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)
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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs