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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid