As early as 2008, when he was as young as 16, the FBI was "physically and electronically" monitoring Portland bomb-plot suspect Mohamed Mohamud. The feds also secretly sat in on a separate investigation involving Mohamud, and possibly used information gleaned from it to build a case that would eventually end with him "detonating" a fake bomb sold to him by undercover FBI agents.
The defense attorneys argue that when FBI agents covertly watched and sampled evidence from a case in which Mohamud was suspected of rape--of which he was fully exonerated--they broke the law.
"Another unique aspect of the intrusions of privacy in this case is the parallel involvement of the federal government, which surreptitiously participated in the interrogations, searches, and seizures conducted by state and local authorities," wrote defense lawyers Stephen R. Sady and Steven T. Wax.
The principal complaint the attorneys have appears to be a polygraph test Mohamud took while being investigated for the rape case. Federal agents watched that test and may have used information he said during it in order to obtain warrants that let them monitor him for terrorism.
This, the lawyers argue, was a violation of Mohamud's privacy rights and due process. Now the attorneys are asking that a heap of classified documents, relating to exactly how the FBI obtained its surveillance warrants, be released prior to the trial.
It's unclear if the FBI agents, by involving themselves with the local rape investigation, also influenced that case and not just their own.
This of course doesn't mean that Mohamud isn't an America-hating jihadist who wanted to kill as many people as possible last November 26.
It does mean, however, that the case against him may turn out to be harder to prove by federal prosecutors than initially advertised.