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Court staff goofs, fails to record hearing in terror trial

A goof by Chicago court staff means no recording was made of an important legal hearing about a terror suspect’s right to see evidence from the government’s controversial secret electronic surveillance program.

Though hearings before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are routinely recorded and published on the court’s website, Court Clerk Gino Agnello admitted Thursday his staff “sort of freaked out” before Wednesday’s hearing in the case of alleged wannabe South Loop bar bomber Adel Daoud.

Court staff who operate the audio recorder saw FBI agents sweep the courtroom for bugs and “misinterpreted” that to mean they shouldn’t record the hearing, Agnello said.

The case — part of which was argued by the government behind closed doors, with Daoud’s lawyers and the media locked out — has attracted national attention since NSA leaker Edward Snowden last year revealed the extent of the government’s secret electronic surveillance program.

Agnello said he’d never seen a similar failure to record a hearing in his 25-year career, adding that it was “Murphy’s Law” that the screw-up should come in a case about government secrecy.

Before they were ordered out of the courtroom, Daoud’s lawyers argued at Wednesday’s hearing that they should have access to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act records which they hope contain evidence that will lead to Daoud’s case being thrown out.

But prosecutors say opening the files to Daoud’s lawyers could harm national security.

Daoud, 20, of Hillside, is accused of plotting to blow up Cactus Bar and Cal’s Liquors in September 2012, and of later trying to arrange the murder of an FBI agent who helped set him up. He pressed a button he believed would set off the bomb, but the device was in fact a dummy made by the FBI as part of a sting, prosecutors said.

Daoud’s attorney Thomas Durkin said Thursday that the failure to record is evidence of a “two-tier justice system in this country” for terror suspects that’s “driven by fear-mongering.”

“This is what happens when people get scared,” Durkin added.

The 7th Circuit has yet to rule on Daoud’s case.