A New York cab driver, Sayed Abdul Malike was arrested after allegedly trying to purchase explosives and investigating bridges and ships near Miami, Florida. He was not accused of ties to any terrorist groups, although false rumors about "known connections to al-Qaeda" were common.
Malike legally entered the United States from Afghanistan on September 26, 1996, and was awarded political refugee status in 1998 with help from immigration lawyer Eric Levine. He had also traveled to Italy and Pakistan, and settled in Astoria, Queens. He is married with two children, although his wife lives in Pakistan.
In 2000, he launched a $5,000,000 lawsuit against the New York Port Authority, complaining his civil rights had been ignored in an altercation with police at the 42nd Street bus station. brought about by being issued a fine for jumping to the front of a line of taxicabs. He allegedly ripped his shirt off and "went berserk", and began banging his head on the car shouting about the "Giuliani Police State", while he claims that officer William Finnie beat him. He told the jurors that he was a lowly immigrant driving a cab to raise funds for a human rights organisation in Afghanistan, but the suit was rejected.
On March 21, 2003, he entered a computer shop in Queens, New York and struck up a conversation with the sales clerk about the vastness of the internet, and ended up asking the clerk about finding bombmaking instructions online. The clerk contacted the FBI, sparking an investigation.
On a trip to Florida a week later, Malike boarded a sightseeing vessel in the Port of Miami, and asked Captain John Martin about how close his ship could come to the I-95 bridge above it, where to rent a jet-ski and how close one could come to cruise ships in the area, prompting Martin to contact the Coast Guard with his concerns. The FBI was dispatched and conducted an interview with Malike, who assured them he was just a tourist taking photos with his camera phone, denied having any source of income other than his taxi occupation, left his film with them and was released.
When he returned to New York, he was contacted by the store clerk and directed to undercover agent Todd Renner who posed as an illegal arms dealer. Malike then told Renner that he wanted to purchase five stolen bulletproof vests, night vision goggles, a "half-case of C-4", Viagra, 50 Valium and 50 sleeping pills, and bulletproof-plating and a camera to mount on his car, stating that he needed the equipment to build a gem mine in Afghanistan and would therefore need enough C-4 "to blow up a mountain", a statement widely repeated in media outlets after his arrest.
On April 18, Renner brought him "dummy material" packaged in a wooden crate to look like C-4 and told him it would cost $10,000 for his requested collection. Malike declined and said he didn't have the money nor the space to store the stuff currently.
Immediately after Renner sold him Valium and placebo sleeping pills, the 43-year old Malike was arrested on charges of "unlawful possession of Valium" and lying to law enforcement about his interactions with the store clerk, his alleged disinterest in explosives, his purposes in Florida and denying he had other streams of income. He was arraigned the following day.
He was given Heidi Cesare as his court-appointed defence attorney, and was arraigned without bail the following day as federal attorney Catherine Friesen said that his actions suggested he "may either be a terrorist or have delusions of undertaking terrorist-type activities".
He pled guilty to the charges of lying to officials and was sentenced to 37 months, which his attorney Alan M. Gardner appealed.
- CNN, NY Man arrested for allegedly trying to buy explosives, May 22, 2003
- CNN, New York man accused of trying to buy explosives, May 23, 2003
- Alexander, Dean C. "Business Confronts Terrorism", Terrace Books, 2004. p. 52.
- National Water Safety Congress, Coast Guard Needs Boaters
- New York Daily News, Cabbie Busted in Bomb Plot, May 22, 2003
- Neumeister, Larry. Toronto Star, "Sinister intentions land NY cabbie in jail", May 28, 2003
- New York Daily News, Hack's Bus Station Boilover, May 23, 2003
- Newman, Andy. New York Times, Cabdriver Is Arrested on Drug Charge, but Interest in Explosives Attracts Attention of F.B.I., May 22, 2003
- Marks, Alexandra. Christian Science Monitor, Lone Wolves pose explosive terror threat", May 27, 2003
- America's Waterway Watch, AWW in the News
- United States Court of Appeals, Summary Order 04-3590 in USA vs. Sayed Abdul Malike<
- Dawn, "Afghan held on terrorism charges", May 24, 2003