U.S. terror case defense wants surveillance records

 CHICAGO (AP) — Attorneys for a Chicago terrorism suspect are urging a federal appeals court to uphold a trial judge’s decision to grant defense lawyers unprecedented access to secret intelligence-court records.

In their March appeal to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, prosecutors said letting the defense see the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court documentation would be a “sea change” in how such sensitive documents are handled and could end up jeopardizing national security.

But attorneys for 20-year-old Adel Daoud argued in a Friday filing that the trial judge acted appropriately and didn’t abuse discretion when ordering that the defense could see the documents. Daoud is a U.S. citizen from a Chicago-area suburb. Prosecutors say he took a phony car bomb from an undercover FBI agent in 2012, parked it by a downtown Chicago bar and pressed a trigger, but Daoud has denied those allegations.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations expanded U.S. phone and Internet spying raised the profile of such issues. And the legal debate about whether secret court documents will be shown to Daoud’s attorneys is being watched by other lawyers defending terrorism suspects.

The surprise January ruling by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman was the first time defense attorneys had been told they could go through an application prosecutors submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, which was established in 1978 as a check on government surveillance. 

Coleman said allowing defense attorneys to vet all potential evidence against their clients was the “bedrock” of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee that defendants will get a fair trial.

But the government, in its 35-page appeal, described the documents as dealing with “exceptionally sensitive issues with profound national security implications” and said Coleman’s ruling could set a dangerous precedent.