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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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Secret Database Doesn’t Impress Judge

(CN) - Information about a secret law enforcement database does nothing to support the constitutional claims of a man charged with violating the Iran trade embargo, a federal judge ruled.

Shantia Hassanshahi filed a motion for reconsideration after his motion to suppress evidence found on his laptop was denied last year.

After his federal indictment in Washington, D.C., Hassanshahi argued that the initial database search that uncovered his call records was unconstitutional and led to the unlawful search and seizure of his laptop.

A grand jury in 2013 indicted Hassanshahi and his company Hasston, accusing them of exporting protection relays, parts and accessories to Iran for a power plant.

According to court records, U.S. agents searched an undisclosed database to track down Hassanshahi. He claimed the database was the same or similar to the National Security Agency's bulk telephony metadata program, which collects people's phone calls and records.

Border agents seized Hassanshahi's laptop, cellphone and other electronic devices at Los Angeles International Airport on his return to the United States in early 2012. He was charged with exporting goods worth $6 million.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in the District of Columbia denied his motion for reconsideration on Nov. 19.

Contreras previously had voiced frustration that the government shrouded the database in secrecy, and ordered it to disclose more information .

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Robert Patterson's affidavit revealed that the secret law enforcement database of communications metadata was used to monitor drug trafficking and other criminal activities, but was suspended in 2013.

Contreras said that though the new information clarified the nature of the database, it did nothing to support Hassanshahi's statutory and constitutional challenges.

"The court is thus satisfied that the newly disclosed information concerning the database does not alter its conclusion that the Government's investigative steps following the discovery of the California telephone number, a minor lead in the case, constitute an intervening circumstance that weighs heavily and unambiguously against suppressing the laptop evidence," the judge wrote.

Hassanshahi is charged with conspiracy to violate the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations.

In a separate order, Contreras denied Hassanshahi's motion to transfer the case to Los Angeles.

Hassanshahi is also known as Shantia Hassan Shahi, Shahi, Shantia Haas, and Sean Haas, according to court records.

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