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UNITED STATES v. RAHMAN

November 4, 1994

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
OMAR AHMAD ALI ABDEL RAHMAN, et al., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL B. MUKASEY

 MICHAEL B. MUKASEY, U.S.D.J.

 The government has moved ex parte pursuant to Section 4 of the Classified Information Procedures Act, 18 U.S.C. app. § 4 *fn1" and Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(d)(1) *fn2" for an in camera review of groups of documents said to contain classified information, and of the submission accompanying such information, and for an order barring disclosure of such information. Although the government has not provided a copy of its submission to defense counsel, the government did advise defense counsel by letter dated July 22, 1994 that it had filed a Petition for Nondisclosure of Classified Information. For the reasons set forth below, the government is directed to disclose certain information to defense counsel; the remainder of the government's motion is granted.

 The statute defines "classified information" in relevant part as "any information or material that has been determined by the United States Government pursuant to an Executive order, statute, or regulation, to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security . . . ." 18 U.S.C. app. § 1. It appears to my eye unquestionable that the six exhibits at issue have been properly deemed classified. With respect to the four exhibits attached to the Price declaration, each is stamped "Secret." The declaration itself establishes in detail the affiant's own authority in overseeing the kinds of activities the documents reflect and assuring that proper classification procedures are followed (Price Decl. PP 1-2, 12), as well as how the intelligence gathering activities and/or the national security of the United States could be harmed by disclosure of either what is in the classified documents or how that information was gathered. (Price Decl. PP 3-11, 13-38) In particular, disclosure of the documents would reveal intelligence sources (Price Decl. PP 15-18); methods of gathering intelligence (Price Decl. PP 19-34); and information that could compromise the foreign relations of the United States (Price Decl. PP 35-37).

 The two documents attached to the Khuzami declaration on their face contain confidential evaluations used in dealing with foreign governments (Khuzami Decl. Ex. B) and confidential information received as part of the conduct of the foreign relations of the United States (Khuzami Decl. Ex. D). Further, Khuzami has confirmed in a supplemental declaration, dated October 19, 1994, that the two documents do in fact contain classified information.

 The next step is to determine whether the documents contain information that would be discoverable under any otherwise applicable rule. Here, I use "discoverable" in its broadest sense, to include both what should be made available in pretrial discovery, as well as exculpatory facts, or information relevant to the credibility of government witnesses, that need not be disclosed before trial but nonetheless must be made available in time for effective use at trial. See United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 676-77, 87 L. Ed. 2d 481, 105 S. Ct. 3375 (1985); Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U.S. 545, 559, 51 L. Ed. 2d 30, 97 S. Ct. 837 (1977). The documents contain three categories of such information that is at least potentially discoverable. The first is prior statements by a defendant that may be relevant to the charges in the indictment, discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(A). The second is arguably exculpatory information potentially discoverable under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963). The third is information relating to the credibility of government witnesses, potentially discoverable under Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 31 L. Ed. 2d 104, 92 S. Ct. 763 (1972).

 The three documents that comprise Exhibit A to the Price declaration contain three statements of defendant Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman that may be relevant to the charges in the indictment and that would be discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(A). Of these, two are, if anything, inculpatory. The third, which appears on the fourth page of the exhibit, is at most mildly exculpatory insofar as it may suggest the absence of an inclination to flee before the indictment in this case. However, because the statement concerns a time period before the indictment in this case it is not at all clear that the statement is even relevant to the charges in the indictment.

 The first of the two documents that comprise Exhibit B to the Price declaration contains information relating to the credibility of a potential government witness which is potentially discoverable under Giglio, supra. The second contains information on its fifth page that relates to Rahman, that includes what the author states on second-hand knowledge are Rahman's statements, and that, when considered as a whole, is inculpatory.

 Exhibit C to the Price declaration is one document indicating that a person with whom the government has contact may possess information exculpatory of defendant Ibrahim El-Gabrowny.

 Exhibit D to the Price declaration consists of three documents containing information that groups or individuals other than those charged with participating in the conspiracies described in Counts One and Three of the indictment in this case, who include those convicted in United States v. Salameh, et al., 93 Cr. 180, claimed responsibility for the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. As shown in Exhibit C to the Khuzami declaration, similar information was disclosed to defense counsel in the Salameh case.

 Of the two classified attachments to the Khuzami declaration, the first, Exhibit B, contains an expression of opinion which, although exculpatory of Rahman, is in no event admissible, as discussed more fully below, unless the source of that opinion testifies as a government witness about a subject within the scope of the opinion. The second, Exhibit D, contains an expression of negative opinion with respect to the credibility of a potential government witness but no indication of the speaker's competence, as well as other expressions of opinion that would not be admissible at trial.

 In order to complete the analysis of whether any of this material is at least potentially discoverable, it remains only to lay the above canvass of the exhibits alongside the relevant rules. As noted above, there are three categories of such information: prior statements by a defendant, information that is exculpatory of a defendant, and information relating to the credibility of a potential government witness. Rahman's statements contained in Exhibit A to the Price declaration that may be relevant to the subject of the indictment ordinarily would be discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(A). To the extent the fifth page of the second document attached as Exhibit B to the Price declaration recites what may purport to be statements by Rahman, they too will be considered, in an excess of caution, as statements within the meaning of the Rule, and thus discoverable.

 The government is obligated under Brady and United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 49 L. Ed. 2d 342, 96 S. Ct. 2392 (1976), to disclose information in its sole possession that is "material" to the issue of guilt or innocence. The government places heavy reliance on the cases that hold information is "material" if "there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Bagley, 473 U.S. at 682. However, as the past and contrary-to-fact-subjunctive tense of the quoted segment suggests, cases such as Bagley and United States v. Maniktala, 934 F.2d 25, 28 (2d Cir. 1991) (defining "material" exculpatory evidence as that which "would have enabled the defendant significantly to alter the quantum of proof in his favor"), deal with the issue of materiality after a conviction. They provide only limited guidance before trial, when the potential significance of some evidence may not be fully apparent. Viewing the information at issue in the light most favorable to defendants, the one document that may be said to contain potential Brady material is Exhibit C to the Price declaration, which discloses that a person with whom the government has contact may possess information exculpatory of El-Gabrowny. The government has acknowledged its Brady obligation to determine whether that person has such information, and if so what it is. The government is to pursue that issue ...


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