The indictment says Paul travelled to Germany in April 1999 to train co-conspirators to use explosives to attack European and US targets.
The targets included government buildings and vacation spots popular with American tourists.
"The indictment of Christopher Paul paints a disturbing picture of an American who traveled overseas to train as a violent jihadist"
Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general
The indictment does not address specific resorts or buildings that might have been targeted, but it gives US embassies, military bases and consular premises in Europe as examples of government and military facilities under Paul's consideration.
"The indictment of Christopher Paul paints a disturbing picture of an American who traveled overseas to train as a violent jihadist, joined the ranks of al-Qaeda, and provided military instruction and support to radical cohorts both here and abroad," Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general, said.
Paul was born Paul Kenyatta Laws, but legally changed his name to Abdulmalek Kenyatta in 1989, then to Christopher Paul in 1994, according to the indictment.
He is the third Ohio man to be charged in a federal terrorism investigation.
Iyman Faris was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for a plot to attack the Brooklyn Bridge.
Nuradin Abdi, accused of planning to blow up a shopping mall in the Columbus area, is awaiting trial on charges including conspiring to aid terrorists.