A federal judge in Lubbock has ordered that classified intelligence information can be used against terror suspect Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari.
Aldawsari, a native of Saudi Arabia, was in Lubbock as a college student at the time of his arrest in February of 2011.
Court records say he collected bomb making materials in his Central Lubbock apartment and planned "jihad" in the United States. Court records say he had proposed targets in several states. Charges against Aldawsari were brought shortly after a chemical company in North Carolina and a shipping company in Lubbock reported suspicious activity to authorities.
U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings ruled last week that prosecutors can use information gained under FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Federal agents searched Aldawsari's apartment prior to his arrest and the fruits of that search have been disclosed in the court record.
There was also a secret search of Aldawsari's apartment under the terms of FISA. The defense team has not been allowed to see the FISA information, which has been the subject of an objection since September 5, 2011. While the defense team cannot see the FISA material, prosecutors can use it against Aldawsari.
Cummings relied upon rulings in previous cases - saying the government has a compelling interest in "both the secrecy of information" and the "appearance of confidentiality" in foreign intelligence.
Cummings ruled that federal agents reasonably believed Aldawsari "was at the time an agent of a foreign power."
Media reports nationwide in the last 12 months describe Aldawsari as a "lone wolf" who acted as a one-man operation to bring terrorism onto U.S. soil. However, the judge not only ruled that Aldawsari seemed to be an agent of a foreign power at the time, but also that he currently "meets the definition of 'agent of a foreign power...'"
Who is this foreign power? Court records, at least those accessible to the public, do not mention any other person, group, or entity helping Aldawsari.
In May of 2011 the judge issued a gag order forbidding any federal official from talking to the news media about the Aldawsari case.
In addition to labeling Aldawsari as an agent of a foreign power, the judge seemed to shoot down any attempt to use the First Amendment as a defense.
Court records say prior to his arrest, Aldawsari wrote blog entries on the Internet expressing a desire for "jihad." And several months ago the defense filed a list of proposed questions for perspective jurors.
Among the questions was: "Do you believe that criticism of the United States foreign policy is protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?"
In his ruling last week, Cummings wrote that Aldawsari was not determined to be the agent of a foreign power "solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment."
So far, the defense has not filed an appeal, but the deadline to do so has not passed.
Aldawsari's trial date is set for April 30. If convicted, he faces any number of years or life in prison.
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