Oh, he was probably just checking on the weather in Damascus. “Calls key in terror case,” from the Times Union, :
ALBANY — The spiritual leader of an Albany mosque repeatedly called a phone number in Syria that an FBI report indicates had been used to gather terrorist intelligence for Osama bin Laden, according to classified documents unsealed late Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
The FBI report, which was based on information from a confidential informant, was among several once-secret documents that federal authorities say raise questions about Yassin Aref’s connections to terrorist organizations across the Middle East.
Aref, 35, a Kurdish refugee who moved to Albany with his family in 1999, is in jail without bond while awaiting trial on charges related to an FBI counterterrorism sting. He has denied any connections to terrorism.
But federal authorities paint him as an intelligent religious scholar with strong ties to some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, including Mullah Krekar, the founder of a violent Iraqi terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida.
The FBI report on bin Laden is undated and heavily redacted. It states that an informant told the FBI that during October 2001 he was approached by someone soliciting intelligence about “flight training schools, access to airports in (redacted)” and information about “how close the individual could get to an aircraft.”
The informant said he was instructed that any information could be distributed to “brothers” through two phone numbers in Damascus, Syria. One of the numbers was called repeatedly by Aref from his Albany home, according to federal authorities.