Feds say for first time it will use NSA surveillance against a criminal defendant
A terror suspect will now have legal standing to challenge controversial NSA program
Previous legal challenges to program failed because they didn't have standing
Terror defendant is an Uzbekistan refugee accused of aiding Islamic Jihad Union
The U.S. government for the first time has provided legal notice that it plans to prosecute a defendant using information gathered by a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.
The Friday notice to lawyers in a terror case against Jamshid Muhtorov is significant because it allows the defendant to have court standing to challenge the program and its use in his prosecution. Previous legal challenges to the program failed because they couldn’t prove the warrantless surveillance was used in a prosecution.
The government has used such surveillance information for investigative purposes before, but without public notification, according to U.S. officials and lawmakers who have come to the defense of the NSA. But civil liberties groups have pushed the Justice Department to publicly disclose any use.
Friday’s announcement is expected to trigger a constitutional challenge that could land in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The program is authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has become the subject of scrutiny since disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Court records show that federal investigators monitored phone calls and Internet activity by Muhtorov.
“The government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in proceedings … information obtained or derived from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978,” Friday’s court filing said.
Muhtorov has been charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Muhtorov, who resided in Aurora, Colorado, was taken into custody in January 2012 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
He is a refugee from Uzbekistan and is accused of planning to travel overseas and fight on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Union, authorities said.
The IJU, a Pakistan-based extremist group with an anti-Western ideology, opposes secular rule in Uzbekistan and seeks to replace the regime there with a government based on Islamic law, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Government officials say the IJU is known for conducting suicide attacks in Uzbekistan. The group has also claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan, a Justice Department statement said last year.
Muhtorov allegedly has sworn allegiance to the IJU, stating that he was “ready for any task, even with the risk of dying,” the department said.
However, Muhtorov has not been linked to any plots or attacks on targets inside the United States, the statement said.
Muhtorov also uses the names Abumumin Turkistony and Abu Mumin, authorities said.