New Prosecution Over Non-Existent Oregon Training Camp

The U.S. just can't let the terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon die, even though it never existed.

Since 2002, the U.S. has been charging and imprisoning people for acts related to the Bly camp that were committed in 1999. (New York Times article from 2002 here.) Its last conquest was Abu Hamza al Masri, the one eyed Sheikh with no hands but a hook (photo here), also extradited from the U.K.

Today, yet another suspect, mentally ill Haroon Aswat, arrived in the U.S. . He pleaded not guilty to terror charges concerning the camp. He has been in a mental hospital in the U.K. since 2008. The U.S. assured the U.K. it would provide treatment for him, and although in 2013, the European Court of Human Rights blocked his extradition, the U.K. courts approved it after receiving the U.S. assurances. [More...]

This all began with former Denver resident James Ujaama, who TalkLeft has followed since 2002. I've been writing about this case so long most of the source links in my early posts are now dead, but you can find them all here.

He was big news here because he was arrested on a material witness warrant at grandmother's house in Denver and his aunt was married to the son of former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. After his arrest, his family couldn't find him at any jail (he was secretly moved to Virginia.) Over the years Ujaama has gone from being a material witness who the Government considered immunizing, to an indictee, cooperator (more here), convicted defendant, escapee while on supervised release (later captured and re-charged with offenses pertaining to the Bly camp, that had been dismissed), and finally, a testifying co-defendant.

The main object of the Government throughout all this has been getting Abu Hamza al-Masri. Ujaama helped the U.S. indict him and testified against him.

A few years before testifying against Abu Hamza, he testified and brought home a conviction for the Government in the case of Oussama Kassir, also charged with the Bly terror camp. Kassir was sentenced to life in prison.

In between all this, Ujaama was taken to London for questioning over the July 2005 bomb plot in London.

So the Government's latest conquest is Haroon Aswat. Brought to the U.S. from a mental institution in the UK to face terror charges over the Bly terror camp and now detained without bond in New York.

The Bly terror camp never existed. It's the training camp that never was. Instead, there was the Dog Cry Ranch, where Ujaama says he envisioned setting up a religious retreat. When that failed, he made a pitch to Abu Hamza, who sent Kassir and Aswat to check it out as a potential training camp. They arrived by bus, after traveling two days on a Greyhound bus to save money. There was nothing there except two mobile homes and some outbuildings.

There were no weapons to speak of, no recruits, not even a place for recruits to stay.

What emerges from the trial record [of Kassir] is an almost comic account of passwords, night patrols and target practice. Jihad, it seems, couldn't take root alongside the sagebrush and weeds that greeted Kassir.

The whole set up was in fact a hustle by a petty crook from Seattle named James Ujaama. Ujaama envisioned the Oregon camp as an Islamic time share, selling visits to foreign Muslims. Twice he lured groups from his Seattle mosque for weekend visits to the ranch. They thought they were going on a bit of a Western adventure -- riding, shooting and chasing cows.

Kassir got angry at Ujaama and Ujaama took off, ending his fantasy of an Islamic time share. Kassir and Aswat stayed for about a month or so, and then also left. Here is an article from the Mirror in the U.K. about the camp, which an MI-6 source said was “akin to a Carry On movie”.

Aswat was arrested in Africa in 2005 at the request of the U.S. and extradited to the U.K. Suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, the U.K. committed him to an institution, where he's sat since 2008.

There is a lot of speculation, including from a former U.S. prosecutor and terror expert named John Loftus, that Aswat was an asset of MI-6 and they were protecting him in Africa. Aswat was Abu Hamza's "right hand man" and later thought to be the "mastermind" of the 2005 London bombing attacks. Here's the video of his appearance on Fox News in 2005 explaining it.

Curiously, the DOJ blocked Seattle U.S. attorneys from indicting Aswat in 2002 when they indicted Ujaama. No one could provide a cogent explanation, other than DOJ preferred New York to handle it. But in 2004, when Abu Hamza was indicted in New York, Aswat was not indicted. Again, no explanations until John Loftus came forward.

The judge in New York today set trial for 2015 and ordered the Marshals to let Aswat have the medication the U.K. sent along with him. After court, he was whisked away to "an unnamed facility." As for James Ujaama, I won't be surprised to see him back as the Government's star witness against Aswat. The Government sure got the better end of its bargain with him -- 12 years of cooperation, so far.

I wonder how much the U.S. has spent prosecuting the non-existent Bly terror camp. In addition to the costs of actual prosecution, there have been extraditions from the UK and the Czech Republic, litigation in the European Court of Human Rights, and the U.S. has also paid for their defense lawyers fees and expenses, as they were declared indigent. On top of this, we are paying for their incarceration. Kassir is serving his life sentence at Supermax in Florence, which costs $70k a year. According to the Government press release of his conviction, he is now 48 years old. Aswat is in his late '30s.

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    J thank you so much for your posts and links! (none / 0) (#1)
    by ZtoA on Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 11:16:32 PM EST
    As an Oregon resident I have never heard about this before. OR is pretty sensitive about "groups" since Rajneesh people tried to poison some people in the local rural community. The state is not the feds, I understand that.

    I have not read all of your links yet but this caught my eye (from one of your links):

    Kassir asked the teen whether he could kill a man.

    The boy replied that he could because he had killed sheep.

    "Killing a man is not like killing a sheep," Kassir said.

    Yes mentally ill.

    whatever happened to the statute of limitations? (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Wed Oct 22, 2014 at 10:29:06 AM EST
    at some point, shouldn't the government be barred from bringing charges, solely as a function of time? or is that not applicable, if a defendant is charged with terrorist or related offenses? some of these purported illegal acts took place 15 years ago, what are the odds that a defendant is going to be able to track down witnesses to testify on his behalf, assuming they're even still alive?

    frankly, this seems pretty shoddy, even by "show trial" standards. DOJ seems happy to go after people supposedly affiliated with a non-existent "terrorist training camp", but not after people who have a documented history of committing war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

    we look like fools to the rest of the world.