Judge denies terror suspect’s attempt to suppress evidence
A federal judge has denied a motion from a Sudbury man to suppress classified evidence obtained through a special surveillance program before his trial on terrorism-related charges, which is scheduled to begin in October.
An attorney for Tarek Mehanna, 29, had filed a motion to suppress evidence “illegally obtained’’ under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, court records show. The act permits authorities to monitor the communications of US citizens believed to be acting as “agents of foreign powers,’’ including global terror organizations, among other provisions, according to the US Department of Justice.
Officials do not have to show that the commission of a crime is imminent to obtain a FISA warrant for electronic surveillance.
Mehanna is facing charges that he conspired to provide material support to Al Qaeda and tried to join a terrorist training camp in Yemen, among other violations.
In a ruling filed Friday, US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. rejected Mehanna’s bid to suppress the FISA evidence, which neither he nor his lawyers have seen.
Mehanna’s lead attorney, J.W. Carney Jr. of Boston, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In his ruling, O’Toole wrote that the evidence was obtained according to proper protocol.
He did not provide specifics on any of the classified material and said that Mehanna’s attorneys have failed to produce evidence that any false statements were made in the application for the FISA warrant.
“The court recognizes [Mehanna’s] difficulty in making such a preliminary showing where the defendant has no access to the confidential FISA-related documents here,’’ O’Toole wrote.
He added that Congress has established safeguards to balance a defendant’s request for confidential information with national security concerns.
“Those mechanisms, as used here, adequately safeguard a defendant’s constitutional rights,’’ he wrote.
Under FISA, when the target is a US citizen, authorities must obtain a warrant from a special federal court, which holds sessions that are closed to the public.
O’Toole also rejected a defense motion to compel prosecutors to turn over evidence - concerning whether a confirmed or suspected Al Qaeda member solicited Mehanna to commit criminal acts - that might clear him.
O’Toole wrote that “there are no materials related to the matter’’ that can be forwarded to Mehanna’s lawyers.
During a hearing earlier this month, Carney cited unspecified media reports that New York authorities had tried to coax Mehanna into committing acts of terrorism, which he refused.
A prosecutor said his office found no evidence that investigators solicited Mehanna.