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“She excelled in a variety of areas,” Raggi told me. When he tried to fly to Iran, they abruptly halted the investigation and had the plotters arrested. “It’s not like you find your kid brother borrowed your car and crashed it and you yell, ‘I’m going to kill you! Then they convicted Defreitas and Kadir on multiple counts of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. One floor of the building is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a secure area that blocks surveillance. Inside, she can speak freely about cases by teleconference with intelligence operatives, diplomats, and military officers with top-secret clearance all over the world.’ Everybody realizes you are not actually going to kill your brother. In combatting terrorism, Ahmad says, there is no conflict between the military and the civilian criminal-justice system.“Legat” is short for the legal-attaché office, the F. Ahmad, who is thirty-seven, was looking litigation-ready, in a well-cut dark suit and a cream blouse. A former supervisor of Ahmad’s told me that she has probably logged more hours talking to “legitimate Al Qaeda members, hardened terrorist killers,” than any other prosecutor in America.“They’re treasure troves of information about the networks, once they decide to coöperate,” Ahmad told me. For naïve young men, disenchanted with jihad and looking at forty years to life, that can be a powerful incentive to talk. She has prosecuted thirteen people for terrorism since 2009, and has not lost a case.“That’s Judge Glasser,” she whispered, motioning with her eyes toward another table. “Some of them didn’t expect to be here, to face any consequences. That week, in the courthouse across the street, she had finished a hearing in the case of a Malian man accused of murdering an American diplomat in Niger.“They know their chances are not good.”Ahmad had made numerous trips to West Africa, chasing leads, collecting evidence, interviewing potential witnesses. “Coöperators are the unsung heroes of this business,” Ahmad said. For Ahmad’s cases, those places have included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Nigeria, Niger, Kenya, Somalia, Trinidad, Guyana, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Special approval must be obtained both from Main Justice—as government lawyers call Justice Department headquarters, in Washington, D.
“They know Zainab’s reputation,” a federal prosecutor who has worked with Ahmad said. You make your best argument, and they decide.” Getting an extraterritorial terrorism case charged, on the other hand, requires establishing facts to the satisfaction of an American grand jury about events that occurred, often years ago, in faraway places.His boss, who eventually became his partner, was a Hindu from India. “But if there was a war between India and Pakistan we didn’t bring it home. We’re the supplicants here.” The daughter turned out to be helpful, and Ahmad put her on the list of witnesses to be flown to Brooklyn. A few months later, when the French Army reported capturing Cheibani, Ahmad was uncertain that it was really him. But, she said, “We had his biometrics, from his Bamako arrest. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve felt doing this work.”I had heard from several people that Ahmad has a great rapport with juries. We were back at the Cadman Plaza diner—which, I’d learned, Brooklyn prosecutors call the Perp Diner. She loves New York, and steps lightly through the swelter of an East Village sidewalk. You see that light, and you want to get near it.”After hours, Ahmad likes to sing karaoke at a joint on Avenue A.We were the same, except he went to temple and I went to mosque.”Zainab’s parents describe her as a cheerful, precocious child. “But the interview process was so cumbersome there, so formal. I need permission from the Embassy, the State Department, the Niger government. Turned out it him.” The French handed Cheibani to the Malians. “She always sings lighthearted, feisty-girl songs,” her friend said.Nasrin, a tall, smiling woman in her fifties, is the town clerk of Hempstead, which has a population of eight hundred thousand. You’re not after the person, you’re after the truth.’ ”When Ahmad joined the Eastern District, in 2008, she first worked on Brooklyn and Staten Island gang cases, but soon found herself drafted into a terrorism investigation that centered on a plot to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines at John F. The plotters, one of them a former baggage handler, were a motley quartet from Guyana and Trinidad, and the case led to both Iran and Al Qaeda. We couldn’t let him get away.”At the trial of Kadir and Defreitas, in 2010, Miller assigned Ahmad to make the closing argument. “She’s so offhand about it,” the freelance writer said.She is the first elected official of South Asian extraction in New York State. “You start following a disgruntled baggage handler, a guy who’s mouthing off in Queens,” Ahmad said. She knew the case thoroughly, and had shown poise and fluency in court. has in some ways overtaken its traditional rival, the Southern District, which is based in Manhattan. “She doesn’t let her work hang over her like a pall.