Did the Government Invent Terrorist Threats Out of Adel Daoud’s Term Paper?

I’m just now getting around to listening to the Mulligan hearing in Adel Daoud’s hearing at the 7th Circuit on Monday which the panel held because the hearing held the previous Wednesday had not been taped.

The hearing (as opposed to Judge Richard Posner’s long digression about why they were having the Mulligan) started with Judge Ilana Rovner focusing on whether a defendant caught by FISA could ever take a Franks challenge to a FISA warrant — basically, a claim that the government relied on false information in an affidavit supporting a warrant. Posner, too, seemed focused on this, asking Prosecutor William Ridgway whether a case (this case?) could be sustained even in the face of a Franks challenge. (Ridgway said it could, but of course he would say that, because the Circuit can only sustain a review here if it would be significant enough to exonerate Daoud.)

And all that took place against the background of Posner claiming, at least, that the ex parte hearing last week was held to benefit his client, which suggests (as does the request for more information from the government) that the Circuit may be more skeptical of the warrant than Posner let on last week (or perhaps Posner got more skeptical after the hearing).

Daoud’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, tried to bring it back to the larger issues raising questions in this case, including the fact that Dianne Feinstein had suggested Daoud had been caught using Section 702 of FISA.


But ultimately, Posner showed most interest when Durkin talked about Daoud’s mosque school term paper on Osama bin Laden.

Durkin: We do know and we did tell the judge this that this 18 year old kid had to do a term paper for — he went to the mosque school, and he had to do a term paper. He decided to do a term paper on Osama bin Laden. We know he had contacts, therefore, with Inspire magazine and reasons why the NSA may have picked him up. That could be just deliberate First Amendment Activity. Nothing more, nothing less. We don’t know that. We don’t know whether there’s something in that affidavit that says — we’ve tried to rule out all kinds of First Amendment activity and we can’t find anybody. We should be permitted to see that.

Posner: Are you trying to say the government investigated him because of school paper he wrote?

Durkin: I don’t know. It could be.

Posner: No, but that’s your suspicion, right?

Durkin: That is my suspicion.

As I explained before, the investigation into Daoud started on May 10, 2012 in response to an unsolicited referral that claimed Daoud had said he’d use the instructions in Inspire to launch an attack. But neither that claim nor a subsequent claim based on an undercover officer shows the language Daoud used. The one time the FBI quoted Daoud in its summary, the FBI seemed to overstate the tie between Inspire and Daoud’s plans to hurt the US.

Thus, the evidence may well support the claim that the FBI — and whoever referred Daoud in the first place — overstated what Daoud had actually said about Inspire. Which, if that’s what they used to get a FISA warrant (and it appears likely it is), ought to be a good basis to claim they lied to get that FISA warrant.

That may not be enough to sustain Sharon Coleman’s decision Daoud should get a review of the warrant (though I suppose it’s possible the 7th could just decide to throw out the warrant). Plus, even then you might have to prove that everything that came after — including the alleged threats to a FBI agent — was entrapment.

But it seems like the 7th Circuit may be fairly critical of what they saw in that FISA warrant.

Richard Posner Prepares to Overrule the Intent of Congress, and Other FISA in Court Stories

While the focus on NSA related issues will be on Washington DC today, with activist events, a debate at Brookings, and a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, yesterday it was in several courtrooms.

In Chicago DC, Richard Posner reportedly seemed intent on finding a way to overturn Sharon Johnson Coleman’s order that Adel Daoud’s lawyers should be able to review the FISA materials leading to the investigation into him. It seems Posner is not all that interested in Congress’ intent that, in some cases, defendants would be able to review FISA warrants.

While she also reportedly seemed inclined to overturn Coleman’s decision, Ilana Diamond Rovner at least recognized the clear intend of Congress to permit reviews in some circumstances.

Another of the appeals court panelists, Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, added that Coleman appeared to have “discarded” applicable FISA law and come up with her own justification for opening the records.

Rovner noted in a question for Ridgway that when Congress enacted the FISA law in the 1970s, it could have clearly indicated defense attorneys should never get access to the records. But it didn’t do that, she said.

“Can you give me any scenario where disclosure (to the defense) would be necessary?” Rovner asked.

“It would be a rare circumstance,” Ridgway, the assistant U.S. attorney, responded.

As I noted, the Defense made a very good argument that Congress intended review in such cases as this one.

Perhaps most stunning, however, is the way everyone but a big team of government prosecutors got booted from the court room.

