and John Karr’s confessions. John Mark Karr confessed he killed JonBenet Ramsey, but the judicial system said, ‘No, John. We are not going to believe you. We have to independently verify your claim.' A DNA test was done; the test came out negative and John Karr was off the hook, at least on this count.
And then we have the confession of Hamid Hayat that he attended a terrorist training camp. But in this case nobody bothers to corroborate. No evidence is shown if the camp really existed, if Hamid Hayat indeed got training during the time he said he was there. The confession is believed in, even when the confessant said the confession was obtained from him, under duress.
Who says Justice is blind?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Christmas in Sacramento County Jail

Spoke with Wazhma Mojaddidi, Hamid Hayat's lawyer, in the afternoon. Wazhma told me the defense has submitted a brief on October 20; now prosecution will submit its observations in December. There is a court hearing on January 19, 2007. Hamid Hayat will remain in prison for the foreseeable future. What a pity!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Still in Pakistan

Muhammad Ismail and his son Jabir (Jaber) Ismail's ordeal has been made public by US newspapers. It looks like they have been given permission to fly back to the US.

This morning I called Ismail. I called him on his cell phone in Pakistan. It was almost 10 am California time (10 at night in Pakistan). Ismail was a bit disoriented by my call--he started speaking Pushto, I wonder if I disturbed him in sleep. I told him who I was; he remembered that I had visited Behboudi. But he was very scared to say anything. When I asked him when was he coming back, he told me I should talk to his attorney!!! So, this is what FBI has accomplished. It has successfully intimidated a particular section of our population. Not sure if this intimidation works on die-hard terrorists, but it has definitely succeeded in scaring simple folks who are now wary of anyone talking to them, who now believe crafty agents can easily trap them. Here is federal prosecutor Larry Brown explaining how putting broad limelight on individuals stops them from carrying out terrorist acts.

Here are Federal Prosecutor McGregor Scott's comments after Lodi arrests.


Remarks of U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott
June 8, 2005 1:30 p.m.
Press Conference re Lodi Investigation
Good Afternoon, my name is McGregor Scott, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of
California. I am joined by FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter and Chuck Demore of the
Bureau of Immigration Customs Enforcement. Also with me is the lead prosecutor on the
investigation, Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Lapham.
Protecting America from potential terrorist attacks is the top mission of the United States
Department of Justice. In recent days, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of
Homeland Security and other allied federal, state, and local agencies have worked around the
clock to follow-up on information received pertaining to individuals in the community of Lodi,
California, located 35 miles south of Sacramento.
Our collective efforts have resulted in the arrests of Hamid Hayat, of Lodi, and his father Umer
Hayat, also of Lodi, California. Complaints have been filed against both men for violations of
18 U.S.C. 1001, making false statements to the FBI. Copies of these complaints are available in
the back of the room and have been posted at our office’s website. Umer Hayat was arraigned
yesterday and ordered detain by Magistrate Judge Peter Nowinski. Hamid Hayat is scheduled to
be arraigned this Friday, June 10, at 2:00 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Nowinski.
Two others have been detained by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on
immigration violations. They are Muhammed Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed, both residents of
Lodi, California.
Recent events were prompted by the return of Hamid Hayat to this country from Pakistan. Mr.
Hayat had been on the “No Fly” list, but was downgraded to the “Selectee List” after having
been interviewed in Japan.
Last Friday, June 3, Hamid Hayat was interviewed by special agents of the FBI here in
Sacramento. During that interview, Mr. Hayat denied that he had ever attended any terrorist
training camp or school, and stated he was not a Jihadi member, and that he would never be
involved with anything related to terrorism.
The following day, Mr. Hayat willingly underwent a polygraph, and his answers were found
indicative of deception. After approximately two more hours of questioning, Hamid admitted
that he had, in fact, attended a Jihadist training camp in Pakistan for approximately 6 months in
2003-2004. He also confirmed that the camp was run by Al-Qaeda and that they were being
Page 2
trained on how to kill Americans. He further stated that he specifically requested to come to the
United States to carry out his Jihadi mission.
Hamid Hayat’s father, Umer Hayat, also was interviewed on June 3 by the FBI. During that
interview, he denied that his son was a terrorist. On June 4, when confronted by the admissions
his son had made, Umer Hayat confirmed that his son had attended a Jihadist training camp in
Pakistan in 2003-2004. He also admitted that he paid for his son’s flight and provided him with
an allowance of $100 per month, knowing his son intended to attend a jihadi training camp.
These are allegations only and both men are presumed innocent. I wish to emphasize that this
investigation is ongoing at this time and evolving literally by the moment. We fully anticipate
that there will be further developments in the hours and days ahead. We fully intend to keep the
media and the community informed of these developments.
Let me say a few words about the nature of this investigation. Special Agent Slotter, Special
Agent Demore and I wish to emphasize that an investigation of this nature is not taken lightly.
Every step we have taken-and will take-- is examined, reexamined and vetted by the highest
levels of the Justice Department. The multiple layers of review are designed to ensure that people
are not improperly accused of potential terrorist activities. They are also designed to ensure full
and complete compliance with the United States Constitution and the laws set forth by Congress.
In this investigation, we have done precisely that. Based on the information we have, we are
acting absolutely appropriately and responsibly in taking the actions that we have.
I wish also to reassure our community that we are vigorously pursuing this matter. No resource
or effort is being spared in running all the information we have to ground.
I would also like to make a statement to the Muslim community in Lodi and elsewhere. We have
the greatest respect for the Muslim faith and the Muslim members of our community. These are
criminal charges and immigration charges against certain individuals, not a religion or people in
a community. And to those who would seek to retaliate against Muslim persons for the actions
at issue in this case, Special Agent Slotter and I have one simple word of advice: Don’t. As our
agencies have long demonstrated, we have zero tolerance for hate crimes and acts of retaliation.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Cross-cultural/linguistic faux pas

