never keep your proud head from falling ♪ ♪ the way is long but you can make it easy on me and the mother we share will never keep our cold hearts from calling ♪ ♪ until the night falls we're the only ones left i bet you even know where we could go oh oh oh oh oh oh ♪ ♪ and when it all up you put your head in my hands it's a souvenir for when you go oh oh oh oh oh oh ♪ ♪ i'm in misery where you can seem as old as your omens ♪
tonigh tonight on "nightline" -- family plot. hiring a hit man to kill your husband's bad enough. but this mother of five is accused of recruiting her own son and brother to do the dirty work. >> i felt an odd sensation toward the back of my neck. >> the problem? he survived. and now he's testifying against her. you're watching undercover video of two al qaeda terrorists intent on killing americans on american soil. >> the system failed here. >> we welcomed them to the country as legitimate refugees without knowing their dangerous secret. tonight brian ross is with the fbi hot on the trail of the terrorists next door. >> we realized we had a man here with american soldiers' blood on his hands.
it took it to a whole new level for us. and premiere cast. the "hungary games" gang in new york tonight as "catching fire" mania heats up to a fever pitch. it's going to be a record-breaking weekend. and we've got the inside look. >> announcer: keep it right here, america. "nightline" is back in just 60 seconds. hey! have you ever tried honey nut cheerios? love 'em. neat! now you on the other hand... you need some help. why? look atchya. what is that? you mean my honey wand? [ shouting ] [ splat ] come on. matter of fact. [ rustling ] shirt. shoes. shades. ah! wow! now that voice... my voice? [ auto-tuned ] what's wrong with my voice? yeah man, bee got swag!
be happy! be healthy! that's gotta go too. ♪ hey! must be the honey! [ sparkle ] sweet. good evening. and thanks for joining us. with thanksgiving around the corner, family dysfunction is on many of our minds. but in one courtroom today it's at a different level entirely. a mother of five accused of enlisting two hitmen to try to kill her husband. but this pernicious pair, not exactly pros. no, they were family. you could call it an inside job. why they allegedly plotted to kill him and how they got caught
after he survived is the stuff movies are made of. it's part of our series, "crime and punishment." robert bessey is the worst kind of witness if you're on trial for attempted murder. he's the alleged victim, and he's alive. >> i felt a hot sensation here. and towards the back of my neck. >> reporter: bessey testified in the trial of ex-wife amy, now accused of recruiting her own brother and son to kill robert weeks before their divorce was final and weeks before she might no longer be eligible to collect on his $250,000 life insurance policy. >> the only thing they didn't plan for was for robert to survive. which he did. >> reporter: prosecutors say it all started when the besseys' marriage of 18 years fell apart in las vegas, nevada. robert was driving to his job at 4:35 in the morning when he heard a loud sound and felt a distinct pain in his neck. >> i'm on the highway.
i'm still conscious. >> reporter: in court his 911 call was played for jurors. >> i don't know if i've been shot. but i'm bleeding like hell. >> is it fair to say robert bessey is lucky to be alive today in. >> extremely lucky. >> reporter: bessey later recalled being chased by a gold suv which then pulled alongside his car. so what led police to amy's son and brother? following on a tip police found security video of a gold suv, stopped at this gas station convenience store not far from the scene of the shooting just an hour before bessey was shot. and on that video amy's brother richard pearson, an ex-con, and her son michael can be seen making a purchase. >> did you have any idea that michael and ric had been out to that chevron? >> no. i didn't. >> reporter: in an audio recording played in court, amy bessey appeared surprised when police told her that her husband had been shot and survived. >> i can see you are upset. >> oh, my god.
>> reporter: but prosecutors say she wasn't actually surprised at all. that she had already told a friend that her brother was responsible. >> how do we know that is a feigned surprise? because remember, prior to that interview, before she'd ever been told by detective majors or investigators that her husband had been shot, she already had told julie that her son michael was innocent and that her brother ric was actually the guilty one. >> reporter: what leads people to think they're going to get away with it? >> that just goes to how amateur people are. and they watch television. and they think they can be one step beyond law enforcement. by pulling together some folks and they'll never get caught. they don't think down the road. they're only thinking about the goal. and the goal is the insurance money. >> reporter: robert bessey testified that he moved out after her son michael, from a previous marriage, who he had adopted, made their married life difficult. >> michael bessey.
can you identify him? >> reporter: maybe the most damning piece of physical evidence was a text message the defendant's brother allegedly sent to his sister. "i love it when a plan comes together." >> six hours before robert was shot in the head. >> seems in a lot of cases they look to a degenerate relative, saying hey, you've been in prison, will you help? >> they go to somebody who bumbles it. but they always talk to people. they text. they send e-mails. they get caught in a cell phone conversation. and so it's almost like hansel and gretel. they leave this trail of crumbs from the crime scene to themselves. >> reporter: today courtney smith, a former friend of amy bessey, testified that amy had tried something else first. asking her to kill robert bessey. >> she made the comment he was worth more dead than alive. >> after the shooting, smith said, amy blamed her brother for botching the job. >> she said if her tweaker
brother hadn't stopped to get an energy drink they would have never gotten caught. >> reporter: if convicted bessey could now face up to 91 years behind bars. all three family members have pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. testimony continues in the trial this week. next, how these terrorists ended up in the american heartland. with the fbi on the hunt. >> announcer: abc news, "nightline," brought to you by infiniti. >> next, how these terrorists ended up in the american heartland. with the fbi on the hunt. >> announcer: abc news, "nightline," brought to you by infinity.
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an undercover fbi operation exposes al qaeda terrorists posing as refugees in the middle of the american heartland. they quickly learn that lax background checks were to blame. turns out that's just the beginning. there may be dozens more in the country now as well. chief investigator reporter, brian ross got access to undercover investigation for "nightline" investigates. >> reporter: this fbi surveillance video was made not in afghanistan, or iraq, but in kentucky. it shows an admitted al qaeda terrorist who had already killed american soldiers in iraq, trying to get weapons to kill more of them. and authorities tell abc news he may be just one of dozens of men with american blood on their hands who were mistakenly allowed to settle in the u.s. as refugees. >> i wouldn't be surprised if there are many more than that. these are trained terrorists in the art of bomb making that are inside the united states and quite frankly, from the homeland security perspective, that greatly concerns me.
>> reporter: the startling discovery of al qaeda in kentucky took place in bowling green, kentucky, a city of 60,000 people seemingly far removed from concerns about terrorists next door until these two men quietly moved in. wad alwan and mohammed almadi. >> of all places in the world or united states, why bowling green? >> the two men came from iraq four years ago, among tens of thousand of refugees who the state department approved to come here, seen as no threat to the u.s. but the two were, in fact, as the fbi kofrmtd, part of the al qaeda connected insurgent group who had already killed american soldiers with roadside bombs. the group produced this video of their attacks. one bomb killed four members of the pennsylvania national guard on patrol in a humvee in 2004. as sergeant joshua hedanimi
reports. >> a somber moment for the platoon. a great deal of love and respect for the guys. it hit us hard. >> dan south the only one in the humvee to survive the attack. >> i smoked the guy that did it when it happened. other than that you never know who did it, you don't know what happened to them. as far as you know they got away with it scot-free. >> reporter: and not just get away with. an abc news investigation found that the two terrorists, alwan and hamadi, were able to get through a fluid u.s. system of background checks and end up in bowlingling green. one living in this public housing apartment on public assistance, put under 24-hour surveillance by fbi agent dick glen and others. >> when we realized we had a man here with american soldiers' blood on his hands, it took it to a whole new level for us. >> reporter: the other iraqi lived in this residence near the high school. >> it's scary. >> reporter: and as the fbi would learn in the course of its undercover operation, the two iraqis were intent on killing even more americans.
>> these two individuals specifically are innately evil. to be able to act as a terrorist and to attack and kill american soldiers and then have the balls to come over to the united states and try to do the same exact thing here from our homeland is unacceptable. >> reporter: the investigation of al qaeda in kentucky was launched based on an intelligence tip forwarded to the fbi's office in louisville. and agents keith carpenter and tim bean. >> anytime you have an al qaeda in iraq operative in the u.s., it's going to be a surprise. >> reporter: at the prompting of an fbi informant who befriended the men, alwan made these drawings of i.e.d.s he said he made back in iraq. and in undercover tapes of the informant he boasted of building a dozen or more bombs and using a sniper's rifle to kill american soldiers in the baji area. >> he said he had them for lunch and dinner. meaning he had killed them. >> to hear him say that on the undercover tapes must have been chilling. >> it was gut-wrenching. >> reporter: but the big breakthrough in the case came out of this warehouse outside
washington. an fbi repository of virtually every ied or bomb used against american targets anywhere in the world. >> this is basically america's bomb library. >> reporter: the remnants of some 100,000 bombs are stored in these boxes, stacked to the ceiling here, as part of a little-known fbi unit run by gregory carl. >> when you really stop and think about what's actually in those boxes is really what makes you pause, thinking of all the troops that have been injured or wounded by these devices and it really is kind of a sacred grounds. >> reporter: based on the description, the fbi undercover got from alwan of the type and location of the bombs he said he had built, a team of 40 fbi agents and technicians were assigned to go through the remnants of some 130 bombs and do some 14,000 fingerprint comparisons. and then, 2/3 of the way through, bingo. >> i think i said you'll never believe it.
>> reporter: a bomb that had been recovered outside baji in this pile of rocks before it was detonated was the key. it matched in detail the drawing of a bomb alwan had given the undercover fbi informant. >> he's got a lot of the chemistry, the explosive stuff here. i would call that pretty sophisticated. >> reporter: and better as the lead fbi forensic specialist showed me. fingerprints and a palm print on the detonating device, a wireless phone bay station, matched those of those of alwan in kentucky. >> you can see right here. >> and right there. >> yep. >> what was that like when you made the match? >> the whole team was ecstatic. because it was like finding a needle in a haystack. >> reporter: word was sent back to louisville. >> it was a surreal moment. i mean, it was a real game changer, so to speak, for the case. because now you have solidified proof that he was involved in actual attacks against u.s. soldiers. >> reporter: this was somebody for real, not just full of empty -- >> for real in our backyard.
>> reporter: scary? >> yes. yes. reality of it could happen in our backyard. you know, whether it's bowling green, washington, d.c., new york, it was here. >> reporter: as the case continued, alwan brought in the second iraqi, hamadi, and both were caught in the sting. seen on undercover cameras, loading weapons they thought were going to be shipped to al qaeda in iraq. >> in this picture mohammed hamadi is holding one of the pkn machine guns that he believed they were send back to the al qaeda in iraq forces to be used against the u.s. forces. in this picture alwan is unloading a stinger missile, an anti-aircraft weapon that he believed was going to be able to be used against u.s. aircraft. this one both wad and hammadi are loading a crate of c-4 explosive that's they think is going back. >> he was excited to be able to send this back to al qaeda in iraq. >> absolutely. >> reporter: according to federal prosecutors, alwan also
wanted to target a u.s. army captain back in the u.s. who had been assigned to the badgi area. >> they wanted to assassinate this particular u.s. captain. >> reporter: and prosecutors say hammadi urged other attacks on u.s. soil. "many things should take place and it should be huge." >> we were happy that we were able to bring justice to this individual that we knew that was involved in these kinds of acts overseas. >> reporter: the two men were arrested in may 2011 and pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to terrorists. alwan was sentenced to 40 years in prison. hammadi was sentenced to life, which he is appealing. >> i wish we could have smoked him when it happened but we didn't have that opportunity. so i guess this is second best. >> reporter: but for all the success of the undercover operation, the case has raised the question of how the state department and the citizenship and immigration service allowed the men to get into the country in the first place.
>> how do you have somebody that we now know was a known actor in terrorism overseas, how does that person get into the united states, how do they get into our community? >> the system failed here, though. >> if you're asking my opinion, i would say the system failed. otherwise, they wouldn't have been here in the first place. >> reporter: the two got here by filling out this immigration service refugee application form. and simply checking no next to the boxes that asked if they had been involved in any form of terrorist activity. they were approved, even though both men had been detained in iraq for planting roadside bombs and alwan confessed to iraqi authorities he was part of an insurgent group with his fingerprints actually in the defense department files years before he applied to come to the u.s. according to retired lieutenant general michael barbero. >> how did a person we detained in iraq linked to an ied attack, we had his fingerprints in
our -- a government system, how did he walk into america in 2009 and then, you know, at least two years later before he came up on our radar screen? >> reporter: at a congressional hearing a homeland security official said none of that information was available to its screeners. >> all the biefrk ographic as ws biometric checks that were performed at the time did come back clean. >> reporter: now an urgent search is under way at the fbi laboratory in quantico, virginia to go through a huge backlog of other bombs from iraq and afghanistan with leads to a surprising number of other terrorists who also may have managed to move here undetected. >> we are currently supporting dozens of current counterterrorism investigations like that. >> dozens of cases. >> correct. >> where you're looking for prince prints of people who are in this country now. >> correct. >> that's quite a thing. >> it is. i think that shows the seriousness of all this. >> the discovery of al qaeda in
kentucky led to a six-month suspension of the refugee program which has helped to resettle tens of thousands of legitimate refugees. the immigration service says it has now tightened security on background checks, in effect closing the barn door after the fact. dan? >> fantastic report, brian. thank you. next, "hunger games" star jennifer lawrence is taking risks on screen and off. and fans are eating it up. >> the imprigs service, says it tightened security. in effect. closing the barn door after the fa fact. dan? >> next, hunger games star, jennifer lawrence is taking risks on screen and off. and fans are eating it up. it's our best protection. take your weekend on with a free sample at depend.com avo: thesales event "sis back. drive"
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experts predicting an insatiable hunger for the movie this weekend. it's big business jumping from the page to the screen. the second installment of the "hunger games" trilogy expected to shatter the 2013 box office record for an opening weekend with an expected $175 million haul. >> this is absolutely insane. >> the success of "catching fire" should bring the brand close to being worth $1 billion worldwide. but the "hunger" hysteria isn't just for the movies themselves. star jennifer lawrence is hollywood's latest it girl. and it's not hard to see why. offscreen she's fearless like her character katniss. she takes risks on the red carpet. not just anybody could pull off a completely sheer gown. next she's reuniting with her director from "the silver linings playbook" for "american hustle." >> but, yeah. >> so can this mega star continue to carry her mega brand? as they say in the