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United States v. Abu Ali

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
528 F.3d 210 (4th Cir. 2008)


Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (defendant) was an American citizen attending college in Saudi Arabia. While there, he began participating in meetings with al-Qaeda members and became involved with suggested plans to commit various terrorist acts in the United States and against U.S. officials. Abu Ali began training to return to the United States to conduct terrorist activities, but before the completion of his training, the Saudi counterterrorist agency arrested him. After interrogation, Saudi authorities gave Abu Ali over to the United States, where he was tried for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Prior to trial, the government filed an in camera, ex parte motion pursuant to the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), 18 U.S.C. app. III, §§ 1-16, seeking a protective order forbidding testimony and any questioning that could lead to the disclosure of certain classified information during the trial. The district court granted the government’s motion by an in camera, ex parte, sealed order and ruled that the government could use the “silent-witness rule” to disclose the classified information to the jury at trial. In lieu of the full version of the documents authorized for presentation to the jury, prior to trial, Abu Ali and his counsel, who did not have security clearance, received redacted, unclassified versions to aid in his defense. Abu Ali was convicted of numerous crimes connected with his al-Qaeda affiliation, and he was sentenced to 360 months in prison. Abu Ali appealed his convictions, arguing that the district court’s handling of the classified information under CIPA violated his Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause rights.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wilkinson, J.)

Dissent (Motz, J.)

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