Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Albany Terror Suspects Latch Onto NSA Wiretapping Story

Yassin M. Aref and Mohammed Mosharref Hossain were indicted after being caught in an FBI sting where the duo was to take part in a plot to sell missile launchers to terrorists. How did these two get pegged by the FBI for the sting in the first place? The duo's attorneys think that the NSA wiretapping story might have something to do with it. The attorneys could be right - but there's also additional information that hasn't been released to the public due to potential national security grounds.
So far, the government has bolstered their assertions of Aref's overseas' ties to terrorists primarily by citing his private journal entries and a notebook recovered from a bombed-out Iraqi encampment that contained Aref's name and Albany address. Prosecutors allege terrorists were in the camp, which was blown up by coalition forces in 2003, but they have not offered any evidence to support that claim.

Defense attorneys in the case challenge those allegations and demand the government disclose whether Aref or Hossain were targeted in a spying program run by the National Security Agency, which is under authorization from President Bush. The spying program is the subject of an ongoing congressional investigation.

If prosecutors refuse to disclose the information, or, if a judge decides they do not have to disclose it, then Kindlon and Hossain's attorney, Kevin Luibrand, have said they intend to appeal. U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy, who is presiding over the case, could order classified information turned over to the defense attorneys, and that decision could be appealed by federal prosecutors.

The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported last month that the NSA spying program may have prompted the FBI to zero in on Aref and Hossain.

President Bush has acknowledged the practice, but no one in the administration has confirmed its use in any specific investigation.

My earlier coverage can be found here.

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