American Tortured in Israel Pleads Innocent
- IL: 'WE DON'T KNOW, AND WE DON'T HAVE TO TELL YOU,'
PROSECUTORS TELL SALAH -
Chris Hack, Daily Southtown, 3/1/06
Federal prosecutors said they still don't know if Mohammed Salah was a
target of the Bush administration's secret spying program but insist
they don't have to tell him if the Bridgeview mosque was infiltrated
by the FBI.
Salah, already the only U.S. citizen to be declared an international
terrorist, has pleaded innocent to federal charges alleging he served
as an operative for the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Friday in a crucial hearing
to determine if a series of alleged confessions the Bridgeview man
gave to Israeli authorities after his 1993 arrest there can be used
against him here. Salah claims the statements were tortured out of him.
For the past month, defense attorneys have been pressing prosecutors
for details about the recently exposed domestic spying program, which
involves government agents eavesdropping on communications without
warrants for the past four years. Critics from both political parties
have blasted the program as illegal, but Bush has insisted it's a
necessary tool to fight terrorism.
In court papers filed earlier this week, prosecutors said they need
another 45 days to determine if Salah was subjected to the surveillance.
"It seems like obfuscation and delay to me," defense attorney Michael
E. Deutsch said Tuesday. "I'm not very impressed with it. What seems
to be happening is that they're still trying to come up with some
national response to this."
According to the government filing, a special squad of U.S. Department
of Justice lawyers has been fielding requests for information on the
program. The Chicago-based prosecutors noted that any results of the
search for surveillance of Salah would be "highly classified" and
subject to review by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve before disclosure
to the defense.
But prosecutors flatly rejected the defense team's call for
information on any government infiltration of the Bridgeview mosque
where Salah worships.
In the court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Ferguson decried
the request as "completely off the rails to the extent that defendant
Salah purports to take up the cudgel for the Bridgeview mosque."
"The government submits that the motion is baseless, seeks information
utterly irrelevant to these proceedings," Ferguson wrote.
The mosque, which gave money to several Muslim charities later shut
down by the government amid terrorism-funding allegations, has long
been a focal point of the federal probe into Hamas activity in the
"We know the FBI has had informants in the mosque before," Deutsch
said. "And we know that the FBI has had an interest in the mosque in
Deutsch also didn't get answers on whether the mosque was subjected to
a different secret government program this one involving testing for
radioactive materials near mosques and other Muslim sites around the
country since early 2002.
Chris Hack may be reached at chack @ dailysouthtown.com or
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