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Judge OKs classified information status in terrorism case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge in Arkansas has allowed a U.S. government official to help guard against the release of classified information during the upcoming terrorism trial of a Yemeni citizen accused of providing material support to al-Qaida.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright on Thursday granted the Justice Department’s motion to allow a designated classified information security officer to participate in the case.

Bilal Al-Rayanni, 28, faces trial July 6 in Little Rock on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization — al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula — and providing a false name on a passport, according to an August 2019 indictment.

The indictment says Al-Rayanni traveled to Yemen in 2014 and worked for al-Qaida for three months while knowing that the U.S. has deemed it a foreign terrorist organization, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Friday.

The designated officer would guide the court and court personnel on how to handle classified information. U.S. law considers information to be classified if it needs protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security.

Al-Rayanni told prosecutors that his father had purchased a U.S. visa from a Yemeni man whose name was Kassem Alawdi. His father then used that visa in 1992 to obtain a U.S. passport for al-Rayanni under the name Bilal Kassim Alawdi. He said he didn’t learn his true name until he was between 10 and 12, but has used the false name to obtain and renew passports in 2002 and 2008, as well as the most recent attempt to renew his passport in May 2019.

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