Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury sought - but never received - training in terrorist camps and worked with others from 2001 to May 2008 on the conspiracy to "kill, kidnap, maim or injure" people in foreign countries and the politicans, authorities said.
The politicians were members of the executive branch who are no longer in office, authorities said. They refused to give their names.
Prosecutors said Mehanna conspired with two other men: Ahman Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria, and an unnamed man, who is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.
The three men discussed their desire to participate in "violent jihad against American interests" and talked about "their desire to die on the battlefield," prosecutors said.
Mehanna had "multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people in shopping malls," Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks said. Their plan was thwarted when they could only get handguns, not automatic weapons, he said. Prosecutors would not say which malls had been targeted.
They also hoped to attack U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
Mehanna's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., did not immediately return calls for comment.
Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in November and charged with lying to the FBI in December 2006 when asked about the whereabouts of Daniel Maldonado, who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for training alongside al-Qaida members to overthrow the Somali government.
Mehanna told the FBI that Maldonado was living in Egypt and working for a Web site. But authorities said Maldonado had called Mehanna from Somalia urging him to join him in "training for jihad."
Authorities said Wednesday that Mehanna and his conspirators had contacted Maldonado about getting automatic weapons for their planned mall attacks.