NSA program debated in appeal of Oregon tree-lighting bomb case

PORTLAND, Ore., The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday to determine if Mohamed Mohamud, convicted in a 2010 attempted bombing, was improperly placed under surveillance as a suspected foreign terrorist.

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Mohamud’s attorneys said U.S. agents misused the federal warrantless foreign surveillance program, a controversial policy that allows the United States to track calls made by suspected terrorists.

Mohamud said he was entrapped by federal agents who posed as al-Qaida members to provide phony explosives for a failed bombing attempt in 2010 at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square during a holiday tree-lighting ceremony.
Mohamud, a Somalia-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was found guilty in January 2013 of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Agents used the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act to present evidence against Mohamud, who was 19 at the time of his arrest.

The hearing Wednesday marked the first time a federal appeals court will determine if the National Security Agency’s surveillance program violates the Fourth Amendment rights of criminal defendants.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Patrick Toomey told the court he did not believe the “communications were lawfully acquired in the first place”, but said “at a very minimum the government should have to seek individualized judicial authorization before it turns around and decides to query a particular American to extract the communications of a particular American from this database.”