Barry Walter Bujol Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to deliver money and equipment to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Bujol, who communicated online with Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, was arrested after boarding a ship he believed to be bound for the Middle East. He was carrying a false identification card to enter the port, as well as public access-restricted military publications, money, pre-paid calling cards, mobile phone SIM cards, GPS equipment and a military compass, which he apparently planned to turn over to AQAP.
During the sentencing phase of his trial, Bujol described his effort to leave the U.S. to join AQAP as a mistake, but also claimed that he "only sought to exercise rights that any American, any person of moral integrity, would seek to exercise" because he was displeased with U.S. foreign policy, particularly drone attacks. He also said that he acted in order to become a better Muslim, and claimed that his communications with Anwar al-Awlaki were spiritual in nature.
In recorded conversations between Bujol and an FBI source posing as an AQAP operative prior to his arrest, he said, "preparing yourself to live with the brothers, fight with the brothers, die with the brother is the ultimate preparation." According to prosecutors, law enforcement prevented him from traveling abroad on at least three other occasions.
Bujol also told the FBI source that AQAP "should attack the human beings essential to operate" American drones rather than targeting the drones. He suggested targets, including one in Texas, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston.
In a farewell video that he left for his wife - in which he said he would probably never see her again - Bujol included images of Osama bin Laden and Najibullah Zazi, an American who pleaded guilty to an Al Qaeda plot targeting the New York City subway system.
Bujol drew the attention of federal authorities in 2008 after he exchanged e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric known for encouraging attacks against America and the West through his radical online lectures directed at English-speaking audiences.
According to the Department of Justice, Buloj asked al-Awlaki for guidance on how he could provide money to the "mujahideen," or Muslim warriors, overseas. In return, al-Awlaki provided Bujol with a document entitled "42 Ways of Supporting Jihad" that lists specific ways to aid jihad, which it describes as a religious obligation for all Muslims.
Links to Extremists
- Anwar al-Awlaki – Bujol's exchanged emails with Awlaki about ways he could support "Muslim warriors" overseas beginning in 2008. At the time, Awlaki was described by the FBI as "a known associate and propagandist for AQAP." Al-Awlaki was killed in in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.
Bujol, a resident of Hampstead, Texas, studied at Prairie View A&M University. He is a convert to Islam. He was 29 at the time of his arrest. Prior to his arrest, Bujol attempted to leave for the Middle East at least three times.