Taking a page from the venerable Alger Hiss Playbook, who wondered to the end of his days how Whittaker Chambers got into his house and used his typewriter to type out copies of secret State Department documents, Mohamed's father, Abdel Latif Sherif, says: "This was created and put on his computer to blame him." But for those of us who may have been on the receiving end of Mohamed and Megahed's plans, whatever they were, for their explosives and ammunition, it is becoming increasingly clear that they were not the "naive kids" that CAIR's Ahmed Bedier insisted they were.
TAMPA - A laptop computer deputies found when they pulled over two University of South Florida students in South Carolina contained a video made by one of the men showing how to use a toy to detonate a bomb remotely, a federal prosecutor said Friday.
On that video, the student, Ahmed Mohamed, said the detonator could 'save one who wants to be a martyr for another day, another battle,' Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hoffer said.
The prosecutor said that video was posted by Mohamed on YouTube, a popular Web site.
Also on the laptop were 'jihadi' images and footage of rockets used by Hamas, Hoffer said.
Although a judge granted bail for the other student, Youssef Megahed, prosecutors immediately appealed, delaying his release until at least next week. Mohamed waived his right to a bail hearing.
Hoffer disclosed the computer evidence Friday as he laid out the prosecution's case that Megahed should be denied bail because he is a danger to the community and a flight risk.
U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Jenkins ruled Megahed could be released on $200,000 bail if he meets a number of strict conditions, including what amounts to house arrest. 'I do agree he poses a danger, no question about that, based on what was found in the car,' Jenkins said. She also said the government failed to demonstrate a specific danger to the community, as required by law.
Hoffer acknowledged under questioning from the judge that he had no specific evidence of Megahed's intentions. Hoffer said that under the current charge, Megahed likely faces less than three years in prison if convicted.
A defense attorney maintained his client was not dangerous and that he has strong ties to the community and no record of violence. The federal courtroom was packed with Megahed's family members and friends, and Jenkins said she had received numerous letters in Megahed's support.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution presented sworn testimony during the hearing.
Megahed's public defender, Adam Allen, said there was no evidence his client made or saw the video that prosecutors said Mohamed made.
Both defendants are Egyptian citizens. Megahed is a legal, permanent resident of the Unites States, and Mohamed is here on a student visa.
Hoffer said that when deputies in South Carolina pulled the pair over for speeding on Aug. 4, they saw Megahed, who was the passenger, trying to put away the laptop computer that belonged to Mohamed. When investigators analyzed the computer, they found that the last-viewed images showed Qassam rockets, which are used by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Also on the computer were videos of discussions of martyrdom and videos showing the firing of M-16 rifles, Hoffer said.
In the trunk, deputies found four small sections of PVC pipe, at least three of which were stuffed with a 'potassium nitrate explosive mixture' of potassium nitrate, Karo syrup and kitty litter, Hoffer said. He said the kitty litter served as a binder to keep the substance from coming out of the pipes, which were not capped.
Investigators also found a container of gasoline, 20 feet of safety fuse and an electric drill, which Hoffer said could be used to drill holes in the pipe so fuses could be attached.
'Obviously, that raised the hackles of law enforcement in South Carolina,' Hoffer said. 'That's why we're here.'
Both men are charged with transporting explosives without a permit, relating to the stuffed PVC pipes deputies have described as pipe bombs. Hoffer conceded in court, however, that the devices, while explosive, were not pipe bombs and were not 'destructive devices' under the law.
Allen maintained that the filled PVC pipes couldn't do much damage because there were no caps and no metallic material that could serve as shrapnel.
Mohamed also is charged with demonstrating how to make explosives with the intent of helping terrorists. That charge evidently refers to the video, which Hoffer said Mohamed admitted making in his home in July using a camcorder. Hoffer said Mohamed posted the video on YouTube under another name. It shows Mohamed from the chest down standing in front of a tabletop and taking apart a radio-controlled toy car and pulling a wire from the remote control.
Speaking later from Cairo, Mohamed's father, Abdel Latif Sherif, said his son is being framed.
'This was created and put on his computer to blame him,' Sherif said. 'I can take a computer and put anything on it. They are making this up to make him look bad.'...
Under the passenger seat of the car in South Carolina, deputies found ammunition, said Hoffer, but no firearms.
Hoffer said investigators also searched a commercial storage facility. Inside they found a .22-caliber rifle that Megahed had purchased lawfully. Hoffer said Megahed recently tried to purchase a handgun.
Also in the storage facility were welding supplies and scuba diving equipment. Hoffer said Megahed has skill as a welder, so there could be a legitimate reason for those items.
The prosecutor said that when deputies questioned Megahed, he initially denied knowing about 'these rockets or fireworks in the trunk.' But when both defendants were put in the back seat of a patrol vehicle, their conversation in Arabic secretly was recorded, Hoffer said.
A translation summary of the recording shows Megahed asking about what happened to the explosives, Hoffer said, which the prosecutor said shows Megahed was aware of what was in the trunk. The car, Hoffer said, was registered to Megahed's brother.