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Lawyers: LI al-Qaida recruit wants to be counterterrorism expert

Bryant Neal Vinas, of Patchogue, the al-Qaida recruit-turned-informant

Bryant Neal Vinas, of Patchogue, the al-Qaida recruit-turned-informant in an undated photo. Now 34, Vinas wants to work in counterterrorism after his release from prison. his lawyers say. Photo Credit: Bryant Neal Vinas, of Patchogue, the al-Qaida recruit-turned-informant in an undated photo. Now 34, Vinas wants to work in counterterrorism after his release from prison. his lawyers say.

Long Island terrorist-turned-informant Bryant Neal Vinas is dreaming of a career as a counterterrorism expert, his lawyers said in a Friday letter asking a Brooklyn federal judge to sentence him next week to “time served” after 8 1⁄2 years in custody.

The sentencing memorandum filed with U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis echoed previous statements by both defense lawyers and prosecutors describing Vinas as an informant who provided “unparalleled insight” into al-Qaida and was a significant contributor to its decline.

“Mr. Vinas was, during the darkest period of his life, a terrorist,” the defense lawyers wrote. “However, we can proudly state that Mr. Vinas took the worst experience in his life and turned himself into one of America’s greatest weapons against al-Qaida.”

Vinas, 34, of Patchogue, went to Pakistan and joined al-Qaida in 2007, but has been in custody cooperating with the government since his capture in 2008. Federal guidelines call for a sentence of at least 30 years on terror charges, but prosecutors have supported some leniency in return for his aid.

In the letter to Garaufis, lawyers Michael Bachrach and Steve Zissou said that after years in high-security detention, Vinas looks forward to getting long-delayed back-surgery, and “breathing fresh air and sleeping on a better mattress.”

“He looks forward to being known by a name rather than initials,” they said. “And he dreams one day to find work as a counterterrorism expert, essentially turning his lengthy cooperation into a career.”

The lawyers said they have already “received inquiries” relating to his willingness to work in counterterrorism after his release.

Vinas’ father and sister have attended recent court hearings in his case, but the sentencing memorandum included no letters from family members, and no descriptions of his upbringing on Long Island. He wants to keep his family out of it, the lawyers said.

“His family has been in the crosshairs of the media-eye long enough,” they wrote. “But for Mr. Vinas’s conduct his family would be permitted to live an ordinary life. Mr. Vinas regrets that such is no longer the case and does not want to make a difficult situation worse.”

While in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, Vinas at one point volunteered to be a suicide bomber, and discussed a possible attack on the Long Island Rail Road with al-Qaida leadership.

He later testified at the Brooklyn federal court trial of one of the men charged with plotting an attack on the New York City subways, and is credited by the government with having given information on 30 investigations.

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