As the arguments concluded, Judge Richard Posner announced the public portion of the proceedings had concluded and ordered the stately courtroom cleared so the three-judge panel could hold a “secret hearing.” Daoud’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, rose to object, but Posner did not acknowledge him. Deputy U.S. marshals then ordered everyone out – including Durkin, his co-counsel and reporters.

Only those with the proper security clearance — including U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, his first assistant, Gary Shapiro, and about a dozen FBI and U.S. Department of Justice officials – were allowed back in the courtroom before it was locked for the secret session.

Durkin, a veteran Chicago lawyer, said outside the courtroom he was not notified in advance that there would be a secret hearing and called the move unprecedented.

“Not only do I not get to be there, but I didn’t even get to object,” Durkin said. “I had to object over the fact that I couldn’t even make an objection.”

I suspect Posner used the period to conduct his own review of the FISA materials, substituting his judgment for Coleman’s, so as to uphold DOJ’s flawless record of never having their FISA worked checked.

But don’t worry: NSA  defenders will point to this and claim has been thoroughly vetted.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, where Mohamed Osman Mohamud is challenging what increasingly looks like his discovery off a back door search, the government appears to have argued that there is a foreign intelligence exception to the Fourth Amendment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight countered that the government has court-approved procedures in place that were followed with respect to Mohamud’s case. Warrants are not required under an exception for foreign intelligence, he argued.

“The reality is when you peel back the layers of hyperbole, what would be unprecedented is if this court were to grant the defendant’s motion,” Knight said.

He also pushed back against a wider examination of the program, saying that it was “not the time or place or even arguably the branch of government” for the broader debate.

Granted, this is not much more extreme than the argument the government made in its filings (as summarized by ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer), that Americans may have no privacy interest in international communications.

In  support of the law, the government contends that Americans who make phone calls or sends emails to people abroad have a diminished expectation of privacy because the people with whom they are communicating – non-Americans abroad, that is – are not protected by the Constitution.

The government also argues that Americans’ privacy rights are further diminished in this context because the NSA has a “paramount” interest in examining information that crosses international borders.

And, apparently contemplating a kind of race to the bottom in global privacy rights, the government even argues that Americans can’t reasonably expect that their international communications will be private from the NSA when the intelligence services of so many other countries – the government doesn’t name them – might be monitoring those communications, too.

The government’s argument is not simply that the NSA has broad authority to monitor Americans’ international communications. The US government is arguing that the NSA’s authority is unlimited in this respect. If the government is right, nothing in the Constitution bars the NSA from monitoring a phone call between a journalist in New York City and his source in London. For that matter, nothing bars the NSA from monitoring every call and email between Americans in the United States and their non-American friends, relatives, and colleagues overseas.

The legal record on this is specific. While FISC found there was a warrant exception for “foreign” communications in Yahoo’s challenge of the Protect America Act, the FISA Court of Review’s decision was more narrow, finding only that there was a special need for the information before it, and also finding there were adequate protections for Americans (protections the government has been abrogating since the start of these warrantless programs). So while I will have to check the record, it appears that the line attorneys are going beyond what the appellate record (such as the FISCR decision can be called an appellate record) holds.

Adel Daoud Challenges the Government’s “Treatise” against FISA Review

On Saturday, I pointed to a newly unsealed exhibit in the Adel Daoud case suggesting that the case arose out of an unsolicited referral from a redacted entity based in part on a claim Daoud made comments in an extremist forum about using Inspire to conduct an attack.

That detail, however, is just background to the more pressing question of whether the 7th Circuit will uphold Judge Sharon Coleman’s order granting Daoud’s lawyers review of the FISA materials against him. As Daoud is the only defendant ever granted such an opportunity, the case presents the possibility of a change in the way FISA has been used against defendants for 36 years.

On Friday, Daoud’s lawyers submitted their response to the government’s argument that Coleman used the wrong standard when she deemed defense review of the FISA materials to be “necessary.”

The response is significant for the important argument it makes about the balance of civil rights and security Congress intended when it passed FISA. (Daoud’s team added powerhouse lawyer John Cline — who readers of this site may remember as Scooter Libby’s graymail lawyer — for this appeal and the brief seems to reflects Cline’s long engagement at the forefront of how classified evidence affects defendants).

Daoud’s lawyers point to this passage of the government brief.

