News / USA

Jailed Uzbek Tests US Surveillance Law

Jamshid Muhtorov, an Uzbek immigrant imprisoned by U.S. authorities on terrorism charges. (Photo courtesy of Muhtorov family)
Jamshid Muhtorov, an Uzbek immigrant imprisoned by U.S. authorities on terrorism charges. (Photo courtesy of Muhtorov family)
TEXT SIZE - +
Navbahor Imamova
— The case of Jamshid Muhtorov, an Uzbek immigrant imprisoned by U.S. authorities on terrorism charges could soon make legal history. 

Muhtorov was arrested by the FBI in 2012 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport as he was attempting to leave the U.S. Law enforcement authorities say he was on his way to join the Islamic Jihad Union, an Uzbek jihadist group, designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. 
 
The IJU which is based in Pakistan traces its roots to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.  The group has a long history of violent attacks against the secular government of Uzbekistan and of involvement in attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.  
 
The original criminal complaint against Muhtorov was filed in Denver where he worked as a truck driver and lived with his family.   In October 2013, as Muhtorov sat in a Colorado jail awaiting trial, he was notified by the Justice Department in that his case was based on a 2008 law allowing the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance on U.S. soil without warrants. That law is officially known as the FISA Amendment Act (FAA). FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which was adopted in 1978.   
 
Following this revelation, his lawyers, in cooperation with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a 69-page brief asking a federal judge to bar prosecutors from introducing evidence derived from warrantless surveillance. 
 
Muhtorov was the first defendant to receive such a notice and is the first one to challenge it.
 
In an interview with VOA, ACLU staff attorney Patrick C. Toomey says that the program violates the Fourth Amendment and Article III of the US Constitution.
 
“We believe that even when the government is investigating activities related to terrorism, it still must comply with the Constitution and one of the most basic rules in our Constitution is the requirement that the government gets a warrant before it reads through your email, before it listens to your phone calls, before it searches your home,” said Toomey.  He adds that “In the case of Muhtorov, we now know that the government did not satisfy those requirements. It did not get an individualized warrant before reading his email and listening to his international phone calls.” 

The Justice Department declined to comment on the case to VOA. 

The ACLU’s Toomey says the government may view the prosecution of a terror suspect as the ideal test case in which to defend warrantless wire-tapping. 
 
“There is no doubt that the Department of Justice would rather be defending this law in the context of a terrorism prosecution rather than in the type of civil lawsuit that the ACLU brought before, but we think that Muhtorov’s case still presents a great example of an instance where the law has been misused,” said Toomey. “Because he is now sitting in court on the basis of evidence that was obtained unlawfully, he has a right to challenge the government’s use of that evidence in seeking to imprison him on the basis of those allegations that they have made in the indictment,” he said.
 
Muhtorov denies the charges and says he is innocent. While the US government does not allege that Muhtorov planned any attacks inside the country, it says there is enough proof that he was aiding a group that the US and its allies consider an enemy.

Experts say that the Obama administration has yet to offer an in-depth or comprehensive legal justification for the 2008 law. But, the New York Times recently provided an analysis of a 2008 brief, in which the Bush administration argued that the surveillance authorized by the statute met Fourth Amendment standards.

“The safeguards built into the statute provide reasonable assurance that the surveillance it authorizes will target only foreign persons outside the United States and will be conducted in a way that minimally affects the privacy of U.S. persons… The Fourth Amendment requires no more.”

ACLU representative Toomey says that if Muhtorov is successful in challenging the NSA surveillance program, it would have a profound impact on the lives of Americans and on the system which is keeping a close eye on their communications with the world.

“It would go a long way towards requiring the government to proceed on an individualized basis when it wants to invade the privacy of someone like Mr. Muhtorov, but also someone who is an ordinary American citizen,” he said.
If found guilty, Muhtorov faces 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid