Defense Lawyers Surprised by NSA's Secret Role in Case

An FBI administrator accidentally spilled the beans


When a senior FBI official told Congress the role the NSA's secret surveillance apparatus played in a San Diego terror financing case today, nobody was more surprised to hear it than the defense attorney who fought a long and futile court battle to get exactly the same information while defending the case in court.

"His lawyers — who all have security clearances — we can't learn about it until it's to the government's tactical advantage politically to disclose it," says New York attorney Joshua Dratel. "National security is about keeping illegal conduct concealed from the American public until you're forced to justify it because someone ratted you out."

Dratel represents Basaaly Saeed Moalin, a San Diego cab driver who was convicted in February of providing material support for a terrorist organization. Moalin raised money for the Somali militia group al Shabaab, which the State Department declared a foreign terrorist organization in 2008.