A lawyer for the federal government told a federal judge yesterday that attorney Lynne Stewart, who faces prison time for aiding a terrorist whom she represented, does not have "a need to know" whether the government eavesdropped on her without a warrant.
Attorneys for Stewart, who is set to be sentenced next month, have requested that the government disclose whether it used the Terrorist Surveillance Program to monitor her communications while building its case against her. If the government did do so, her lawyers argue, that could be grounds for a new trial.
Stewart and two others were convicted last year of aiding the imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman by passing along his messages. The government has requested a 30-year sentence for Stewart; she has requested that she receive no prison time.
At a hearing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the government attorney, Eric Bruce, said trial judges across the country have uniformly denied similar attempts by other defendants to learn if the government listened in on their conversations without a warrant. He said there have been 15 such efforts since the disclosure last year of the existence of the National Security Agency program. The trial judges have denied each request, he told the judge, John Koeltl.
"To the extent there is precedent in this issue, that's the precedent," Mr. Bruce said. "I don't think any attorney would need to know the details of the Terrorist Surveillance Program."
Judge Koeltl asked several questions on legal precedent, but gave few indications of his thoughts on the matter.
An attorney for Stewart, Joshua Dratel, who also argued on behalf of two other men convicted along with her, said several of the defense counsel had security clearances and were authorized to review confidential government submissions relevant to their cases.