Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Court Documents in Long Island Teen Terrorist Case Still Secret, Judge Cites "National Security" Concerns

The Babylon, N.Y., teen tried to travel to Yemen and join al-Qaida, prosecutors say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An 18-year-old Long Island high school student inspired by Osama bin Laden tried to travel to Yemen and join al-Qaida operatives in waging “violent jihad,” federal authorities said Wednesday. Jonathan Dienst reports. (Published Thursday, Jun 27, 2013)

    A federal judge said Tuesday there were serious ongoing national security issues in connection with the case of a Long Island teenage terrorist who pleaded guilty in a secret hearing in March.

    NBC 4 New York asked  U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt last month to unseal documents in the case and a hearing was held Tuesday in federal court in Central Islip. 
    Spatt said he would likely continue to keep some materials secret because he was concerned any publication of what was said during the March hearing about the teen's ties to al-Qaida could jeopardize "the national security of the United States." 
    Spatt also expressed concern for the safety of the admitted homegrown terrorist, Justin Kaliebe.  
    Kaliebe remains behind bars on the terror-related charges. In court, the judge did not say whether Kaliebe had been or is now cooperating with the FBI. 
    Kaliebe, who had lived in a $2 million home in Babylon with his mother and step-father, went to high school there. Kaliebe has admitted he converted to Islam and became a "jihadist." The FBI said he tried to fly to Yemen to join al-Qaida to kill Americans.    
    Kaliebe was arrested by FBI agents and NYPD detectives in January as he tried to board a flight overseas at JFK. After his arrest, the case was kept secret as the terror investigation continued.   
    While the charges were made public by prosecutors on June 26, details of Kaliebe's admissions during the March 5 guilty plea remain sealed.  
    Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham joined public defender Tracey Gaffey to ask on Tuesday that the court continue to keep certain details of the guilty plea secret. They both said they had shared their reasons in sealed communications with the court. 
    NBC attorney Daniel Kummer asked Spatt to release as many materials as possible so the public could know more about how and why an 18-year-old high school student turned to terror. 
    Spatt said a lot of information about this terror case is already public and he would seek to unseal more materials. But the judge made clear he would not release any information that might jeopardize an ongoing investigation or threaten the public safety. 
    Court papers made public in June suggest Kaliebe conspired with others. But so far he is the only one arrested and charged in connection with this case. It's unclear if the charges citing the involvement of others relate to the undercover informants and agents, or any alleged terrorists here in New York or overseas. 
    Prosecutors have said Kaliebe in part became radicalized by watching online videos of Osama bin Laden, Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.   
    In June, when NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked if Kaliebe was a so called "lone wolf terrorist" Kelly answered, "the investigation is ongoing."