Feds secretly obtained evidence in African lobbying case under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

August 7, 2013 8:51:31 PM PDT
The ABC7 I-Team has learned a surprising revelation in the African lobbying case against two Chicago men. Even though the charges involve politics and trade sanctions against Zimbabwe, the I-Team has learned that federal agents gathered evidence under a law used to track terrorist threats.

Federal court records filed late Wednesday reveal that the government secretly obtained evidence in the case against Chicago political activist Prince Asiel Ben Israel under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial law known as FISA.

That law allows U.S. law enforcement agencies to secretly gather evidence for the purpose of thwarting domestic terror plots.

Electronic surveillance or physical searches were conducted in the case against Prince Asiel Ben Israel and co-defendant C. Gregory Turner. While there is nothing to indicate a terror threat by any of those charged or involved in the case, the use of FISA in a case such as this points to the expanded use of a widely-criticized government law enforcement tactic.

When such covert methods are used to gather evidence, prosecutors must notify defendants under the FISA law.

It may be that the intercepted emails or phone calls originated with intelligence gathering surrounding Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe. It is his regime that prompted U.S. trade sanctions.

According to federal charges unsealed on Tuesday, the men allegedly arranged trips by U.S. Government officials to meet with Mugabe; and afterward Illinois officials promised to deliver information to then president-elect Barack Obama about lifting the economic sanctions.

Federal prosecutors say email evidence shows that an Illinois state senator met with Zimbabwe's president. The senator is not identified, but Wednesday night an attorney for State Senator Donne Trotter of Chicago tells the I-Team that Mr. Trotter is the unnamed state senator referred to in the complaint. Trotter's attorney had no comment on any aspect of the case and Mr. Trotter has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Two Chicago congressmen also go unnamed-- and uncharged-- in the case. Representatives Danny Davis and Bobby Rush both say they did nothing wrong.

Additional information:

Court record that reveals secret electronic evidence was collected

FISA: Decoded:

c) Notification by United States
Whenever the Government intends to enter into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, or other authority of the United States, against an aggrieved person, any information obtained or derived from an electronic surveillance of that aggrieved person pursuant to the authority of this subchapter, the Government shall, prior to the trial, hearing, or other proceeding or at a reasonable time prior to an effort to so disclose or so use that information or submit it in evidence, notify the aggrieved person and the court or other authority in which the information is to be disclosed or used that the Government intends to so disclose or so use such information.

d) Notification by United States
Whenever the United States intends to enter into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, or other authority of the United States, against an aggrieved person, any information obtained or derived from a physical search pursuant to the authority of this subchapter, the United States shall, prior to the trial, hearing, or the other proceeding or at a reasonable time prior to an effort to so disclose or so use that information or submit it in evidence, notify the aggrieved person and the court or other authority in which the information is to be disclosed or used that the United States intends to so disclose or so use such information.


Load Comments