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Fort Dix Five Convictions Upheld: FISA Wiretapping Reasonable

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By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on January 06, 2012 9:05 AM

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions and sentences of five Muslim men accused of planning terrorist attacks on United States military bases.

Nicknamed the Fort Dix Five, the five men were arrested in May 2007 and convicted a year later of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel at the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. All but one were sentenced to life in prison.

The Fort Dix Five appealed their convictions, primarily arguing that the use of wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches.

The Third Circuit, in a unanimous ruling, disagreed with the petitioners, concluding that the search was reasonable because it was "conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on a duly authorized statute," regardless of whether the statute was constitutional.

The Fort Dix Five also appealed their convictions on attempted possession of firearms in furtherance of a crime since the law in question did not outlaw attempted possession.

The Third Circuit, however, upheld the convictions for two of the petitioners since their defense lawyers did not raise the issue before the trial judge, and there was evidence they actually possessed weapons. The conviction and sentence against a third petitioner was dismissed since there was no evidence that he possessed a weapon.

The petitioner still faces a life term despite the dismissal of the conviction and 30-year prison sentence.

Defense attorneys for two of the Fort Dix Five have stated that they expect to file appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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