A fundamental right under criminal law for all Americans is to see the evidence before trial. It's called discovery. But in the federal terrorism case against 18-year old Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, the evidence that led authorities to him is being called "top secret." This is the second case in Chicago where the government is invoking the "classified" explanation as it tries to prevent a criminal defendant from seeing the evidence against him.
"The kid doesn't know the terrorist group. Never been there. Never got there. He doesn't know nothing about fighting," said Ahmad Tounisi, terror suspect's father, on April 21.
From the beginning Abdella Tounisi's father has been adamant about his son's innocence. Prosecutors have charge Tounisi with trying to join an al-Qaeda terrorist group to fight in Syria.
He was arrested boarding a plane at O'Hare airport last April.
Prosecutors say Tounisi was tracked through messages posted on a website he thought was run by jihadists but was actually operated by the FBI.
In court, his attorneys have demanded to see the underlying evidence against him, the evidence that authorities relied on in preparing their case. They say the government is acting in bad faith and trying to torpedo Tounisi's defense.
But federal judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan ruled for the government on Wednesday, denying broad access to that classified evidence.
In this ruling he stated "The government's interest in protecting national security does not evaporate simply because a defendant allegedly involved with terrorism insists on having personal access to classified information without having the necessary security clearance. Nor does the government have to compromise national security in order to prosecute an accused terrorist."
As Tounisi's father reminded parents when his son was arrested: "Our whole community is naïve, if they think their kids are not being watched, they're naïve. If they think that their kids are not being entrapped, they're naïve," said Ahmad Tounisi.
The teenager has been locked up at Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest more than six months ago.
Also still at the MCC is a friend of Tounisi's, suburban teenager Adel Daoud, who was arrested in a different FBI sting-- charges Daoud's lawyers say were dredged up the same way-- by government investigators trolling the internet.
Daoud-- like Tounisi-- is being denied access to the classified evidence against him.