MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Three men who lived in Toledo, Ohio have been accused of plotting overseas terrorist attacks against Americans. The Justice Department announced the charges at a news conference today.
NPR's Ari Shapiro has this report.
ARI SHAPIRO reporting:
According to the five-count indictment, a former United States military man identified as a trainer worked with the three defendants in Ohio to help prepare them for jihad.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales described their alleged actions.
Attorney General ALBERTO GONZALES (United States): These defendants had been living in the United States, where they had been engaging in weapons training and seeking to provide help in order to kill people abroad, including our troops.
SHAPIRO: Two of the defendants have U.S. citizenship, while the third is a permanent legal resident. What they didn't know is that their trainer was actually working with the U.S. government. Now the three men have been arrested. They aren't charged with carrying out any terrorist attacks. Gonzales said that's the way this should work.
Attorney General GONZALES: We cannot wait until an attack happens. We will continue to use our criminal laws as Congress intended to charge individuals once they conspire to provide support to terrorism or conspire to kill abroad.
SHAPIRO: The Justice Department has lately been surrounded by questions about whether it is using the laws as Congress intended. A 1972 law says wiretaps in the United States require judicial oversight. The Bush administration has said it's tapping American's phones without warrants. When Gonzales was asked whether the warrantless spying program produced any information that was used in this investigation, he gave a knowing smile and said:
Attorney General GONZALES: I somehow anticipated that question might be coming.
SHAPIRO: Gonzales would not answer specifically whether the surveillance program was used here. But he did say:
Attorney General GONZALES: As I've said in previous discussions about the terrorist surveillance program, we are very, very much concerned about insuring that we've done everything we can do to not jeopardize any prosecution, to not jeopardize any investigation, and I'll just leave it at that.
SHAPRIO: The U.S. Attorney for northern Ohio, Gregory White, later said the allegations in the indictment are based on traditional law enforcement kinds of efforts.
The defendants allegedly set up a fake non-profit organization in Ohio. Its purpose was to funnel charity money to terrorist operations. Over the weekend, federal officials reportedly raided a Muslim non-profit group in Toledo called Kind Hearts. Justice Department officials said the Kind Hearts investigation and this indictment are separate but coordinated.
It was not clear from today's indictment whether the alleged conspirators had planned to carry out attacks any time soon. One of the men alleged went to Jordan twice in the last few years. The first time, he unsuccessfully tried to enter Iraq. The indictment said he intended to wage jihad against Americans. The second time he unsuccessfully tried to deliver laptops to a group of Mujah Hadin.
If convicted on all of the chares in the indictment, each of the three defendants could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.
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