The bombing plot was a ruse over the past six months, the FBI said, but Farooque Ahmed, 34, readily handed over video of Northern Virginia subway stations, suggested using rolling suitcases rather than backpacks to kill as many people as possible and offered to donate money to al-Qaida's cause overseas.
The public never was in danger because FBI agents were aware of Ahmed's activities and monitored him throughout, the agency said.
And the people who Ahmed thought were al-Qaida operatives were actually individuals who "worked on behalf of the government in this matter," according to a federal law enforcement official who requested anonymity.
Ahmed was indicted under seal by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday, and the charges were made public yesterday. He is accused of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility and attempting to provide material support to carry out multiple bombings to cause mass casualties. Ahmed, a naturalized citizen, lives in Ashburn, Va., outside Washington.
During a brief court appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Ahmed did not enter a plea and was ordered held without bond. He told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Anderson he couldn't afford to hire a lawyer. Prosecutors said they planned to use some classified information as evidence in the case.
Ahmed faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted.