Justice Department News Briefing


Indictments Against Three Men Accused of Conspiracy
to Use Weapons of Mass Destruction in a Terrorist Attack

Briefer: Deputy Attorney General James Comey

April 12, 2005

MR. COMEY: ...You may recall that last summer, August 1st, 2004, to be exact, the Department of Homeland Security raised the threat level from "elevated" to "high" for parts of New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. This threat elevation was made after evidence was discovered of surveillance of financial service targets and buildings in a variety of areas.

We're here today to announce that three men who are alleged to have conducted the surveillance that resulted in that threat elevation have been indicted, by a grand jury sitting in the Southern District of New York, on charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against people and buildings in the United States and for providing material support to terrorists.

The four-count indictment, which was unsealed earlier today, names three British nationals: Dhiren Barot, Nadeem Tarmohamed and Qaisar Shaffi. Those three men are charged with engaging in terrorist plots against the United States.

The indictment specifically alleges that these three men entered the United States in 2000 and 2001 and conducted surveillance of the International Monetary Fund headquarters and the World Bank headquarters here in Washington, D.C.; the Prudential Corporate Plaza and World Headquarters Building in Newark, New Jersey; and the New York Stock Exchange Building and Citigroup Center in New York City.

This surveillance allegedly included, among other things, video surveillance conducted in Manhattan in or about April of 2001. The indictment further alleges that the surveillance was part of the conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a terrorist attack against the United States, a conspiracy that continued up until August of last year.

As the indictment details, Barot, who in 1998 served as a lead instructor at a jihad training camp in Afghanistan, went to some lengths to conceal the nature of his activities in the United States.

In June 2000, according to the indictment, Barot allegedly applied to a college in New York. And even though he was admitted to that school in both 2000 and 2001, the indictment alleges that he never enrolled or attended any classes at that college. The indictment goes on to recount several subsequent trips made by Barot and the other defendants from the United Kingdom to the United States and back during the course of this conspiracy.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against persons within the United States; with conspiracy to provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists; with providing and concealing material support and resources to terrorists, and with conspiring to damage and destroy buildings used in foreign and interstate commerce.

If convicted of these charges -- and these are charges at this point; these defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, Barot, Tarmohamed and Shaffi will face a possible term of life imprisonment. The three of them are currently in custody in the United Kingdom, and the United States will seek their extradition at the conclusion of the prosecution in the U.K.

Today's indictment sends a message about our resolve to terrorists. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to protect our nation from the acts of terrorists and to prosecute those who plot to harm us, whether those individuals are found in the United States or overseas. This case also demonstrates that we, as a government, will take whatever security measures are necessary, upon learning of this type of threat information as we did in the summer of 2004, to protect the American people.

Although these elevated threat warnings and other steps taken in the wake of receiving this kind of information impose costs and hardship on ordinary folks and businesses, we believe that the burden we bear together saves lives. The coordinated effort of federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as the private sector, in responding to this type of threat information protects our fellow Americans and makes our country safer.

This case is brought under the leadership of United States Attorney David Kelley, Assistant Attorney General Wray, and is being handled by the individuals I mentioned at the beginning: George Toscas, who is a trial attorney in the Counterterrorism Section, and Eric Bruce and Joon Kim, who are assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Southern District of New York. I also want to thank the New York office of the FBI, the New York Police Department, the New York Joint Terrorist Task Force, and the FBI's legal attache office in London for their usual spectacular work, as well as the great work of the many FBI agents and JTTF members in New Jersey and in Washington, and everywhere else who participated in this investigation -- many offices across the country.

And I'd like to take this opportunity to make special note of the very strong and cooperative relationship that we have with our law enforcement counterparts in the United Kingdom, in particular the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard.

Be happy to take any questions you might have.


Q: What specific types of WMD are they alleged to have plotted to use? Are they affiliated definitely with al Qaeda? And what exactly are they being tried for in Great Britain?

MR. COMEY: Ooh, three good questions. The indictment about the -- in terms of the type of weapons of mass destruction speaks only in terms of improvised explosive devices. There is not an express allegation in the indictment or any allegation in the indictment of an al Qaeda connection, and so I can't go beyond the face of the indictment. And I don't know the specific charges they face, nor am I competent to speak about British law -- barely competent to speak about American law! But I don't know the answer to that. But we can get you that.


Q: Regarding that phrase "weapons of mass destruction," in sort of the political discussion, that term has come to mean chemical and radiological and biological -- and I realize it might be different in legal -- is there any implication in the use of that term that there was a biological or a chemical or a radiological element to the plan?

MR. COMEY: We have not alleged that. But as you alluded to, a weapon of mass destruction in our world goes beyond that and includes improvised explosive devices.