- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

The federal judge in the case against September 11 conspiracy defendant Zacarias Moussaoui is demanding an explanation from the FBI about how it could have missed evidence of an e-mail account that Moussaoui said he used in the weeks before the attacks.
Wading into a dispute between prosecutors and Moussaoui over evidence in the case, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema expressed skepticism toward the government's arguments that no such e-mail account existed.
"We do not understand why an immediate and thorough investigation into the defendant's e-mail and computer activities did not lead investigators to the account, if it existed," the judge said in an order made public yesterday.
Judge Brinkema added that "a more detailed explanation from the United States is warranted." In the order, the judge demanded that the FBI explain how it examined the contents of computers that Moussaoui said he used.
Moussaoui is scheduled to go on trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in January in connection with federal charges that he conspired with the September 11 terrorists. Moussaoui has sought to defend himself and has turned aside court-appointed attorneys. At one point, he even demanded that the court approve a computer for his jail cell so he could use it to prepare his defense.
Moussaoui had claimed in a sealed request to Judge Brinkema that he used the e-mail account on several computers, including those of the University of Oklahoma, a Kinko's Inc. copy store in Eagan, Minn., and an acquaintance of Moussaoui's, Ali Mukaram.
The FBI had said that its specialists examined all those computers, although prosecutors said that Kinko's, each day, "scrubs" the computers it rents to the public and so "the Kinko's computers used by the defendant were cleaned by Kinko's before the FBI got to Kinko's to investigate." Moussaoui was carrying a Kinko's receipt when he was arrested in August 2001.
Prosecutors earlier this month produced a sworn statement by a Microsoft Corp. employee, Catherine Taelor, saying the company could find no records of the disputed e-mail account on its Hotmail service. But Miss Taelor noted that Hotmail accounts expire after 90 days of inactivity, and Microsoft does not keep any records of expired accounts.
But Judge Brinkema said the government's intense scrutiny of Moussaoui meant that investigators should have uncovered evidence of the Microsoft e-mail account before it was allowed to expire. She demanded that the FBI "make clear whether any efforts were made to obtain forensic expert services of any other government agencies, such as the CIA or National Security Agency, to assist in retrieving that information."
Moussaoui could face the death penalty if convicted.

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