In light of these procedures, “[d]isclosure of FISA materials is the exception and ex parte, in camera determination is the rule.” El-Mezain, 664 F.3d at 567 (citing Abu-Jihaad, 630 F.3d at 129); Duggan, 743 F.2d at 78  (same); United States v. Rosen, 447 F. Supp. 2d 538, 546 (E.D. Va. 2006); see also Belfield, 692 F.2d at 147 (“The language of section 1806(f) clearly anticipates that an ex parte, in camera determination is to be the rule. Disclosure and an adversary hearing are the exception, occurring only when necessary.”); United States v. Isa, 923 F.2d 1300, 1306 (8th Cir. 1991). As this Court observed, a case in which “disclosure is necessary” is “one-in-a-million.” In re Grand Jury Proceedings of Special April 2002 Grand Jury, 347 F.3d 197, 203 (7th Cir. 2003) (affirming district court’s decision not to disclose FISA applications and orders based on the court’s own review of the record); see also Kris & Wilson, National Security Investigations § 29:3 n.1 (2d ed. 2012) (“Necessary means ‘essential’ or ‘required,’ and therefore the plain language of that provision makes clear that a court may not disclose . . . unless it cannot determine whether the surveillance was unlawful without the assistance of defense counsel and an adversary hearing.”).[my emphasis]

It’s a fairly boilerplate version of the paragraph the government uses in all challenges to FISA (though it includes a circuit-specific case they appear to misread and mischaracterize, not least because the District Judge said FISA review was moot in what was a grand jury contempt challenge).

But, as the defense notes, the paragraph relies for its definition of “necessary” on the book National Security Investigations, by former Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris and Federal Prosecutor Douglas Wilson, not on precedent. And as Kris and Wilson apparently admit, their claims about the term don’t match with the legislative history says. (Significantly, the government cites the legislative history elsewhere in their appeal, but not on this point.)

The government relies for its interpretation of “necessary” on a treatise. G.Br.19 (citing 2 David S. Kris & J. Douglas Wilson, National Security Investigations & Prosecutions § 31:3, at 263 (2d ed. 2012)) [“Kris & Wilson”]. (The government mis-cites the relevant provision as § 29:3.) But Kris and Wilson rely on the purported “plain meaning” of “necessary,” without citing authority for that meaning, and they concede (in an understatement, as we demonstrate below) that what they consider the “plain meaning” of the term “is, however, somewhat at odds with the explanation in the legislative history.”

From there, the defense proceeds to explain what the legislative history is. Here’s what they conclude (based on the Senate reports).

First, the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees plainly did not anticipate what followed over the next thirty-six years—that no court would ever find the “necessary” standard satisfied. Nothing in the Committees’ discussion suggests that they intended that standard to erect an insuperable barrier to disclosure. To the contrary, in choosing a balanced approach, the Committees specifically eschewed “an entirely in camera proceeding”—only to have the courts overturn that Congressional intent through an overly strict interpretation of “necessary.”

Second, the Committees, through their citation to Butenko, placed broad discretion in district judges in determining when disclosure is “necessary to make an accurate determination of the legality of the surveillance.” They intended that discretion to be exercised “after reviewing the underlying documentation and determining its volume, scope and complexity”—precisely as the district court did here.

Third, the Committees—again through their reliance on Butenko—suggest that the “necessary” standard is met when the district court determines that “adversary presentation would substantially promote a more accurate decision”—a far lower standard than the “essential” or “indispensable” standard the government advocates.

Fourth, the Committees noted the district court’s “broad discretionary power to excise certain sensitive portions” from the FISA materials before disclosure. This recognition of the district court’s inherent power to take necessary protective measures now finds a statutory basis in CIPA (discussed below). That power substantially ameliorates the government’s professed national security concerns.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees contemplated—and did not shy away from—the outcome the government suggests is intolerable (G.Br.29-30): that the district court would order disclosure, the government would refuse to comply, and the court would suppress the surveillance or dismiss the prosecution. Just as Congress did in CIPA, 18 U.S.C. App. 3 § 6(e), the Committees left the choice with the government: either comply with the disclosure order or refuse and suffer appropriate sanctions.

I look forward to the government’s rebuttal of the legislative record. But this, noted defense expert on how classified information is supposed to affect criminal defense John Cline argues, is how Congress intended FISA to work. Sometimes the defense is supposed to be able to see and challenge the underlying FISA application.

Perhaps appropriately, given that Daoud is the first defendant ever to be granted review, this has become more than a review of whether the FISA warrant against him was proper. It has become a long-overdue debate about how FISA was supposed to balance defendants’ constitutional rights with concerns about national security.