Waterproof Socks as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Syed Hashmi is an American citizen who has been held in an extremely restricted form of solitary confinement in a federal prison in New York for more than two years for providing "miltary equipment" to al Qaeda in Pakistan.

MSNBC was all over this story way back in 2006, when Mr. Hashmi was arrested in London...

U.S. officials say the military gear was intended to support al-Qaida's jihad activities overseas, especially in Afghanistan, where it could be used against U.S. soldiers.

Lots of information was apparently leaked to NBC "terrorism expert" Michael Sheehan...

"Hashmi was a jihadi. He was interested in fighting jihad in Pakistan," says Michael Sheehan, a terrorism expert and NBC News analyst. "He had connections to serious terrorists in the U.K. He was an American citizen, a very troublesome character, and we're glad that he's been picked up."

But not even the mysteriously well-informed Mr. Sheehan seemed to know exactly what kind of "miltary equipment" Syed Hashmi had provided to al Qaeda in Pakistan.

All charges against Syed Hashmi arise from a visit by his friend Junaid Babar, who arrived at Mr. Syed's apartment in London with a suitcase full of "miltary equipment" which eventually found its way to a high-ranking al Qaeda operative in Pakistan.

And what did that sinister suitcase contain? Was it bombs or guns or a surface-to-air-missile?

Prosecutors have said that Hashmi's friend, Junaid Babar, stayed at his London apartment for two weeks, while Hashmi was studying for a master's degree in Britain. Babar stored luggage containing raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in the apartment. Babar later delivered them to the third-ranking member of al Qaeda in Pakistan.

And that's all there was to it, at the time, but after Junaid Babar had been arrested and confronted with a sentence of 70 years in prison... and who knows what other inducements applied to himself or his family in Pakistan... he began to unfold a life-story which rivals the finest productions of compulsively talkative al Qaeda luminaries like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who eventually took credit for every evil deed in the history of the universe except assassinating Abraham Lincoln and bombing Pearl Harbor, and after one more round of waterboarding, who knows what other confessions his CIA jailers could have rinsed out of him?

So now Syed Hashmi's previously unknown friend Junaid Babar has "admitted" running multiple training-camps for al Qaeda in Pakistan, as well as participating in multiple attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, and if he were not "cooperating" with the FBI, he would be facing the death penalty in Pakistan.

Meanwhile Syed Hashmi remains in solitary confinement in New York, and that means...

...23-hour solitary-confinement lockdown and 24-hour surveillance including when he showers and goes to the bathroom. He was not allowed family visits for months. Now, he can see one person for an hour and a half, every other week.

He is permitted to write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper per letter. Within his own cell, he is restricted in his movements and he is not allowed to try to talk guards or other inmates.

Hashmi is forbidden any contact - directly or through his attorneys - with the news media. He can read newspapers, but only those portions approved by his jailers - and not until 30 days after publication. He is forbidden to listen to news radio stations or to watch television news channels.

He is also under 24-hour electronic monitoring inside and outside of his cell. He is allowed one hour of recreation every day - which is periodically denied - and not given fresh air but must exercise alone inside a cage.

One of Hashmi's Brooklyn College professors, Jeanne Theoharis, who has attended the hearings in his case, told IPS that Hashmi's "mental health appears to be deteriorating."

Syed Hashmi's mental health appears to be deteriorating! What a fantastic surprise!

And after a few more months of solitary confinement and "toilet monitoring" and exercising in a cage, and all the rest of it, Mr. Hashmi will probably arrive at approximately the same state of mind as Jose Padilla, when he was finally tried after three years of solitary confinement in the Navy brig in Charleston, and he walked through his trial like a zombie.

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    An additional note... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jacob Freeze on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 09:34:48 PM EST
    An additional note from the Village Voice...

    Hashmi was a student of Jeanne Theoharis at Brooklyn College, and as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in a front-page August 8, 2008, story: "Ms. Theoharis recalls that her student took a keen interest in civil liberties. Mr. Hashmi wrote his final paper for her class on the contradiction between basic American freedoms and the U.S. government's treatment of citizens since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. . ."

    Website (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jacob Freeze on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 10:21:37 PM EST
    And of course I didn't find by far the best source for information about Mr. Hashmi until after I posted this blog, and that's the website http://www.freefahad.com/ which is full of transcripts of court documents, and significant background material about Junaid Babar, including Babar's (later retracted) accusation that a British reporter had paid him to recite anti-American slogans in a video.

    In room 538 of the plush Embassy Suites Hotel, in Manhattan, FBI agents gave him a choice: a lifetime in jail separated from his wife and child, or turn supergrass against his friends. Babar agreed to co-operate. He spent a week spilling his guts, and pleaded guilty to five counts of providing material support to terrorists. The authorities said that they'd never seen anyone turn state's witness so fast.

    Not once in 17 days did Babar look at the five former friends he was condemning to a life in jail. Nor did he look at me, although he did have one last unpleasant surprise up his sleeve. The jury watched transfixed, as Babar's America-hating interviews to me were played on court TV. When asked why he did it, Babar declared that I had paid him cash to "sex up" his remarks.

    Now it was my turn to stare at the videos. This lie would make little difference to his eventual fate, but was easily enough to destroy my career as a broadcast journalist. Finally, after agonising moments, he changed tack. Babar admitted that he'd tried to deceive the FBI to save his skin.


    Job opening for federal potty-watcher... (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jacob Freeze on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 10:45:46 PM EST
    ...23-hour solitary-confinement lockdown and 24-hour surveillance including when he showers and goes to the bathroom.

    Job description: Video monitoring of prisoners using the toilet in federal prisons.

    Requirements: Must not begin screaming "What the fook am I doing?" after 15 minutes.