ATLANTA – A pretrial hearing to discuss the procedures for disclosing classified information in a case against two men accused of supporting terrorists should be open to the public, an attorney for several news organizations argued Monday.
A federal magistrate judge has already ordered Thursday's hearing closed. But in court papers filed in federal court in Atlanta, media lawyer Thomas Clyde said that the classified information was not expected to be disclosed during the hearing and that it should be open.
"There may come a time in this case when the government will need to disclose the substance of classified information to the court in camera," wrote Clyde, who represents The Associated Press, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN and WSB-TV. "However, that time has not yet come."
Syed Ahmed, 21, and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 20, were indicted July 19 on charges of providing material support to terrorists and related conspiracy counts. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors did not immediately respond to Clyde's request. However, when prosecutors first made their request in June for a closed pretrial conference, they said the defense agreed with them.
The government has sought heightened secrecy surrounding elements of its case against the men, who are U.S. citizens. Ahmed was born in Pakistan and is a Georgia Tech student. Sadequee was born in Virginia and is of Bangladeshi descent. He has relatives in the Atlanta area.
The men are accused of discussing terror targets with Islamic extremists and undergoing training to carry out a "violent jihad" against civilian and government targets, including an air base in suburban Atlanta.
The indictment says Ahmed and Sadequee traveled to Washington to film possible targets, including the U.S. Capitol and the headquarters of the World Bank, and shared the recordings with another suspected terrorist based in Britain.
Authorities say the men's motivation for planning attacks was "defense of Muslims or retaliation for acts committed against Muslims."
There has been no allegation that the two men obtained or tried to obtain weapons or explosives to commit terrorism.