CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court has overruled a landmark lower court decision that allowed lawyers for a man accused of plotting to bomb a Chicago bar to see documents classified under a major U.S. spying law.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on Monday means prosecutors need not disclose to lawyers for the defendant, Adel Daoud, classified material related to search warrant applications that they presented to a court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Electronic monitoring of Daoud that led to his arrest had been conducted under FISA. His case had drawn widespread interest because it touched on government surveillance issues raised by former security contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified material.
Writing for the appeals court, Circuit Judge Richard Posner said not all judicial procedures need to be fully public, and that U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman should have herself tried to determine whether the surveillance was legal before deciding whether the defense could see any of the material. Coleman made her ruling in January.
Posner said FISA attempts to strike a balance between “the interest in full openness of legal proceedings and the interest in national security.”
“Our own study of the classified materials has convinced us that there are indeed compelling reasons of national security for their being classified,” Posner wrote.
Thomas Anthony Durkin, a lawyer for Daoud, disagreed with the decision. Durkin said in an email on Tuesday that the ruling is “another step in the continued creation of a two-tiered system of justice in federal courts.”
Daoud pleaded not guilty to the 2012 bomb plot. His trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 10.
The case is U.S. v. Daoud, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-1284.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Grant McCool