May 2, 2006

Informant reveals NYPD terror probe tactics

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Egyptian immigrant turned police
informant testified on Tuesday how he infiltrated a New York
mosque, even winning a seat on its board, in one of the first
post-September 11 terrorism investigations by police to end up
in federal court.

Osama Eldawoody, 50, was giving testimony in the trial of
Pakistani Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, who is accused of plotting
to bomb a Manhattan subway station.

Eldawoody said in Brooklyn federal court that in 2003 and
2004 he served as the eyes and ears of New York Police
Department detectives, reporting on "everything, good or bad."

He secretly taped conversations with Siraj in which the
younger man discussed the idea of bombing the Herald Square
station as well as a hazy plan to blow up several bridges. None
of the attacks materialized.

Defense lawyers contend Siraj was entrapped by a man twice
his age who misused police surveillance powers.

The case is the first of its kind to be tried in the
Brooklyn court after a terrorism probe conducted mostly by
police and highlights a shift in tactics by the NYPD to combat
terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks killed nearly
3,000 people.

Since then the NYPD has moved into terrorism-related duties
once seen as the domain of the FBI, including a larger focus on
suspects like Siraj who are not affiliated with any major
terrorist group. More than 1,000 of its 37,800 police officers
are now assigned to daily counterterrorism duties.

In 2003 a federal judge granted the department expanded
anti-terror surveillance powers, after police lobbied for
increased surveillance of city mosques that were believed to
shelter extremist Islamic militants.

Siraj's defense lawyer, Martin Stolar, questioned both
those powers and the tactics used by police. He asked Eldawoody
why he prayed daily and reported on activity in the mosques,
including the numbers of people praying as well as
conversations with imams and an Arabic newspaper publisher.

"I report on everything, good or bad, about anything I
see," said Eldawoody, who previously testified he was told by
police to keep his "eyes and ears open."

Stolar asked whether Eldawoody, a trained nuclear engineer
who was paid more than $100,000 by the NYPD for more than two
years of informing, received police permission to be elected to
the board of one of the mosques.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been subpoenaed
to testify at the trial, which is expected to last several