Bin Laden Aide Loses Bid to Halt U.S. Surveillance Effort

An aide and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden was denied a court order preventing the U.S. from potentially monitoring communications with his defense lawyer through government surveillance programs.

Sulaiman Abu Ghayth sought an order halting any surveillance efforts and the sharing of any of the information collected with prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan rejected the request yesterday, finding there wasn’t a “shred of evidence” that prosecutors are involved in monitoring of attorney-client discussions.

“The key to much of this application lies in the misuse by the defense of the word government,” Kaplan said, saying that the government’s surveillance programs are separate from the work of federal prosecutors. “That really could be the beginning and end of this discussion.”

Stanley Cohen, Abu Ghayth’s lawyer, said yesterday in court that his client is concerned about what information could potentially have been gathered through the National Security Agency’s Prism program, made public June 6, and others like it.

“How are we to know, judge, what filters its way down to the prosecutors?” Cohen asked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said prosecutors on the case “had absolutely no exposure whatsoever” to Abu Ghayth’s privileged discussions.

Ghayth is set to face a trial in January on charges that he plotted with bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to kill Americans starting in 1989. He was captured by U.S. agents after a decade-long manhunt as he attempted to travel from Jordan to Kuwait.

The case is U.S. v. Abu Ghayth, 98-cr-01023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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