MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
In California, the trial of a Pakistani-American father and son is winding down. The son is accused of attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. The father is charged with lying to federal authorities about his son's activities. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, the government has run into trouble backing up its allegations that the two men have terrorist connections.
RICHARD GONZALES: Federal authorities first announced the arrest of an ice cream truck driver, Umer Hayat, and his son Hamid back in June. Officials claimed that they had uncovered a potential al-Qaida sleeper cell in the quiet farm town of Lodi, in the middle of California's central valley. However, after eight weeks of testimony in a federal courtroom in Sacramento, the prosecution has already rested its case, without offering direct evidence that Hamid Hayat ever attended a Jihadist training camp. Johnny Griffin is the attorney for Umer Hayat.
JOHNNY GRIFFIN: There are no facts whatsoever that Hamid Hayat ever actually attended a camp. There are no credible facts whatsoever that Umer Hayat ever, ever visited any Jihadist terrorist training camp, and there is no evidence that Umer Hayat knew that his son attended a camp, because his son did not.
GONZALES: While federal prosecutors are not commenting, they base their case on testimony of an FBI informant, Naseem Khan, who secretly tape recorded hundreds of conversations with Hamid Hayat. But during the trial, the informant's credibility was called into question, after the FBI confirmed that it had paid him nearly a quarter of a million dollars for salary and expenses, and the informant caused more shockwaves when he testified that he had seen Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, at a Lodi, California Muslim mosque as recently as 1999. Brian Jenkins, a national security expert at the RAND Corporation, is among many who doubt that the bin Laden deputy was in Lodi.
BRIAN M: No one I know believes that he was in the United States at the time, with all of the investigations that have been conducted, certainly would have been reported. I mean, the idea that the FBI might have such information and sat on it despite all these investigations would be astounding.
GONZALES: And then there's the matter of Hamid Hayat's own confession, which has been inconsistent. For example, he told the FBI he had been to a terrorist training camp, but claimed at various times that it was located in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Two weeks ago, a juror who was dismissed by the judge told reporters she felt that the FBI had badgered Hayat into telling them what they wanted to hear. Terrorism expert Brian Jenkins says in the wake of 9/11, the pressure has been on federal authorities to do whatever it takes to block another terrorist attack, and that, he says, can lead to two possible outcomes.
JENKINS: One, that people are going to make mistakes. Moving in early means in some cases just mistakes are made. And in those cases, you want to clean up the mistake as quickly as possible, put the people back on the street and forget about it. In other cases, it may well be that the individuals were terrorists or about to become terrorists, and you busted up a plot but cannot get a successful prosecution.
GONZALES: The government will soon learn the outcome of this effort. The Hayat case is expected to be in the hands of jurors sometime next week.
Richard Gonzales, NPR News.