Terror suspect says FBI spied on his library computer use

From the AP via Macon.com

FBI officials followed a terrorism suspect to a public library and when he was done using a computer there violated his privacy by making, without a warrant, records of the Web pages and e-mail addresses that he had accessed, the man’s attorney alleged Thursday.

Syed Ahmed’s attorney, Jack Martin, said in filing in federal court in Atlanta that the March 21, 2006, actions by the FBI at Chestatee Regional Library in Dawsonville amounted to an unconstitutional search.

Martin said one of the FBI officials sat down at the computer Ahmed used and, utilizing the history function of the computer, viewed and made a record of the Web pages and e-mail addresses that had been accessed by Ahmed.

“The actions of the government agent, contrary to the policies and procedures of the library, including policies to ensure the privacy of its authorized library users, violated the defendant’s reasonable expectations of privacy,” Martin wrote in his motion.

Martin wants the evidence, which he did not detail in his motion, suppressed. There was no immediate ruling by a judge.

A spokesman for the FBI, Stephen Emmett, declined to comment on Martin’s allegations. But U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said in a statement provided to The Associated Press that “public libraries are not safe havens for terrorist-related activity.”

“The FBI’s actions were lawful and appropriate as we will demonstrate when we respond to the motion in court,” Nahmias said in his statement, which was read by a spokesman.

Separately, Martin filed a motion Thursday seeking to have the media barred from a hearing later this month that will address a defense request to suppress statements Ahmed made to law enforcement.

He said the reason for the request is that the government plans to play in court at the hearing a recording of the 12 hours of conversations they had with Ahmed.

“The defendant has the right to closure of a pre-trial hearing, such as a motion to suppress hearing, whenever there is a substantial probability that holding a public hearing to which the media has access could deny the defendant a fair trial and there are no reasonable alternatives to closure,” Martin wrote.

Tom Clyde, an attorney who has represented The Associated Press and other news organizations in the case, said the media participants will object to any closure of the hearing.

“This is precisely the kind of hearing that our law requires to be public,” Clyde said.

He added, “The hearing should be very revealing about the tactics the government used and the statements this defendant gave. There is a very legitimate public interest in that.”

Ahmed and co-defendant Ehsanul Sadequee, both U.S. citizens, are accused of undergoing training to carry out a “violent jihad” against civilian and government targets, including an air base in suburban Atlanta.

Authorities say the men wanted to plan attacks for “defense of Muslims or retaliation for acts committed against Muslims.” They have pleaded not guilty to a July 19, 2006, indictment charging them with providing material support to terrorists and related conspiracy counts. No trial date has been set.

Ahmed, born in Pakistan, was a Georgia Tech student at the time of his arrest. Sadequee, born in Virginia of Bangladeshi descent, has relatives in the Atlanta area.

By HARRY R. WEBER – Associated Press Writer

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