Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kelley told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis that 31-year-old Abdel Ghani was living in the United States illegally. He portrayed Ghani as eager to assist Ressam in raising money for the terrorist organization for which Ressam was allegedly transporting explosives.
CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that Ghani's trip to federal court in Brooklyn on Friday morning actually began three weeks ago in Seattle, where suspected Algerian terrorist Ressam was arrested trying to cross into the U.S. in a car packed with explosives, according to the FBI.
"When Ressam was arrested in Seattle on Dec. 14, agents recovered a piece of paper with the name Ghani on it as well as a phone number with a 718 area code," said U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White.
Federal agents traced the number to a Brooklyn apartment. They shadowed Ghani and rifled through a neighborhood dumpster, where they found a plane ticket to Seattle.
"Ghani traveled to Seattle under the assumed name of Eduardo Rocha. In order to meet Ressam to travel with him to raise funds for the organization for which Ressam was allegedly transporting explosives in Seattle, Washington," White said.
That group is thought to be the GIA, an Islamic fundamentalist faction blamed for some of the bloodiest bombings and hijackings in Europe but not known until now to be operating in the United States. In court papers, investigators say Ghani promised: "Allah will shake up the world . . . a new generation will punish America"
James Kallstrom, former assistant director of the FBI and a CBS News consultant said such arrests should make people feel safer because it shows that law enforcement is really on top of the situation. In a reversal of his previous comments, he added he expects few incidents in the United States and that Times Square is "probably the safest place in the world right now."
The FBI is questioning people from coast to coast about possible terrorist connections. Prosecutors allege Ghani, Ressam and a woman arrested recently at the Canadian border have links to the same Algerian terrorist group.
"The FBI and law enforcement reacted very quickly. Obviously in this information age we live in, it's difficult for even criminals and potential terrorists to not disclose their relationship," said Kallstrom.
Federal officials said people have been arrested or detained on civil immigration violations in New York and Massachusetts and others have been questioned in Texas, Washington state and California.
"These are generally people who are identified in some way as possibly having information about Ressam," one official said.
In Boston, five Algerian men were picked up and detained. FBI special agent Barry Mawn says two f the five men face criminal charges, one of having a false green card and the other of entering the U.S. illegally.
Federal prosecutors now say Ressam and Lucia Garafalo - the Canadian arrested last week at the Vermont border - belong to the Armed Islamic Group, known by its French initials, GIA.
One of the world's most violent terrorist groups, the GIA has laid waste to villages and killed hundreds of civilians in its battle to overthrow the government of Algeria, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin. It has also taken the battle to France, Algeria's former colonial ruler, setting off bombs in Paris and hijacking airliners.
Despite the arrests at the Canadian border, former CIA officer Graham Fuller doubts the GIA has suddenly decided to strike the U.S. He thinks it's more likely the group may be "letting themselves out for hire with other radical organizations," acting as "terrorist mercenaries."