HOUSTON — A 30-year-old Hempstead, Texas, resident and former student at Prairie View A&M University, was convicted Nov. 14 for attempting to provide material support to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The conviction in Houston federal court followed a long-term investigation conducted by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, which included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Barry Walter Bujol Jr. requested a bench trial before U.S. District Judge David Hittner that lasted nearly four days, during which he acted as his own attorney.
The United States presented 325 trial exhibits and 12 witnesses. During the trial, Bujol neither testified on his own behalf nor presented witnesses. After closing arguments were completed Nov. 10, the court requested the weekend to consider all the evidence.
On Nov. 14, Bujol was found guilty of attempt to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization and aggravated identity theft.
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation, which began in 2009, involved a confidential human source (CHS) who purported to be an AQAP recruiter interested in helping Bujol pursue his goal of conducting "violent jihad."
Bujol was arrested May 30, 2010 after boarding a ship docked at the Port of Houston. Bujol believed the ship was bound for Algeria where he would stay at an Al Qaeda safe house before continuing on to Yemen. Bujol intended to stow away to join AQAP, and to deliver items that the CHS gave him to AQAP. AQAP was designated a foreign terrorist organization as the term is used in Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2339B(g)(6) and Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act by the U.S. Secretary of State on Jan. 19, 2010.
Evidence at trial revealed that Bujol had been in contact with Anwar Al-Aulaqi, a now-deceased Yemeni-American AQAP associate and a proponent of violent jihad against the United States. Bujol had asked Al-Aulaqi for advice on raising money for the "mujahideen" without attracting police attention, and on his duty as a Muslim to make "violent jihad." Al-Aulaqi replied to Bujol's emails by sending Bujol a document entitled "42 Ways of Supporting Jihad," which asserted that "‘jihad' is the greatest deed in Islam...[and] obligatory on every Muslim."
Court records indicated that the "jihad" Al-Aulaqi advocated involved violence and killing. The document implored Muslims, among other things, to conduct firearms training, improve their physical fitness for guerrilla warfare and to make "violent jihad."
In 2009, Bujol made three attempts to depart the United States for the Middle East, but law enforcement, believing these were Bujol's efforts to make "violent jihad," thwarted him each time he tried to leave. Concerned about Bujol's violent intentions, and to further the investigation, agents arranged for a CHS to meet Bujol. He eventually told the CHS he desired to fight with the "mujahideen." The CHS, who testified, told Bujol he recruited people for AQAP and could help him. When the CHS told him he would be joining AQAP, Bujol replied, "God willing" in Arabic.
Records indicated that to prove his worth to the CHS and AQAP, Bujol performed numerous purported "training exercises" often involving surveillance detection and covert means of communication. Moreover, Bujol began to e-mail the CHS military manuals and articles on military unmanned aerial vehicles that he had found on the Internet, explaining to the CHS how the information could be helpful to AQAP. In a running conversation about unmanned aerial vehicles, Bujol repeatedly told the CHS, often using metaphorical language, that AQAP should attack the human beings essential to operate the vehicles instead of attacking the vehicles themselves. Bujol suggested multiple targets, including one in the southern district of Texas.
On May 30, 2010, the CHS contacted Bujol with a code word they previously agreed would signal the beginning of Bujol's travel to the Middle East to join AQAP. They drove together to the Port of Houston where the CHS told Bujol he would stow-away on a ship bound for Algeria. After a short stay in Algeria for training, the CHS told Bujol he would travel to Yemen to fight for AQAP. The CHS gave Bujol various items to carry to AQAP's purported operative in Algeria, which included two public-access-restricted military manuals, global position system receivers, pre-paid international calling cards, SIM cards and about 2,000 euros, among other items. Bujol secured these items in his baggage and quickly boarded the ship. Minutes after stowing away in a room on board the ship, agents took him into custody without incident.
Simultaneously, agents executed a search warrant on his apartment and laptop computer. On the computer, agents found a homemade video montage of photographs, including images of Osama bin Laden, Najibullah Zazi and multiple armed "mujahideen" fighters, which Bujol narrated. On the video, which was offered into evidence, he addressed his wife, explaining he had left her suddenly to pursue "jihad." Bujol told her he would likely not see her until the afterlife.
The aggravated identity theft charge, of which he was also convicted, stemmed from a false transportation worker identity card (purporting to be a card issued by the Transportation Security Administration) that Bujol possessed to access the Port of Houston. Bujol supplied the CHS with a passport photo and a false name, and the CHS used these materials to "acquire" the false card for use in the sting operation. The night of the operation, Bujol used the false card to gain access to the port.
Bujol has been in federal custody since his May 30, 2010 arrest, and will remain in custody pending his sentencing. He faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison for the terrorism charge, and an additional five years for the aggravated identity theft conviction, as well as a $250,000 fine.
The following agencies also participated in the investigation: the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas; the Department of Justice's Counterterrorism Section; and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Bryan, Texas, which is comprised of Brazos County Sheriff's Office, Texas A&M University Police Department, Bryan Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, Waller County Sheriff's Office and College Station Police Department. The following agencies also assisted: Houston FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Prairie View A&M University Department of Public Safety, New Jersey State Police, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, Houston Police Department, and Canada Border Services Agency.