August 25 was the first time I came face to face with Umer Hayat. After his sentencing Umer spoke to the Press in his wanting English. What is my impression of the man? I think he is a man of few words, and most probably fewer still thoughts.
Very predictably the question about the terrorist training camp came up. Why did he tell FBI agents about a camp that he now claims was totally fictional? In his reply Umer said, ‘I just made up stories. That’s all. It’s my habit.’

Whereas the above statement sounds like a lame excuse I believe the problem lies in Umer’s limited command of English. I can understand how frivolous remarks like these are made in Urdu, and probably in Pushto too, and to Urdu listening ears they sound OK and make sense. But this is not how remarks of this nature are made in English and specially in such a serious matter. In English he could say something like, “I deeply regret what happened in that interrogation. I just don’t know how I did it. I was tired, I was fatigued, and they kept asking me questions, so I just made up stories. And it was so stupid of me. I got myself in trouble because of my stupidity. And the FBI recorded all that. Then it was too late. There was no way for me to turn back. I don’t know how to put it. It was just plain stupidity on my part to get myself in trouble in that manner.”

Johnny Griffin, Umer’s attorney, has a sharp aid, Silky Sahnan, who speaks Urdu/ Hindi. Silky needs to work with Umer on such cross-cultural/linguistic issues.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Most of the Pakistanis one would find in Lodi, California come from either the village of Behboudi or Shinka. After staying overnight in Behboudi we made a short trip to Shinka. Munawwar drove the car while Jabir Ismail and his friends gave us the guided tour.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

East and West, side by side

Although I have been to a number of cities in Pakistan, before my March visit I had never been to Behboudi or any nearby town. I needed a person familiar with the area. Through a long process I got introduced to Munawwar Hussain Awan who worked in the circulation department of Daily Dawn. Munawwar was in charge of newspaper delivery operation in Hattiyan and surrounding areas. We rented a car from Rawalpindi and headed off to Behboudi.

People in Behboudi are all related to each other. These Chach people have been living here for a very long time. Economic forces have made some of them go to foreign lands where they encounter cultures very different from their own. For the emigrants among these Chach people the only way to retain their identity and have a clear understanding of their roots is to bring their children back to Behboudi. In Behboudi you will find kids brought back from the UK or USA, by their parents. These children live there for long periods of time. I talked to a few of them and tried to understand if they felt living disjointed lives; if they were torn between two very different value systems.

Chach Pathans are very hospitable people. News of our arrival spread fast in the village. We were taken to a hujra/baithak (guest reception building) where people gathered to talk to us. Everyone had a different variation of the same question, ‘Would Hamid Hayat be freed?’ At night Munawwar and I were put in a modern house. Here Munawwar is seen enjoying Chach hospitality.

Friday, September 01, 2006

After Umer Hayat's sentencing on Friday, August 25, Prosecutor Larry Brown spoke on behalf of McGregor Scott. Here is a video showing his response to a very honest, innocent question.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shameless Plagiarism

First read this SF Chronicle report from August 26.

2 Lodi residents refused entry back into U.S.

The federal government has barred two relatives of a Lodi man convicted of supporting terrorists from returning to the country after a lengthy stay in Pakistan, placing the U.S. citizens in an extraordinary legal limbo.

Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, have not been charged with a crime. However, they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, a 23-year-old Lodi cherry packer who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp.

