Source AP ©

Former Navy sailor pleads not guilty to supporting terrorism

U.S. federal court investigated intercepted phone calls of a former Navy sailor charged with supporting terrorism by allegedly disclosing secret information on the location of Navy ships.

Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 31, pleaded not guilty in April to charges that he provided material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosed classified information relating to the national defense. He has been held without bail since his arrest.

Lawyers for Abu-Jihaad have argued that the phone calls and other evidence, such as e-mail searches, were illegally obtained and should be thrown out. The hearing on whether to admit the evidence is expected to last three days.

Abu-Jihaad is citing a ruling by a federal judge in Oregon in September that struck down key portions of the USA Patriot Act as unconstitutional. The judge ruled the act cannot be used to authorize secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence - as opposed to intelligence gathering - without violating the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Bush administration is appealing that ruling.

In one phone call played Wednesday between the sailor and some friends, Abu-jihaad is heard making what prosecutors say is a coded reference to Osama bin Laden with the phrase "under the black leaves."

He is also heard talking about the different techniques of American and Islamic snipers.

Abu-Jihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism. Ahmad is to be extradited to the U.S.

During a search of Ahmad's computers, investigators discovered files containing classified information about the positions of U.S. Navy ships and discussing their susceptibility to attack, officials said.

Abu-Jihaad exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit. In those e-mails, Abu-Jihaad discussed naval briefings and praised bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, according to the affidavit.

Abu-Jihaad allegedly discussed attacking military personnel and recruiting stations with his former roommate, Derrick Shareef, 22, who was accused of planning to use hand grenades to attack holiday shoppers at a mall in a separate case.

Abu-Jihaad, who received an honorable discharge from the Navy in 2002, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

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