During a secret search of the home of a Massachusetts man now charged with conspiring to help al-Qaida, authorities found videos depicting violent jihad and an interview with Osama bin Laden in which he says "the battle has moved to inside America," a state trooper testified Friday.
Trooper Thomas Sarrouf, the first prosecution witness at the trial of Tarek Mehanna, testified about items found in Mehanna's room during a court-authorized clandestine search of his parents' Sudbury home in 2006. Sarrouf said authorities found videos depicting "jihadist scenes, combat scenes" from around the world.
Sarrouf said authorities also found an interview with bin Laden conducted by a correspondent for the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera. In the interview, bin Laden talks about fighting and killing Americans.
"If inciting people to do that is terrorism, and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists," he said, according to a transcript read in court.
During cross-examination by Mehanna's lawyer, Janice Bassil, Sarrouf acknowledged he had no way of knowing whether Mehanna read the interview with bin Laden.
Mehanna, 29, is accused of traveling to Yemen in 2004 to seek terrorist training. Prosecutors say when that failed, he returned home and became part of the "media wing" of al-Qaida by translating and distributing materials promoting violent jihad over the Internet.
Mehanna's lawyers say Mehanna vented his anger over the U.S. invasion of Iraq over the Internet, activities they say were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Prosecutors also called several FBI computer forensic examiners who described copying the hard drive of Mehanna's computer during the secret search in 2006, when he was under suspicion but had not been charged, and later, in 2008, after he was arrested and his father consented to a search of his computer.
During cross-examination, the defense focused on the furtiveness of the 2006 search. It was done while Mehanna and his family were visiting relatives in Egypt.
Bassil asked Sarrouf if such court-authorized searches are sometimes referred to as "sneak and peak."
Sarrouf called it a "clandestine search" done as part of a national security investigation.
"It is a court-authorized and approved search of the home," Sarrouf said.
Mehanna's lawyers say many of the documents found on his computer were automatically cached, but not downloaded by Mehanna.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday.
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