Web Site Operator Indicted for Supporting Terrorism

July 19, 2006. The U.S. District Court (DConn) unsealed an indictment [14 pages in PDF] that charges Syed Talha Ahsan with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A, and other crimes, in connection with his alleged providing of "material support and resources to persons engaged in acts of terrorism in Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere ... through the creation and use of various internet websites, e-mail communications, and other means" and by providing "expert advice and assistance, communications equipment ... financial services" to recruit, raise funds, and provide assistance.

The indictment, which was returned (issued) but sealed (kept secret) on June 28, 2006, also charges Ahsan with conspiracy to kill/injure persons abroad in violation of 18 U.S.C. 956, conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, and aiding and abetting in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2.

The indictment states that Ahsan is a resident of the United Kingdom. The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut stated in a release that UK law enforcement authorities arrested him on July 19, 2006, at the request of the US.

The District Court previously returned an indictment of Babar Ahmed and Azzam Publications in 2004. Babar Ahsan remains incarcerated in the UK pending resolution of extradition proceedings.

The just unsealed indictment alleges that Syed Talha Ahsan also participated in the operation of Azzam Publications and its family of web sites. The indictment states that Ahmed and Ahsan "helped create, operate and maintain, and caused to create, operate and maintain" web sites located in "Connecticut, Nevada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malaysia and elsewhere".

The indictment further alleges that "These websites, and other forms of internet communications, posted and transmitted materials which were designed and intended to: recruit mujahideen, raise funds for violent jihad, recruit personnel for the Chechen Mujahideen, the Taliban and associated groups, and give instructions for travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight with these groups, provide instructions for the surreptitious transfer of funds to the Taliban, and solicit military items for these groups, including gas masks and night vision goggles."

The indictment further alleges that Ahsan and Ahmed "established, maintained and used various e-mail accounts associated with the websites to administer the websites, hide their identities, communicate with other individuals also involved in the operation and administration of the websites, communicate with members of the Taliban, Chechen Mujahideen, and associated groups, communicate with members of the public who sought to support violent jihad activities depicted on the websites, communicate with those who responded to the internet solicitations for material support and individuals who wished join these groups, solicit donations to support violent jihad and coordinate the transfer of money, and communicate with and provide to those who sought to purchase items advertised on the websites. These items included videotapes depicting and promoting violent jihad in Chechnya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and other lands of jihad, and the torture and killing of captured Russian troops."

Finally, it alleges that "Members of the conspiracy also utilized certain e-mail accounts associated with the websites to communicate with a U.S. Naval enlistee on the U.S. Navy destroyer the U.S.S. Benfold which was operating within a U.S. Naval battle group in the Straits of Hormuz in the summer of 2001. Through these e-mail accounts, members of the conspiracy communicated with the enlistee, who was sympathetic to the causes espoused on the Azzam family of websites ..."

The indictment Ahsan used web sites and e-mail. It does not enumerate any other information or communications technologies, such as voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services. However, it does reference "other forms of internet communications", and "other internet media".

The Connecticut US Attorney's Office (USAO) also stated in its release that the US will seek to extradite Ahsan from the UK to the US.

The USAO also stated that this case is being prosecuted by numerous of its attorneys, with assistance from Andrew Levchuk from the Department of Justice's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Alexis Collins from the Counter-Terrorism Section. The USAO also stated that the investigation is ongoing, and that the investigating entities include the FBI, Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Electronic Crimes Program, Immigration of Customs Enforcement (ICE), Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). It also references "several additional law enforcement partners here in the United States and overseas".

See also, IRS web page titled "Why is IRS Involved in Electronic Crimes".

There is nothing in the indictment or USAO release regarding cooperation from, or subpoenas, warrants, orders, or letters directed to, internet service providers, communications carriers, or other service providers.

This case is United States of America v. Syed Talha Ahsan, U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

The web site for Bahria University, Karachi Campus, list in its Computer Science and Engineering faculty a "Syed Talha Ahsan". The web site states that this Ahsan received a "MS Electrical Engineering (Communications & Signal Processing)" from "Ohio State University".

The indictment contains little information about Ahsan. It states only that "At all times material to the Indictment, the defendant, SYED TALHA AHSAN was a resident of the United Kingdom living in London, England". The USAO release adds that he is "age 26 (DOB 09/21/79)", and that he is British citizen. TLJ spoke with two DOJ employees regarding whether the defendant received a degree from Ohio State University. Neither provided a responsive answer.