Federal authorities said Friday that the men, both Lodi residents, would not be allowed back into the country unless they agreed to FBI interrogations in Pakistan. An attorney representing the family said agents have asked whether the younger Ismail trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan.

The men and three relatives had been in Pakistan for more than four years and tried to return to the United States on April 21 as a federal jury in Sacramento deliberated Hayat's fate. But they were pulled aside during a layover in Hong Kong and told there was a problem with their passports, said Julia Harumi Mass, their attorney.

The father and son were forced to pay for a flight back to Islamabad because they were on the government's "no-fly" list, Mass said. Muhammad Ismail's wife, teenage daughter and younger son, who were not on the list, continued on to the United States.

Neither Muhammad nor Jaber Ismail holds dual Pakistani citizenship, Mass said.

"We haven't heard about this happening -- U.S. citizens being refused the right to return from abroad without any charges or any basis," said Mass, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Then read this Dawn, Pakistan story from August 28.

Two barred from returning to US

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 27: The US government has barred two relatives of Hamid Hayat, a Pakistani-American convicted of supporting terrorists from returning to the country after a long stay in Pakistan.

Mohammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalised citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, have not been charged with any crime. However, they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, 23, who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp.

US authorities said that the men, both Lodi residents, would not be allowed back into the country unless they agreed to FBI interrogations in Pakistan. An attorney representing the family said agents have asked whether the younger Ismail trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan.

The men and three relatives had been in Pakistan for more than four years and tried to return to the United States on April 21 as a federal jury in Sacramento deliberated Hayat's fate.

But they were pulled aside during a layover in Hong Kong and told there was a problem with their passports, said Julia Harumi Mass, their attorney.


What a glaring example of shameless plagiarism! I know one Abdus Sattar Ghazali who is a serious man, but this joker got to be someone else. After making a few changes in the first paragraph of the story he literally copied everything else from the Chronicle and got it published under his name. I understand that Dawn editors don’t read all international newspapers so I am going to bring this to their attention. The Dawn editors owe an apology to the San Francisco Chronicle and they need to fire this cheater.

Diary of August 25, 2006

Strange how things work out for me. Even with all the mishaps I encountered, it turned out to be a productive day.

Najeeb got directions to the courthouse from the Internet and gave them to me. There were inaccuracies in those directions once you get closer to Sacramento. I left home at 6:15 am and reached Sacramento around quarter past eight, but then it took me a while to find the right way to reach the court on 'I' street. When I reached the court it was 8:40. I could not find street parking so I parked in the garage facing the courthouse. I needed to first attend the court session—obviously I could not take my cameras with me. That meant I needed to first go empty handed in the court and after hearing the sentence run back to my car in the parking structure, grab the cameras, and run back to the court building to be there on time for Umer Hayat’s press conference.

As I entered the court building I found Demian Bulwa of San Francisco Chronicle in the lobby. I greeted him; he could not remember my name—although we had met in Lodi, he talked with me on the phone when I was in Karachi, and had also communicated with me via email. Busy reporters do meet a lot of people and it is understandable that they cannot remember everybody’s name.

My breakfast that morning had a lot of fluid in it so I needed to use the restroom right away. After using the restroom I took the elevator to the 13th floor. Umer Hayat was to be sentenced in Courtroom number 10 on the 13th floor. There were still a few minutes till 9 when I entered the courtroom. I read the list of cases to be heard that morning. Umer Hayat vs. US Government was on top of the list. In the courtroom clerks were chatting with each other; there was a small audience mostly comprised young men and women. I liked the grandeur of the court décor. Heavy wood furniture commanded respect and made you wear a very serious face in that room. I thought about the evolution of courtroom architectural design and imagined the discussions architect of that building must have had with the contractors. Soon the room started to fill up. Attorneys in business suits holding files and briefcases showed up. Spectators too started taking seats. Umer Hayat entered along with his attorneys. Then all of us were asked to rise. Judge Burrell entered the room and the court came to order. I could not understand most of the court proceedings not only because of my lack of knowledge in legal matter but also because I had a hard time hearing Judge Burrell. But I understood that part when Judge Burrell asked Umer Hayat if he wanted to say anything before Judge would read the sentence. Umer Hayat had a female interpreter on his right hand side. This interpreter would start whispering in Umer’s ear even before the Judge would finish his sentence. Either she had excellent skills to hear and speak at the same time, or she already knew what the judge was going to say. I was very disappointed to hear from the interpreter that Umer Hayat did not wish to say anything before the sentence. I thought a short speech in Pushto would have been very effective; such a speech in Umer’s native tongue would have highlighted the language-divide between the prosecutor and the accused. I also thought Umer was inappropriately dressed for the occasion. Instead of wearing a suit he should have worn shalwar-qameez along with a turban on his head. Just imagine the drama of watching this foreign-born man, dressed in strange clothes, making a speech in an incomprehensible language!

