Friday, July 19, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Dan Bishop Reacts to DOJ’s Courtroom Attack against Journalist

'It sounds like, by description, the DOJ is taking overbearing action against someone exercising their rights under the First Amendment...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) CHARLOTTE, NC—Rep. Dan Bishop, R-NC, was in North Carolina Thursday for a political event, but he had time for a brief interview with Headline USA about the Justice Department’s attack on the free press in a federal courtroom earlier that day.

Lounging in an outdoor sofa and talking to a local reporter about his upcoming race to be his state’s next attorney general, Bishop hadn’t heard about the DOJ’s attack on reporter Trevor Aaronson. Earlier that day, DOJ lawyers argued that Aaronson, who’s making a documentary about how the FBI manufactures terrorism, shouldn’t have access to evidence from the case.

When this reporter described the situation, Bishop, who sits on the House Weaponization Subcommittee, expressed concern.

“It sounds like, by description, the DOJ is taking overbearing action against someone exercising their rights under the First Amendment. And it’s very important for reporters to have robust freedom,” he said, emphasizing that he wasn’t familiar with the details of the case.

Earlier that day, Aaronson published a story about his ordeal ahead of a court hearing where the DOJ would seek to prevent him from seeing evidence in the case of Aws Mohammed Naser, a Michigan man whom Aaronson’s reporting suggests likely had his constitutional rights violated by the FBI.

According to Aaronson, the FBI had been conducting surveillance on Nasser for a terrorism investigation when he robbed a convenient store. The FBI took over the case and later slapped terrorism charges on him undre highly suspicious circumstances, according to Aaronson.

Much of Naser’s discovery is under a protective order ahead of his upcoming trial. But that hasn’t stopped him from describing the evidence to Aaronson over the phone from prison—with the Bureau of Prisons intelligence unit listening to their conversations all the while.

The documents are reportedly damning, according to Nasser.

“In phone calls in April, Naser told me that these FBI reports describe an improper arrangement between federal agents and the parole officer. According to Naser, the reports state that the parole officer’s daughter had reportedly been the victim of a sexual assault that had gone unsolved and that he wanted FBI agents to investigate the case,” Aaronson wrote.

“Naser, describing the alleged arrangement, told me: ‘In return for that help, he was going to help them with me.’”

But in a May 31 court filing, the DOJ accused Aaronson of trying to “taint the jury pool and undermine the fairness of the trial.” And for Nasser, prosecutors said he’s more concerned with making a documentary about his case than he is defending himself.

“Naser, however, seeks the unsealing of the documents in this case for a different purpose. Specifically, to sway public opinion in his favor and taint the jury pool against the FBI by publicizing and sensationalizing the FBI’s investigative techniques in terrorism cases through the production of a one-sided documentary,” prosecutors argued.

“That is an improper purpose.”

Rep. Bishop did say that Nasser might have violated a gag order or some other rule about discovery. However, the DOJ is not seeking to sanction Nasser over his discussions with Aaronson.

“Well then that’s bizarre. I would like more detail because I do believe that would reflect a policy that is troubling and perhaps unconstitutional,” Bishop said in response to the lack of sanctions on Nasser.

The hearing on whether to restrict Nasser from disclosing more evidence started Thursday and continued into Friday. Close to the publication of this article, a decision was posted that Nasser’s motion to unseal more discovery was “partially denied.” No more details were posted, but the rest of the motion hearing was bizarrely postponed until Sept. 4, according to the docket.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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