Mohammed Salah: Only U.S. citizen to be declared an international terrorist on trial - Bridgeview mosque also cited in case
March 2, 2006
'We don't know, and we don't have to tell you,' prosecutors tell Salah
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
By Chris Hack
Salah, already the only U.S. citizen to be declared an international terrorist, has pleaded innocent to federal charges alleging he served as an operative for the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Friday in a crucial hearing to determine if a series of alleged confessions the Bridgeview man gave to Israeli authorities after his 1993 arrest there can be used against him here. Salah claims the statements were tortured out of him.
For the past month, defense attorneys have been pressing prosecutors for details about the recently exposed domestic spying program, which involves government agents eavesdropping on communications without warrants for the past four years. Critics from both political parties have blasted the program as illegal, but Bush has insisted it's a necessary tool to fight terrorism.
In court papers filed earlier this week, prosecutors said they need another 45 days to determine if Salah was subjected to the surveillance.
"It seems like obfuscation and delay to me," defense attorney Michael E. Deutsch said Tuesday. "I'm not very impressed with it. What seems to be happening is that they're still trying to come up with some national response to this."
According to the government filing, a special squad of U.S. Department of Justice lawyers has been fielding requests for information on the program. The Chicago-based prosecutors noted that any results of the search for surveillance of Salah would be "highly classified" and subject to review by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve before disclosure to the defense.
But prosecutors flatly rejected the defense team's call for information on any government infiltration of the Bridgeview mosque where Salah worships.
In the court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Ferguson decried the request as "completely off the rails to the extent that defendant Salah purports to take up the cudgel for the Bridgeview mosque."
"The government submits that the motion is baseless, seeks information utterly irrelevant to these proceedings," Ferguson wrote.
The mosque, which gave money to several Muslim charities later shut down by the government amid terrorism-funding allegations, has long been a focal point of the federal probe into Hamas activity in the south suburbs.
"We know the FBI has had informants in the mosque before," Deutsch said. "And we know that the FBI has had an interest in the mosque in general."
Deutsch also didn't get answers on whether the mosque was subjected to a different secret government program — this one involving testing for radioactive materials near mosques and other Muslim sites around the country since early 2002.
Chris Hack may be reached at [email protected] or (708) 633-5984.