Yea, it's a dupe topic (I went back 10 pages and didn't find it), HOWEVER, this has a lot more information.
Issue Date: August 23, 2004
Traitor in the ranks?
Sailor linked to terror suspect after e-mail exchange uncovered
By Christopher Munsey
Times staff writer
Authorities want to know whether a traitor was lurking aboard the destroyer Benfold in 2001 — one willing to share with Islamist terrorists details on the ship and its battle group’s transit into the Persian Gulf that spring.
They know that the sailor, who served an active-duty enlistment from 1998 to 2002 and is now in the Individual Ready Reserve, expressed support for the October 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole in a series of messages sent from his e-mail account aboard the Benfold to a pro-Islamist jihad Web site.
Now they’re trying to determine if the sailor was willing to leap from disloyalty to treason.
Navy officials identified the sailor who sent the e-mails as Signalman 2nd Class (SW) Hassan Abujihaad.
Abujihaad’s e-mails were recovered during a December 2003 raid outside London, a former residence of Babar Ahmad, who is a British national arrested this month for suspected terrorism.
Also among the seized files was classified Navy ship movement information — the composition of the Constellation carrier battle group, of which Benfold was a member, and details of its planned transit through the Strait of Hormuz.
Ahmad, who was arrested Aug. 5 at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Bridgeport, Conn., remains in British custody.
According to an arrest warrant filed in U.S. District Court on July 28 by Special Agent Craig Bowling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ahmad operated a series of pro-jihad Web sites from 1998 to 2003.
Ahmad, 30, allegedly operated the sites through a company called Azzam Publications, via an Internet service provider located in Connecticut, Nevada and outside the United States.
In an Aug. 6 press conference, U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor said Web sites run by Ahmad collected money for terrorism worldwide.
Ahmad is charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to support terrorists.
Secret files were leaked
According to authorities, the e-mail exchanges between Ahmad and Abujihaad took place between late 2000 through 2001, with an individual who described himself as a Navy sailor on active duty in the Middle East.
One of the e-mails, sent in July 2001, describes the reaction of officers and sailors to a ship board briefing given by Navy officers regarding the Cole attack, and other possible terrorist threats.
“Voicing enmity towards the ‘American enemies’ and strong support for the ‘Mujahideen Feesabilillah’ the e-mail praises those who attacked the USS Cole and the ‘men who have brought honor this week to the ummah in the lands of Jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc.” the complaint states. “Ummah” is a term that refers to the global Muslim community.
Cole was attacked by a suicide boat-bomb while refueling in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. Seventeen sailors were killed and 42 wounded in the bombing, which almost sank the ship. The attack was linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.
The sailor got an e-mail response back from the Web site, praising Abujihaad’s comments and encouraging him to “Keep up with the Dawah and psychological warfare.” Dawah means missionary work for Islam, the complaint states.
Federal authorities and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service also are concerned about how classified Navy ship movement information ended up on a floppy disk found in a bedroom of Ahmad’s former residence.
The file — a password-protected document reflecting a “last modified” date of April 12, 2001 — details the composition of the Constellation carrier battle group, then starting a six-month deployment to the western Pacific and the gulf. The battle group included Benfold, the destroyer Kinkaid, cruiser Chosin, frigate Thach and other ships and submarines.
The document states that the battle group was scheduled to pass through the Strait of Hormuz the night of April 29, 2001, under a communications blackout.
The file discusses the specifications and assignments of each ship, the battle group’s planned movements, and includes a drawing of the group’s formation when it was to pass through the waterway. It also states that the battle group was tasked with enforcing sanctions against Iraq, and conducting operations against Afghanistan and al-Qaida.
According to the arrest warrant, the document explicitly describes the group’s vulnerability to a terrorist attack.
“Weakness: They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc, except their Seals’ stringer missiles. Deploy ops in Gulf 29 April-04 October. 29th APRIL is more likely the day through the Straits. For the whole of March is tax free- a moral booster. Many sailors do not like the Gulf. Please destroy message.”
NCIS investigators want to know how Ahmad ended up with the battle group movement information, said NCIS spokesman Paul O’Donnell.
“Obviously, we are very interested in what it was that was communicated, and who was responsible for that,” O’Donnell said.
As of yet, no link has been proven between Abujihaad and the ship movement information, Navy officials said.
‘Quiet, respectful’ man
Abujihaad joined the Navy in January 1998. Following boot camp and signalman “A” school in Great Lakes, Ill., he joined Benfold’s crew in July 1998.
Mike Abrashoff, Benfold’s commanding officer from June 1997 to January 1999, said he remembered Abujihaad as a “quiet” sailor who didn’t get into trouble. Abrashoff, who is no longer in the Navy, spoke by phone from his home in northern Virginia.
“He was a very quiet and respectful young man, and I never had any negative interactions with him whatsoever,” Abrashoff said.
Abujihaad completed a four-year enlistment and left active duty in 2002, records show.
Lt. Mike Kafka, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, said that Abujihaad is still in the Individual Ready Reserve, since he signed an eight-year enlistment contract.
Abujihaad has not been charged with anything, and he is not in custody.
Issue Date: August 23, 2004
Guarding classified info requires trust
Shipboard e-mails generally are not scanned, censored
By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer
When it comes to the security of shipboard e-mail, it’s always been a matter of trust.
