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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid