MI5 agents took the stand in the US trial of terror suspect Abid Naseer, but were heavily disguised. The idea was to allow the jury to see the personal reaction of the witnesses as the spies gave testimony in person rather than appearing behind a screen. Four agents, three men and one woman, attended the trial wearing wigs, glasses and fake facial hair in a bizarre twist to the trial.

In the American court, cameras and television crew are not permitted. Judge Raymond Dearie agreed to extra measures to protect the identity of the intelligence agents including referring to them only by a four digit number. In a further development, the court artists were permitted only to draw the face of the defendant; the witnesses being drawn with only blank faces and "generic hair." Agent 1661 was described by reporters as having a Mancunian accent and having a hairstyle akin to the Beatles in the 1960s.

The content of the trial was far from comical. Naseer was extradited to the US from the UK to face terrorist charges. He is accused of being the leader of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the New York subway and the Arndale Centre in Manchester. Abid Naseer decided to defend himself and used a tactic of referring to himself in the third person. He asked witness 1661 if "the defendant's actions caused you alarm or suspicion", to which the response was "No."

Naseer, who was codenamed 'Small Panel' by the intelligence services as part of Operation Pathway, was watched during his stay on a student visa to Britain, where he attended an Internet café, a mosque, did some shopping and consorted with others. Naseer argues that he was using the Internet to try to find a wife, though the prosecution alleges that he was using this as a pretext for sending al-Qaeda codewords in e-mails about girlfriends to describe plans to mount an attack. He was seen purchasing household products with which it is claimed he was planning to make a home-made bomb. It was also recorded that during his stay that he was never seen with a woman nor did he ever attend any college or university. He was seen posing in photos with another suspect Tariq ur-Rehman at the entrance to the Arndale Centre and documents found on Naseer's USB stick were found to contain violent images and jihadist chants. He was also observed watching videos of the 9/11 attacks on his mobile phone during a coach journey.

Having been extradited to the US in 2013, Naseer faces life imprisonment if convicted. Whilst the observations of the suspect by British agents did not present any definitive evidence linking Naseer to the plot, the prosecution are hoping that their contributions will help build a picture of the accused's movements whilst in Britain. Naseer denies all charges and is expected to present his own evidence later this week.