By Doug Porter
U.S. District Court Federal Judge Jeffrey Miller denied a motion yesterday that would have granted a new trial for four Somali men convicted of aiding terrorists.
At the heart of their appeal were defense assertions that evidence collected by the National Security Agency violated the Fourth Amendment Rights of the defendants.
You might think this was an open and shut case: the government’s “big ears” caught some bad guy terrorists and they were brought to justice. But you’d be wrong.
The implications of this case go far beyond the common media portrayal of some African immigrants wiring money to a shady militia back home.
Following their conviction in February, 2013, testimony by FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce in a congressional hearing on July 31st revealed the information used in the case came via the National Security Agency’s then secret sweeping surveillance programs that included domestic collection. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of this and other programs through articles written by journalists working with The Guardian and Washington Post.
First, the background on the case, via today’s account in UT-San Diego:
This case was built on 1,800 intercepted phone calls that documented the efforts by the men to raise funds for al-Shabab, a terrorist organization in their war-torn home country of Somalia.
Basaaly Moalin, the lead defendant, was a San Diego cabdriver who led the fundraising drive and was the point of contact for al-Shabab. Many conversations were recorded between Moalin and a man in Somalia who prosecutors identified as an al-Shabab leader.
Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud used his influence as a imam in a City Heights mosque to solicit funds from others in the community. Issa Doreh worked at a money transfer business the men used, and Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud was an Orange County cabdriver who helped raise money.
The San Diego connection came to light as a result of claims made by supporters of such secret collection efforts that 54 domestic terrorism cases had been averted as a result of NSA programs.
During various Congressional hearings attempting to probe the effectiveness of these programs this number got whittled down to 13. And then, by the time National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander testified on Capitol Hill this fall, the number went down to “one or perhaps two.”
The case most clearly available for public display was the San Diego/Somali case, since a conviction had already been achieved. The only problem with disclosing this information was that neither the defense nor the jury in the 10 day trial was made aware of the NSA connection.
This raised the question of whether or not a fair defense could be presented if only the prosecution has access to the evidence. Judge Miller’s ruling on the appeal determined that evidence involving the NSA program would not be released to defense attorneys –even if they were cleared for classified information—because such a release didn’t meet the “the need to know” requirement.
There is no doubt that the organization (al-Shabaab) on the receiving end of the defendants wire transfers of cash has become a terrorist outfit with aspirations going way beyond its home turf. They were listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in February 2008.
Aden Hashi Ayro, the Somali warlord whose calls with defendant Moalin were submitted as evidence in the case, was killed by a US missile on May 1, 2008. A cable (released by Wikileaks) sent from the US Embassy in Narobi describing the impact of Ayro’s death indicates ties to Osama bin Laden.
The initial intercept by the National Security Agency leading to the wiretaps in this case was made in October 2007. Court documents show those wiretaps began in December 2007, prior to the ‘terrorist’ determination by the State Department.
The Wikileaks cable says al-Shabaab/Ayro’s focus during the time period in question was much closer to home as do court documents in this case.
Indeed, the 2010 affidavit supporting a search warrant application for Moalin’s home also emphasized al-Shabaab — and Ayro’s — focus on Ethiopia (though made no mention of US backing).
In late 2006, Ethiopian forces intervened on the [Somali Transitional Federal Government, which the ICU had ousted]‘s behalf, routed the ICU and recaptured Mogadishu. With Ethiopian and African Union support, the TFG was reinstalled into power. Although it initially dispersed in the face of the Ethiopian invasion, al-Shabaab eventually regrouped and initiated a war in Somalia targeting all aspects of the TFG, including police stations, border posts, government facilities and civilian targets, as well as the TFG’s Ethiopian and African Union supporters.
Al-Shabaab’s former leader, Aden Hashi Ayrow, called for foreign fighters to join al-Shabaab in a “holy war” against the Ethiopian and other African forces in Somalia. Ayrow’s call was echoed by al-Qaeda leadership, including Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and fighters from other countries — including the United States — have traveled to Somalia to engage in violent jihad.
So what this infers is that Moalin and the other defendants were charged with a more ‘lurid’ crime than the one they probably committed. “Terrorism” and “plots against the USA Homeland” are a lot easier sell to judges who sign search warrants, juries and the news media than sending cash overseas thinking you’re defending your family’s home turf.
Since the prosecution had the ability to bury any evidence that might have clarified the defendants’ motives, the jury never had a chance to consider their (probable) actual crime. Even really bad guys are supposed to get a fair shake in our judicial system. As it stands now—the case will be appealed–, thanks to our government’s obsession with secrecy, we’ll probably never know if justice prevailed.
Keeping It Classy in the San Diego GOP
The local GOP’s rage caused by mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher’s decision to leave the Republican Party in 2012 never ceases to amaze me. To tell the truth, all this frothing at the mouth, makes me even feel (a little) sorry for the guy.
He did what many other Republicans have decided to do in recent years; he saw the handwriting on the wall and quit the party. While I’m not happy about his candidacy in the current race, I give him credit for facing up to the reality that is the dead end calling itself the Republican Party.
Only 3% of all new voters registering in San Diego are choosing to make the GOP their political home, largely because in addition to their national image problems, the local outfit is led by a hapless loser named Tony Krvaric.
VOSD editor Scott Lewis was pondering the election yesterday, leading to the following twitter exchange:
Looking back, @MickeyKasparian‘s distrust of @nathanfletcher seems to have had a massive impact on this mayoral race:http://voiceofsandiego.org/
Followed by the snappiest comeback I’ve seen in a while:
Faulconer’s Fibbing Friends
Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer’s campaign made a big deal out of his appearance at an Allied Gardens grocery store on Wednesday to “save middle class jobs”.
Opponents to the Barrio Logan Community Plan are gathering signatures on a second petition to overturn related ordinances passed by the City Council earlier this fall. A first petition was turned in at the end of October directly aimed at overturning implementation of the plan.
Supporters of the Barrio Logan plan filed suit this week, claiming that signatures were being gathered under false premises. And, wouldn’t you know it, even as Faulconer was making his appearance, the paid signature gatherers continued to peddle falsehoods, as documented by a KPBS reporter on hand:
The signature-gatherers wouldn’t give their names to KPBS and they weren’t exactly being upfront about the community plan when they repeatedly told passers-by “they want to build condos and force out the shipyards.”
Here’s the weak sauce Faulconer dished up when asked about these misrepresentations, via KPBS:
Asked whether he was concerned that the signature gatherers might be spreading misinformation, Faulconer said, “I think it’s clear that this signature drive is all about protecting these jobs, protecting the ship repair industry. It says so very clearly on the petition about what is at stake.”
FYI -there is no study, document or government agency backing up this claim that jobs will be lost. In fact, the City of San Diego’s report projects a 4,000+ job gain.
On This Day: 1939 – President Franklin Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. 1965 – The Soviet probe, Venera 3, was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. On March 1, 1966, it became the first unmanned spacecraft to reach the surface of another planet when it crashed on Venus. 1969 – Janis Joplin was arrested in Tampa, FL on charges of using “vulgar and indecent language” at a concert. All the charges were eventually dropped.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@