But, while representing himself in court, Barry Bujol claims he was just a disgruntled taxpayer. More on this story. “Texan tells court he did not want to help al-Qaida,” by Dane Schiller for the Houston Chronicle, November 7 (thanks to L):
When Barry Bujol walked out of his Hempstead apartment in the early morning hours of May 2010, for what he thought was the start a covert journey to the Middle East, the FBI was watching overhead with a plane outfitted with a night-vision camera.
Cross hairs of the lens were on him as he made his way to a rendezvous point.
About an hour later, when Bujol and a government informant posing as an al-Qaida operative sneaked aboard a ship at the Port of Houston, agents still were watching.
Some posed as security guards, ship workers and dock personnel at the port. A Coast Guard boat was nearby in case anyone dove into the water.
The federal government went full bore after Bujol, a U.S. citizen who is on trial this week on charges he sought to aid the al-Qaida terrorist organization by holding himself out as a recruit, as well as delivering supplies such as phone cards, GPS trackers and U.S. military manuals.
Bujol, who is originally from Louisiana and converted to being a Muslim in 2005, could face 20 years in prison if convicted of trying to aid al-Qaida by providing support – mainly himself – to the fight.
His trial began Monday at the federal courthouse under heavy security. A bomb-sniffing dog checked the courtroom and the identity of anyone entering the court was recorded.
When Bujol was arrested at the port, agents pretended to arrest the informant, who crafted an alliance with Bujol while secretly working for the FBI.
The two are to see each other again for the first time since the arrest when the informant testifies from behind a screen to shield his face from the courtroom audience.
He will be questioned by Bujol, who made the bold move to not only serve as his own lawyer, but have his fate determined by a judge instead of a jury.
Sought to leave U.S.
Evidence presented in the trial shows counter-terrorism agents spent plenty of time tracking Bujol but got their first look at him in 2008 as they staked out the main library at Prairie View A&M University.
Until then, they had only known him as email@example.com, an address federal agents said he used to correspond at least once with an al-Qaida cleric from a computer on the building’s first floor.
They now contend that Bujol was desperate to go to the Middle East to join a holy war against the U.S.
Agents tracked Bujol through the college campus and in nearby towns, and in cyberspace, where they monitored email addresses and his alleged visits to a Muslim dating site, as well as a Web site advocating radicalism and taking up arms against America.
The timeline is unclear on this point: was he married at the point when he started browsing Muslim dating sites? Was he looking for a second wife, as allowed by Qur’an 4:3?
FBI Special Agent Bryan S. Cannon testified about Bujol sending email to the same Muslim cleric who communicated with the Army major charged with the mass attack at Fort Hood in 2009. In one case, Bujol received a reply with a list of ways to support jihad, Cannon said.
The report is referring to Anwar al-Awlaki.
Bujol said he never intended to harm any Americans and that he merely had been trying to learn and educate himself as he navigated the web.
“The evidence in this case will demonstrate that I did have radical Islamic views, and I was interested in leaving the United States of America,” Bujol said in his opening statement. “My desire was not to harm the U.S. or U.S. nationals here or abroad, but to express my discontent and displeasure with (how my tax dollars are being spent.)”
Note to wife
A video clip played Monday was an apparent goodbye note he left for his wife. In it, he says he met a person affiliated with al-Qaida and that he was going to the Middle East.
In the message, in which there are prayers and music in the background, as well as images of what appear to be al-Qaida fighters, he says he hopes to be reunited with her, if not on earth, then in heaven. He speaks of meeting the man, who he did not know was a government informant. The informant had been planted in a jail cell with Bujol after he had been arrested for a traffic violation.
“I just happened to meet a brother and he changed my life,” Bujol tells his wife. “Know that this is truly a miracle from Allah. Not you, not me, not anybody could imagine things happening like this.”