In 1995, a federal jury also convicted Rahman of participating in a seditious conspiracy, saying he had plans beyond the World Trade Center. Federal authorities said he was also planning to kill then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarakduring a visit to the United Nations, bomb the federal building in Manhattan, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel.
Jarret Brachman, an internationally recognized counterterrorism expert and former analyst with the CIA, told the Washington Guardian that Ammar has been “tirelessly spearheading a campaign to rehabilitate the image of his father.”
Senior jihadist leaders have taken notice of Ammar and his mission to set his father free. They “have called for the Blind Sheik’s freedom among their own extremist ranks,” Brachman said.
By “leveraging social media, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, a home page dedicated to his father, a flurry of media interviews and high-profile demonstrations, Ammar has been trying to convince Egyptians that the Arab Spring cannot be complete until his father is released from American prison,” Brachman added.
The MEMRI report comes amid numerous requests from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to the United States to release Rahman from U.S. Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Butner, N.C.
It also coincides with recent al-Qaida threats against the U.S. and demands to have Rahman released from prison. On Sept.10, 2012, al Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a statement demanding that the U.S. release Rahman, and in January Algerian Islamists who took over a natural gas plant said they would release two American hostages in exchange for the blind sheik.
State Department officials said in January that there are no plans to release the sheik from prison or transfer him to Egypt.
Morsi told reporters in January that he would ask Obama for Rahman’s release on humanitarian grounds when he visits the United States.
Now in his mid-70s and suffering from diabetes, the sheikh is said to be in poor health.
A U.S. official, with knowledge of al-Qaida’s media operations, told the Washington Guardian that terrorist organizations are looking for “young savvy Internet media-capable recruits because their propaganda operations are not only used to communicate with one another but to recruit new followers into the fold, some that operate as lone wolfs against western interests.”
U.S. officials closely monitor sites frequented by suspected or known terrorists. FBI officials would not comment on Rahman’s online presence.
The U.S. official, however, said that nothing can be done to legally remove a site from the Internet unless there is a direct terror threat made by those running the site, or if the operators are directly linked to a terrorist organization.
“It’s very difficult to monitor everything,” the official said. “There is also protection – people have the right to say they want to free the blind sheik – but it’s a fine line.”
Abdel-Rahman’s official website also has a private “members only” log-in page, which can be used to pass private messages, the U.S. official added.