MANHATTAN (CN) - The "evolving state of the law" on warrantless electronic searches may have bearing on charges against a man accused of trying to sell Iran 300 surface-to-air missiles, his attorney told a federal judge.
Reza Olangian, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, could face life imprisonment if convicted of skirting sanctions to arm Tehran. He allegedly made his first failed attempt to obtain roughly 100 missiles known as SAMs for the Iranian government in 2007.
In 2012, Olangian tried to pull off another deal with a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who claimed to be a weapons and aircraft broker, according to an indictment unsealed last year.
Olangian allegedly chatted with the informant throughout the year about buying an IGLA-S missile system and various aircraft components.
Prosecutors said Olangian requested "at least 200 ... minimum 200" SAMs.
He was arrested in Estonia on Oct. 12, 2012, and extradited last year.
In a statement released with the indictment, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that Olangian attempted to "jeopardize this country's national security."
"As alleged, after having been thwarted in his first attempt, Reza Olangian seized on a second opportunity to help arm the Iranian military with surface-to-air missiles and airline parts in violation of international trade sanctions and other laws," Bharara added.
At the brief hearing Monday, Olangian's attorney Lee Ginsburg said the court should convene again to look into "electronic material seized early on in the proceedings."
Discovery on that issue could implicate the "evolving state of the law" regarding "obtaining electronic information without search warrants," said Ginsburg, of Freeman, Nooter & Ginsburg.
While arguments on this issue remained brief and vague in court, Ginsburg elaborated after the hearing and cited U.S. v. Davis
, a recent 11th Circuit ruling
that found warrantless cellphone tracking unconstitutional. Other appellate rulings on the matter could make the topic ripe for Supreme Court review, Ginsburg said.
Though he did not identify the intelligence agency allegedly be involved in Olangian's case, Ginsburg acknowledged that Olangian's arrest in Estonia may have given the government broader surveillance powers than they enjoy in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska set the next hearing date Jan. 9, 2015, granting a lengthy hiatus for Ginsburg to represent another client in an unrelated drug case.