That’s because unless a commanding officer calls for a communications security review by personnel from outside the command — cryptologists, generally — shipboard e-mail isn’t scanned by anyone, Navy officials say.
Some ships and strike groups employ commercial software that scans for so-called “dirty words” —words that may relate to operations, such as “radar” — and the Navy is developing a common version of the software for use by all ships, according to Lt. Cmdr. Ron Steiner of Naval Network Warfare Command.
Such messages, however, are automatically returned to the user for revision or deletion — no one reads them. That is, unless a commanding officer has reason to suspect that communications security is being compromised. So skippers mostly rely on their sailors’ loyalty, patriotism and plain old common sense not to compromise the mission.
“There’s definitely a trust there,” said Cmdr. Bryan Burt, the Navy’s Pentagon-based operational security, or “OPSEC,” program manager. “And there’s also an understanding that, ‘Here’s what you should not be talking about.’ ”
According to court documents released by the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Connecticut, e-mail messages from a sailor aboard the destroyer Benfold, later identified as Signalman 2nd Class Hassan Abujihaad, praised the attack on the destroyer Cole.
It’s not known what sort of e-mail review software, if any, the Benfold was employing. While Burt and the Navy would not address the specifics of that case, citing the ongoing investigation, he said it’s critical, especially given the ongoing war on terrorism, that sailors take care they don’t reveal something critical to operations, even inadvertently.
“E-mail is a way that information gets off the ship,” said Burt. “E-mail is a vulnerability, basically. People need to watch out what they e-mail off the ship.”
There’s also a delicate balance to strike, Burt said, between the security of the ship and the privacy of the individual.
“Due to privacy issues and things like that, commanding officers really can’t look at individual e-mails,” Burt said. “But all sailors are subject to random monitoring and basically sign a sheet of paper when we get an e-mail account and sign up for a computer that says our e-mails may be monitored for security purposes.”
So short of banning unofficial e-mail to better ensure operational security — a move that would cause an uproar, given the speed with which deployed sailors and Marines can now communicate with loved ones back home — e-mail is viewed in terms of operational risk.
“What kind of risk is there to that information getting leaked out?” Burt said. “And if it is compromised, how is it going to affect me? Then, if the risk is too high, we place countermeasures. That could be a lot of different things.”
One would be the temporary blackouts employed by deployed strike groups, in which ships in a given group shut down unclassified e-mail for a period of hours.
Another might be a communications security review.
Surprisingly, policies regarding e-mail haven’t changed much in the near-decade that ships have had the capability. What has changed, Burt said, is the emphasis on operational security.
“I think since the war on terrorism started with 9-11, you can see, through comments made by different individuals within DoD and the Navy, there’s been a real emphasis on OPSEC,” he said. “There is a need to protect that.”
Issue Date: August 23, 2004
Terrorists targeted confined battle groups
By Christopher Munsey
Times staff writer
For years, terrorists have been interested in striking at U.S. Navy ships and battle groups moving through confined waterways.
“When you limit the maneuverability of a large force like that ... you’re in a dangerous position,” said Capt. Richard Nolan, director for fleet antiterrorism for Commander, Fleet Forces Command, in Norfolk, Va.
Information found in a raid on a terror suspect’s former residence detailed plans for the Constellation carrier battle group’s transit into the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. In his role as a signalman, Hassan Abujihaad — the former destroyer Benfold sailor who e-mailed a terror suspect’s Web site — would have been assisting with the tactical movements of the battle group ships as they operated together, such as moving through the strait, said Mike Abrashoff, the Benfold’s former commanding officer.
But since the Navy has been moving to disestablish the signalman rating, Abrashoff said that Abujihaad could have worked as a quartermaster, the Navy’s enlisted navigation specialist rating.
“If they’re standing watch as quartermaster … he’d have occasion to see the Officer of the Deck’s notebook, with operational schedules and things like that,” Abrashoff said.
Knowing when a group of ships would be passing through a constricted waterway would greatly interest a terrorist group plotting an attack, said Peter Brookes, an analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
“If someone had laden down a boat with explosives, you’d want to know what you’d have to get through to get to the high-value target,” said Brookes. A former CIA officer, Brookes is a commander in the Naval Reserve.
Possible espionage charges
Whoever supplied the information about the ship movement plan could face federal charges for violating espionage laws, said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.
Tamera Fenske, 24, of Kenosha, Wis., served aboard the destroyer Kinkaid in 2001 as a third class hull maintenance technician. The Kinkaid was part of Constellation’s battle group during the deployment in question. She was appalled that one of her own could have leaked vital information.
“I think it’s absolutely outrageous, and they should be punished, extremely punished for it,” she said of whoever provided the information.
Benfold’s former CO agreed.
“It would be devastating for morale, to know that someone on your side was divulging this information,” Abrashoff said.
Abrashoff said the case raises bigger questions, such as whether al-Qaida has pursued a policy of slipping sympathizers into uniform.
“Al-Qaida has proven to be a very persistent organization, and what’s to keep them from planting people in our military who are sleeper cells?” he asked.
“If there’s this one sailor, you have to assume there are going to be more, and how do you combat against it?” he said.