- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

ATLANTA | Syed Haris Ahmed’s videos of Washington landmarks didn’t represent an imminent threat to the U.S., but prosecutors said his conviction Wednesday for supporting terrorism exemplifies a strategy of snuffing out potential plots in their earliest stages.

U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey found the 24-year-old former Georgia Tech student guilty of a conspiracy to provide support to terrorism. Prosecutors said Ahmed and a co-defendant made the videos to gain prestige with overseas terror leaders. Ahmed’s attorney countered that the videos were silly and amateurish.

Shortly after the verdict, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, who led the prosecution, said authorities can’t afford to wait until would-be terrorists are closer to acting.

Joe Whitley, an Atlanta attorney who was the first general counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the government has moved toward “trying to prevent things from happening rather than sifting through the damage after it has happened.”

Ahmed defense attorney Jack Martin argued throughout the four-day trial that the government’s evidence wasn’t strong enough to merit a conviction. He said the case was based on “passing talk” from an immature college student whose idea of paramilitary training was shooting paintball guns in the north Georgia woods.

The videos were made in April 2005 when Ahmed drove his pickup truck to Washington with a suspected cohort. They took footage of U.S. landmarks as well as a fuel depot and a Masonic temple in Northern Virginia.

A few months later, prosecutors said, Ahmed traveled to Pakistan on a one-way ticket to seek out Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group linked with attacks in the disputed state of Kashmir. He returned to Atlanta about a month later after unsuccessfully attempting to join the group.

Federal authorities said they began building a case after Ahmed and co-defendant Ehsanul Islam Sadequee - both U.S. citizens - took a bus to Toronto in March 2005 and met with at least three other targets of an FBI investigation.

They are accused of brainstorming strikes against targets ranging from military bases to oil refineries and talking of disrupting the Global Positioning System satellite network.

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