COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal judge who dismissed a challenge of the Bush administration's domestic spying program said the case against a convicted Al Qaeda supporter was built on statements he made to investigators, not evidence from warrantless eavesdropping.
The challenge by Iyman Faris, now serving a 20-year prison sentence, was among the first to seek evidence of warrantless eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, a practice that began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern division of the U.S. District Court in Virginia dismissed his challenge earlier this month; her ruling was unsealed Wednesday.
The case against Faris rested on statements he made to investigators, "not on statements Faris had made to third parties that might have been intercepted," Brinkema wrote.
Faris, a former Ohio truck driver, pleaded guilty in 2003 to a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. He has tried to withdraw his plea, saying he had no connection with Al Qaeda and his first attorney gave him bad advice about pleading guilty.
Faris has argued that his terrorism conviction should be thrown out on the grounds that the government illegally spied on him. He said investigators improperly obtained evidence against him and that his trial lawyer was ineffective.
The government has said information from a court-ordered wiretap led them to Faris. But Brinkema said her review of government documents found no evidence that the "constitutional rights of Faris were infringed by the manner in which his name came to the attention of the FBI."
Faris' attorney David Smith said Thursday that his client wants to appeal the case as far as possible. Phone messages seeking comment were left with the U.S. attorney's office.