HAMMOND — Amid national security concerns, federal prosecutors are seeking to discuss classified materials ahead of trial in the case of Samantha "Sally" Elhassani, who spent three years in the Middle East as the reluctant wife of an ISIS terrorist fighter and who is now accused of lying to the FBI.
“The government’s proof at trial would involve evidence of multiple trips the defendant took abroad, culminating with a final trip to Syria. Given the facts present in this case and the classified nature of certain materials, the government anticipates utilizing (the Classified Information Procedures Act,)” prosecutors wrote in a motion filed Thursday.
Elhassani first appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate John E. Martin on July 25, pleading not guilty to the charge against her. She is expected to be detained in federal confinement at an undisclosed jail pending trial.
In filing the motion Thursday, prosecutors requested a judge to schedule pretrial conference hearings with the defense counsel in efforts to protect classified information — while protecting Elhassani’s right to due process.
“CIPA’s legislative history makes clear that the Court may take national security interests into account in determining whether to permit denial, restriction of deferment of discovery,” prosecutors wrote to Martin.
Elhassani told PBS' "Frontline" and the BBC in April she married Moussa Elhassani, a Moroccan national.
The couple and their children left the country in 2015 to vacation in Turkey and then her husband forced the family to move to Syria where he became a sniper for ISIS in the midst of a long-simmering civil war.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a militant group that gained control of large parts of Syria and Iraq four years ago. Hundreds of Americans traveled to fight for militants. U.S.-backed forces in the Middle East have expelled the terrorists from most of that territory during months of heavy fighting.
Her husband was killed and she was detained by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces after fleeing with her U.S.-citizen children and returned to the U.S., where she was arrested by federal agents.
Elhassani and another detainee, Ibraheem "Izzy" Musaibli, of Dearborn, Michigan, arrived July 24 in the Northern District of Indiana. Musaibli was transferred to Detroit to face terrorism charges in U.S. District Court there.
A federal grand jury indicted her in March and only made the charge public last week.
The indictment does not detail the false statements she made to the FBI. The FBI said it routinely questioned Americans who were traveling to the Middle East during that time about their travel plans.
The government has asked Martin to set a pretrial conference 30 days from now to address scheduling matters with the defense team in light of the existence of classified materials.