Clas­si­fied ma­te­rial ‘com­pli­cates’ area ISIS case

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Becky Ja­cobs Post-Tri­bune

The case of a for­mer Elkhart woman ac­cused of pro­vid­ing funds and sup­plies to Is­lamic State fighters is go­ing to in­volve clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, which at­tor­neys and a judge will have to sort through.

“This is a to­tally new thing for me,” Judge Philip Si­mon said.

Sa­man­tha Marie El­has­sani, also known as Sa­man­tha Sally, ap­peared Thurs­day in fed­eral court in Ham­mond for a sta­tus con­fer­ence. El­has­sani, wear­ing a red jail uni­form, was re­leased from chains be­fore she joined her at­tor­neys.

El­has­sani, 32, has pleaded not guilty to con­spir­acy to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port to the Is­lamic State group, also known as ISIS, and aid­ing and abet­ting in­di­vid­u­als in pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial sup­port to the Is­lamic State group.

The gov­ern­ment be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing El­has­sani “and her co-con­spir­a­tors sev­eral years” be­fore she was charged, court records state.

Be­tween fall 2014 and sum­mer 2015, “within the North­ern District of In­di­ana and later oc­cur­ring else­where,” El­has­sani pro­vided sup­port and re­sources to the Is­lamic State group, know­ing that the or­ga­ni­za­tion was a des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion that en­gaged in ter­ror­ism, the in­dict­ment al­leges.

El­has­sani also pro­cured tac­ti­cal gear and pro­vided funds to sup­port two peo­ple, iden­ti­fied in court records as In­di­vid­ual A and In­di­vid­ual B, who were per­son­nel for the Is­lamic State group, the in­dict­ment states.

El­has­sani was pre­vi­ously charged with ly­ing to the FBI, court records show.

Be­fore El­has­sani goes to trial in Jan­uary 2020, at­tor­neys will have to sort through clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion in the case, they said. Si­mon said he guessed “this is go­ing to be chal­leng­ing and com­pli­cated.”

“I’m try­ing to un­der­stand the process,” Si­mon said.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Joshua Ko­lar and As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Abizer Zanzi filed a doc­u­ment “as kind of a primer” for Si­mon about the Clas­si­fied In­for­ma­tion Pro­ce­dures Act, or CIPA, which would come into play in El­has­sani’s case.

“CIPA will en­sure that (El­has­sani) is pro­vided with all re­quired dis­cov­ery and re­ceives a fair trial, with­out any un­due and un­nec­es­sary dis­clo­sures that would ad­versely im­pact na­tional se­cu­rity,” the doc­u­ment states.

The at­tor­neys said they will have to hold closed hear­ings with the judge to dis­cuss their the­o­ries about the case, what clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion may be in­volved and how it will be used at trial.

“We’re go­ing to have to air all this out,” Si­mon said.

Si­mon’s court reporter and law clerk are still go­ing through the se­cu­rity process to deal with the ma­te­rial, he said.

Zanzi said he thinks this process will make more sense to ev­ery­one as they get into it.

At t o r n e y Thomas Durkin, who was ap­pointed to rep­re­sent El­has­sani, has worked on sim­i­lar cases. The Wall Street Jour­nal wrote an ar­ti­cle, head­lined “A ter­ror sus­pect’s best hope in court,” about Durkin in 2016 af­ter one of his clients, who ad­mit­ted to try­ing to join the Is­lamic State group, re­ceived 40 months in prison.

While Durkin said he could be wrong, he said El­has­sani’s case is “unique fac­tu­ally” to what he and his co-coun­sel, Joshua Her­man, are ac­cus­tomed to and “is po­ten­tially the most com­pli­cated case” he’s dealt with in terms of clas­si­fied ev­i­dence.

El­has­sani pre­vi­ously waived a de­ten­tion hear­ing in her case. While the de­fense is not ready yet, Durkin said he may re­quest a hear­ing in the fu­ture to see if El­has­sani could be re­leased be­fore trial. Pros­e­cu­tors in­di­cated they would con­test that re­quest.

Durkin said he’s still fig­ur­ing out pro­posed con­di­tions of re­lease and has had a doc­tor eval­u­ate El­has­sani.

“It’s a com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

There’s also been progress made on where El­has­sani’s four chil­dren will be placed, Durkin said. When El­has­sani was trans­ferred from the cus­tody of the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces and was brought back to the U.S. in July, her chil­dren were put in the cus­tody of the In­di­ana De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices. El­has­sani is hop­ing the chil­dren could go live with her par­ents in Ok­la­homa, Durkin said.

CNN pub­lished a story in April af­ter in­ter­view­ing El­has­sani while she was held in Syr­ian-Kur­dish cus­tody in north­ern Syria. At the time, El­has­sani was wait­ing to hear whether she’d be able to re­turn to the U.S., ac­cord­ing to CNN.

She said she felt she had to go with her hus­band, Mous­sana El­has­sani, to Syria to re­main with her chil­dren, CNN re­ported.

Sa­man­tha El­has­sani told CNN that her hus­band, an Is­lamic State sniper, was killed in a drone strike last year. She was ar­rested af­ter the Is­lamic State group’s col­lapse in Raqqa, ac­cord­ing to CNN.


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