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Terror Suspect Zazi Pleads Not Guilty in N.Y.

Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant arrested Sept. 20 in connection to a plot to bomb targets in New York City, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to terrorism conspiracy charges. Dina Temple-Raston of NPR details the case against Zazi.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, a terror suspect goes to court in New York City. Ray Suarez has that story.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Twenty-four-year-old Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi entered a plea of not guilty this morning at the federal court in Brooklyn. Prosecutors have accused him of plotting an attack on New York City using bombs made from beauty supply chemicals.

    Zazi's lawyer denounced what he said was the government's rush to judgment against his client.

    For more, we're joined by Dina Temple-Raston, counterterrorism correspondent for National Public Radio.

    And after he entered the plea, did Zazi's lawyer have much to say about the defense?

  • DINA TEMPLE-RASTON:

    Not terribly much, but this is the first sort of show of a little bit of leg on what the defense strategy might be. What he said was, from the evidence that he'd seen– and he said he hasn't seen it all — that essentially it didn't look like there was enough there to charge Zazi with conspiracy to — and the actual charge is conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against targets in the U.S., and he said he didn't see enough for a conspiracy.

    He said what he saw was that Zazi had actually traveled to Pakistan, which is completely legal, and what he saw is Zazi had bought a lot of chemicals in bulk — hydrogen peroxide and acetone among them — which, of course, is also legal.

    So we're starting to see a little bit of what might happen in terms of a defense for Zazi.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    With Zazi's first day in court, did federal prosecutors or investigators reveal anything more about the case they've built against the man?

  • DINA TEMPLE-RASTON:

    Not really. We saw an awful lot in the charging documents that they released last week. And in those documents, allegedly, he admitted to attending an al-Qaida camp and getting explosives training.

    Allegedly, they found some notes that were imaged on his computer that were in his own handwriting that showed how to make a bomb, essentially a bomb recipe, very similar to the bomb recipe TATP that was used in the London bombings, those transportation bombings that they had.

    So those are the sorts of things that they're starting to put together. But, again, you know, there are other people who might be involved with this. They hinted at this in the charging indictments. They said that there were other people who allegedly came and helped him buy a lot of these chemicals that he was buying.

    So we're kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. And they don't want to show too many of their cards at this point to see how big this plot or alleged plot really is.