united states v. mehanna (terrorism conspiracy arrest in Massachusetts)

October 21, 2009

* United States v. Terek Mehanna (D. Mass. Oct. 21, 2009)

According to a criminal complaint and accompanying affidavit filed yesterday, Mehanna, Ahmad Abousamra, and others collaborated in an effort to go abroad to participate in jihad and to carry out attacks within the U.S. as well.  Mehanna already had been arrested, and charged earlier this year with making false statements to the FBI (in connection with questions regarding the activities of his associate Daniel Maldonado, an American who traveled to Somalia to obtain military-type training and who then became the first person prosecuted under 18 USC 2339D, which forbids the receipt of such training from a designated foreign terrorist organization).    The complaint charges a conspiracy to violate the 1994 material support law (18 USC 2339A), based on the provision of various forms of support and resources with the knowledge and intent that they would be used (presumably by Mahanna and Abousamra themselves) in furtherance of anticipated violations of 18 USC 956(a) (prohibiting conspiracies to commit unlawful violent acts outside the US) and 18 USC 2332 (prohibiting the murder of US nationals overseas).  In that respect, this looks like a good example of the use of the material support concept in coordination with conspiracy liability to enable prosecutorial intervention at a relatively early/preliminary stage, something we’ve seen many examples of in recent years.

The complaint and affidavit are available here.

Doe v. Holder; new statutory rules governing GTMO transfer/release

October 21, 2009

1. Doe v. Holder (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 20, 2009)

This long-running litigation involves an Internet Service Provider whom the FBI served with a national security letter (i.e., a type of administrative subpoena) many years ago. The legal framework governing NSLs includes an option for forbidding the recipient of an NSL from disclosing the fact that it has received such a request.  At the time this particular NSL first was issued, it was not clear that the relevant statutes permitted the recipient to challenge the nondisclosure requirement in court (or even discuss the situation with a lawyer).  As a result of multiple rounds of litigation and statutory revisions, however, it is now clear that the government must initiate judicial review of an NSL nondisclosure provision and that the government has the burden of showing (by more than a conclusory assertion) that there is good reason to believe that the gag provision is necessary to avoid a substantial risk of harm in relation to the underlying investigation.

Yesterday, the district court (Judge Marrero) applied this new standard, and ruled in the government’s favor. The opinion is posted here. Read the rest of this entry »