A police officer assigned to work undercover after the September 11 attacks has surfaced as a surprise witness at the trial of a Pakistani immigrant accused of plotting to blow up a Manhattan tube station.
The officer – who gave evidence under his street name, Kamil Pasha, because he is still involved in investigations – said he heard Shahawar Matin Siraj rant against the US in the months following September 11 2001, and predicted terrorists would inflict more harm.
The witness said Siraj declared in December 2002 that “the mission was not complete on 9/11 because it did not hit Wall Street”.
Siraj, 23, was arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention and accused of plotting to blow up the Herald Square tube station.
The station is the third busiest in New York’s transport system, with more than 110,000 daily passengers, and has exits that empty into one of the city’s densest shopping districts, which includes Macy’s flagship store.
Defence lawyers have characterised Siraj as a naïve young man entrapped by a crafty older informant in a phoney plot that never got off the ground.
Testifying on his own behalf this week, Siraj said he helped think up the scheme to impress the informant, Osama Eldawoody, but later regretted it.
“I felt really ashamed for all I did,” he said. “I went to the mosque to pray and asked for forgiveness from God.”
Prosecutors revealed for the first time on Tuesday that the undercover officer had contact with Siraj for 13 months in 2002 and 2003. They called him as a witness yesterday to try to counter the entrapment defence and convince the jury that Siraj was spewing hatred long before he met the informant in late 2003.
The undercover officer told jurors he met Siraj at an Islamic bookstore near a Brooklyn mosque that police put under surveillance shortly after terrorists destroyed the World Trade Centre. He recounted a series of conversations in which he said Siraj advocated a holy war against the US for its support of Israel and argued that targeting both countries for suicide bombings was justified.
Siraj also predicted: “If the US went to war in Iraq, there was going to be terrorist attacks here,” the witness said.
The undercover officer will resume testifying today as the trial’s last witness. Closing arguments are expected next week.
If convicted, Siraj could face up to 20 years in prison.