Attorney General John Ashcroft said, ”On any given day, Iyman Faris appeared to be a hardworking independent truck driver.”
“He freely crisscrossed the country, making deliveries to airports and businesses without raising suspicion. But Faris led a secret double life.”
On May 1, Faris, also known as Mohammad Raouf, pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from his work for al-Qaida.
According to the Justice Department, Faris admitted to providing al-Qaida with cash, cell phones, plane tickets to Yemen and 2,000 sleeping bags sent to Afghanistan in early 2001. The 34-year-old also scouted possible U.S. targets for terrorism, including the Brooklyn Bridge, between April 2002 and March of 2003.
Faris’ primary task, Ashcroft said, was obtaining materials needed for al-Qaida’s planned attacks. Faris and al-Qaida operatives communicated by e-mail, using code words to avoid detection. When discussing the Brooklyn Bridge, for example, equipment needed to sever bridge suspension cables was called “gas stations,” and equipment to derail trains was called “mechanics shops.”
According to U.S. authorities, Faris may have received instructions directly from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a senior al-Qaida leader who is in U.S. custody and who reportedly is providing intelligence about the group.
Ashcroft said al-Qaida was working with Faris to plan another simultaneous attack in Washington and New York as a follow-up to Sept. 11. The New York attack would have been on the Brooklyn Bridge, but Ashcroft would not disclose the Washington target.
After Faris scouted the New York bridge in late 2002, he sent a message to an al-Qaida contact that said “the weather is too hot,” meaning, according to the Justice Department, that the plot was unlikely to work. The group has not carried out any of the attacks that Faris was involved in planning.
Ashcroft said it was clear that Faris was not a lone terrorist, indicating that there may be associates of his in the United States under investigation.
The attorney general also said there were at least a dozen more sealed plea agreements in cases involved in ongoing plots.
Faris has agreed to cooperate with investigators and faces 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1.
The judge handling the Faris case is U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who is also presiding over case against Zacarias Moussaoui, the accused Sept. 11 conspirator.
Born in Kashmir, Faris came to the United States in May 1994 and became an American citizen in December 1999.