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LAW CENTER

Terror operative seeks to rescind plea over NSA spying

From Kevin Bohn
CNN

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National Security Agency (NSA)
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Crime, Law and Justice

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An Ohio truck driver and al Qaeda operative who pleaded guilty in 2003 to participating in a plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge wants to rescind that plea if the National Security Agency ever eavesdropped on him without a warrant.

Iyman Faris was sentenced to 20 years in prison in October 2003.

His attorney is asking a federal court to force the government to hand over information about whether the National Security Agency secretly eavesdropped on his Faris, and government sources have told CNN that it did.

Attorney David Smith wants Faris' May 1, 2003, guilty plea thrown out and is requesting "all documents relating to or concerning" electronic surveillance or any monitoring of Faris' conversations "whether or not pursuant to warrant," according to court filings.

Smith also wants documents from third-party conversations the government may have monitored in which Faris' name is mentioned or in which he is "otherwise identified."

A motion filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, states that any intercepts the government obtained without a warrant from a court should convince the court to nullify Faris' plea. Smith says the information is vital to his case.

"Faris is not pursuing a fishing expedition. He is not seeking broad discovery about the NSA program's operations. He only seeks the documents directly related to his own case," Smith said.

The Justice Department had no immediate response to the motion.

Based on media reports, it is likely that the government eavesdropped on Faris -- with and without the backing of warrants -- while the truck driver was a cooperating witness and being held under FBI supervision at a military base near Washington, D.C., Smith said.

Faris, who was born in Kashmir but is a naturalized U.S. citizen, is the latest in a string of terror defendants across the nation demanding they be told whether their cases were influenced by the NSA program.

Last week, an order from U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee was made public in which he directed the U.S. Justice Department to say by March 9 whether the wiretapping program was used on Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was convicted of terrorism charges in November.

The judge granted the request by Abu Ali's attorneys to delay his sentencing until the information is received.

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