The order issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman means federal prosecutors must hand over to the defense search warrant applications -- including affidavits and other materials -- presented to the secret FISA court to justify surveillance on Adel Daoud, charged with plotting to detonate a bomb outside of a bar in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.
In terrorism prosecutions, such materials usually are viewed by the judge, not defense attorneys.
"This finding is not made lightly," Coleman said in her opinion giving Daoud's attorney access to the information.
The applications could potentially reveal whether the investigation was sparked by the government spying programs revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Daoud's attorneys said they need access to the materials to decide whether to challenge the constitutionality of the search warrants on the grounds they violated Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures.
"This decision is ... courageous and very meaningful in assuring the preservation of the integrity of the adversarial process in federal terrorism related criminal prosecutions," Daoud's lead attorney, Thomas Durkin, told the Tribune in an email.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
In her ruling, Coleman said she felt her decision was necessary to safeguard the defendant's right to effective counsel.
She said the government's argument that national security could be compromised by releasing the documents didn't fly because Durkin said he has top-secret clearance through his work as civilian defense counsel for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Durkin must provide the documentation before he can see the material, the judge said.
Daoud, who has pleaded not guilty, will go on trial on the terrorism charges in April, the Tribune said. He also faces separate charges that he tried to solicit the murder of one of the FBI agents involved in the sting after he was imprisoned.
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