RealNews

Case against five suspected members of terrorist cell tests government's new spy powers

The government’s expanded spying powers under the USA Patriot Act face an early legal challenge in the case against five people accused of conspiring to help al-Qaida forces fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan. U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty was expected to hear arguments Tuesday and Wednesday asking the government to reveal its justification for 36 secret warrants the FBI used to watch and listen to the suspects. “Civil liberties for the defendants, and all citizens, certainly are at stake here,” said Whitney Boise, attorney for defendant Patrice Lumumba Ford. Last October, federal agents nabbed Ford, three other men and one woman in what Attorney General John Ashcroft called a “defining day” in the fight against terrorism. Ashcroft called the group — mostly black American converts to Islam — a terrorist cell. The men are accused of attempting to travel to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 to join the fight against American forces there. They made it as far as China and turned back, court documents say. Defense attorneys plan to challenge evidence collected under the warrants issued by the ultra-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, or “spy court,” Boise said. Full Story

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