As soon as the sentence was read and court moved on to the next matter I left. I hurriedly took the elevator down, and then ran out of the building to go to my car in the parking structure. When I came back with my cameras, video and still, all the TV station cameras had lined up a few feet away from the building entrance. I too waited with them.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stranded US Citizens

I met Mohammad Ismail and his son Jabir Ismail in their village of origin Behboudi, not too far from the town of Hattiyan. They are both U.S. citizens and residents of Lodi. When I met them on March 11 of this year Jabir told me he had completed his Hafza (memorizing Quran); father and son were getting ready to go back to the US. I asked them if they were aware of the difficulties they might face when entering the US. When I asked them that question what I had in my mind were possibilities of hold up at the US port of entry and grueling interrogation. I never thought they would be on some kind of a no-fly list and would not be allowed to fly back to their country of citizenship.

Demain Bulwa broke this story in San Francisco Chronicle:

Saturday, August 26, 2006 (SF Chronicle)
2 Lodi residents refused entry back into U.S.
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer

(08-26) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- The federal government has barred
relatives of a Lodi man convicted of supporting terrorists from
to the country after a lengthy stay in Pakistan, placing the U.S.
in an extraordinary legal limbo.
Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan,
his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States,
not been charged with a crime. However, they are the uncle and cousin
Hamid Hayat, a 23-year-old Lodi cherry packer who was convicted in
of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp............


So, what is going on?
Presumably there is a “no-fly list” that “anti-terrorism officials” can put suspected ‘terrorists’ on? If you are unlucky to be on that list you cannot fly. You can probably fly from one terrorist county to another, for example Venezuela to Syria, or Iran to North Korea, but you cannot come closer to the US or countries that the US has influence on.
But then other questions:
What is the legality of that ‘no-fly list’?
Under what suspicion people are put on that list?
What toll free number to call to find out if you are on that no-fly list?
If someone gets on that list by ‘mistake’, what is the procedure to get off the list?

Are answers to all the above qeustions written down somewhere so that there can be some kind of accountability of public servants? Or is it asking too much in these trying times when teeming bands of terrorists are lurking in shadows ready to attack us and our government is hell-bent to protect us?

OK, sarcasm aside what do I see here?

I see mistrust at both ends. That the FBI is distrustful of bearded young men with skull caps, is a given. Lodi Muslim community’s distrust of FBI and the US Government is a little hard to understand, but go to Lodi a couple of times, talk to Muslim community members there, and you would see their point of view. They believe they have been punished without a crime. They believe Hamid Hayat is completely innocent. They believe they have been cheated by FBI. They believe FBI sent a spy who trapped the dumbest person among them. They believe FBI can tire you with interrogation, can record hours and hours of conversation, can then put together a “proof” of lying to FBI, and can then arrest you for that ‘crime’. Most probably this is the reason why Jabir is evading an interrogation by FBI in Islamabad. And who can blame him?

What is your name?
My name is Suleiman.
Is that it, ‘Suleiman’, or you have another name too?
My name is Suleiman Ahmad.
But you told us your name was Suleiman, and now you are telling us something different. Do you know that lying to federal agents is a crime punishable by law?

[Though in most of the Muslim world the J name is written as ‘Jaber’, in Pakistan it is mostly written as ‘Jabir’. I have to find out how younger Ismail spells his name. Another clarification: In Muslim faith people are generally not given any of Allah’s ninety-nine names (Jabir, Qadir, Hakim, Rahman, Raheem, etc.); instead, the prefix ‘Abdul’ (one who worships) is added to one of the 99 names in calling a person, so a man can be called Abdul Rahman (one who worships Rahman), but not Rahman; this logic is most evident in the name Abdullah (one who worships Allah). Having said all this, lately I have seen cases when people do go by Rahman, Hakim, Qadir, etc.]

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This one is for you, Hamid Hayat

It was last year that I became involved in analyzing the Lodi terror probe story. The person who initiated me on this was Najeeb Hasan. Najeeb is a young journalist of Pakistani descent. Najeeb had been visiting Lodi and interviewing community members. After Najeeb made contact with me and suggested that we make a documentary film on the case, I started going to Lodi with him. Names erstwhile coldly printed in newspaper stories and read sans empathy started to come alive. Ever since my first trip to Lodi I have often thought of Hamid Hayat. How does he feel in that jail cell? How is his one day different than the other? Does he get to read news about himself? What goes in his mind these days?

This blog is dedicated to Hamid Hayat. I'll tell you his story as it slowly unravels.