2009 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Jeffrey Knox

Successfully prosecuted several international terrorism cases and created models for future cases involving international collaboration and sensitive intelligence information.

During a recent flight aboard a U.S. military aircraft, 36-year-old lawyer Jeffrey Knox was roused to attention when the pilot made an announcement: “Incoming enemy fire is common upon arrival.” Clearly, Knox is not your typical attorney. In fact, this Assistant U.S. Attorney has established himself as one of the nation’s preeminent terrorism prosecutors.

“It can be very exciting and thrilling, but you realize that you’re dealing with serious stuff,” Knox said.

As chief of the Violent Crimes and Terrorism Division of the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office, Knox has played a part in groundbreaking investigations and prosecutions of extremist individuals and groups such as Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and supporters of the Iraqi insurgency.

A proponent of the “roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty” work ethic, Knox explained that “in order to effectively build a case for a successful conviction, you have to be on the ground, right in the middle of all the action yourself.”

“In only a few years with the Justice Department, he has distinguished himself far and above the rest,” said Criminal Division Chief Greg Andres. “Most prosecutors can only ever hope to achieve one ‘career-making’ case, and here Jeff already has worked on at least four.”

Despite an extensive legal resume, a defining accomplishment for Knox was the investigation and arrest of four men charged with plotting to detonate fuel storage tanks and the connecting pipeline at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City—an explosive assault intended to rival the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Beginning in 2006, Knox was involved in an intensive 18-month investigation of the suspected bombing plot during which he employed the use of cooperating witnesses and undercover agents, body wiretaps and other forms of electronic, aerial and satellite surveillance.

Serving as a point person for coordination with law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, U.S. military and foreign governments, Knox helped supervise the effort to monitor the alleged conspiracy. This culminated in July 2007 with the arrest of the defendants from the United States, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The prosecution team secured an indictment of the four defendants who await trial and face maximum sentences of life in prison if convicted.

In another high profile case, Knox helped secure convictions of four criminals for providing material support, including the attempted delivery of missiles and other weapons technology, to the Tamil Tigers. This terrorist organization has been responsible for thousands of deaths in Sri Lanka, including several political assassinations.

Knox also helped convict a U.S. Army contract translator in Iraq who stole classified national defense documents and had unauthorized contact with individuals linked to the insurgency. Knox also has put behind bars the operators of a network that was funding groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas.

In addition to the terrorism cases, Knox oversees the district’s gang prosecutions and recently obtained convictions against the leaders of one of Brooklyn’s most violent street gangs. A jury found five defendants guilty of five murders, several attempted murders and a host of other crimes.

Formerly a Wall Street lawyer, Knox said he was motivated to become a federal prosecutor by the attacks of Sept. 11. Eight years later, he is at the forefront of the most urgent national security issues of the day and has led the development of one of the government’s premier counterterrorism programs.

“If through your efforts, you can put a dangerous individual behind bars so that individual will never have the ability to jeopardize another person’s life again, then it’s all worth it,” he said.