Foreign surveillance act employed in aircraft carrier case

Hugh Lessig
Secretive intelligence court used in Awwad case

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secretive court to help investigate suspected terrorists, has figured in the case of a Yorktown man charged with attempting to steal aircraft carrier plans.

In a court filing Wednesday, U.S. attorneys said they intended to offer evidence against Mostafa Ahmed Awwad gathered via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) "from electronic and physical search."

Awwad, 35, is charged with attempting to steal schematics from the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and send them to Egypt. He worked as a civilian engineer with the Department of the Navy. He possessed a security clearance that gave him access to classified documents, investigators said.

Awwad appeared in Norfolk federal court on Wednesday.

He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and technical data. Federal court documents describe detailed interactions with Awwad through an FBI agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence official. The contacts began in September.

Congress established the FISA court in 1978. It reviews applications for warrants related to national security investigations, according to the Federal Judicial Center. The 2001 Patriot Act expanded its membership from seven federal district court justices to 11. The court is based in Washington, D.C.

The Justice Department made 1,856 FISA applications in 2012. The court denied none but modified 40, according to the Justice Department.

Lessig can be reached by phone at 757-247-7821.

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