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Nearly 600 detained: Widespread violations of civil liberties in US dragnet

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    Assalamu alaikum, Nearly 600 detained Widespread violations of civil liberties in US dragnet By Kate Randall 6 October 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 6, 2001

      Nearly 600 detained

      Widespread violations of civil liberties in US dragnet

      By Kate Randall

      6 October 2001


      Since the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the
      Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Federal Bureau of
      Investigation (FBI) have detained or arrested 580 people in connection
      with the Justice Departments investigation of the September 11 events.
      More than 350 of these individuals remain in custody as a result of the
      most extensive dragnet in US criminal history.

      Although the Justice Department is releasing little information about the
      individuals being held, none of them has been publicly charged in
      connection with the terror attacks. FBI Director Robert Mueller told the
      press that about half of those being detained are in INS custody for
      immigration violations, such as expired visas or false identification. The
      rest are in either state or federal law enforcement custody as material
      witnesses, or have been charged with a variety of unrelated criminal

      The declaration of a national emergency by President Bush following the
      terror attacks has enabled the government to detain indefinitely many of
      those who have been rounded up. This week Congress moved closer to passage
      of anti-terrorism legislation that will provide sweeping new powers to the
      government and law enforcement agencies. In the name of waging a war on
      terrorism, the bill poses grave threats to democratic rights, including
      provisions allowing for the indefinite detention of non-citizens, erosion
      of protections against illegal search and seizure, and loosening of
      restrictions on government wiretapping and other electronic surveillance.

      The stories of some of those picked up by the government since September
      11 paint a chilling picture of an investigation that has trampled on the
      civil liberties of people shown to have no connection to the hijacking
      attacks. The majority of the detainees are of Middle Eastern descent. Some
      have been taken into custody because they lived in the same apartment
      buildings as the hijackers. Some have phone numbers or names similar to
      those found in the personal belongings of the suspected terrorists. Many
      were found to have minor legal or visa problems when stopped and
      questioned by federal agents.

      Surveillance warrants approved by secret court

      Many of the requests for surveillance by the FBI, the CIA and the National
      Security Agency of suspected terrorists and spies are being processed by a
      secret court created in 1978 under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
      Act (FISA). The FISA court is a seven-member body appointed by the US
      Supreme Court, which meets every other week for two days in a soundproof
      conference room at the Justice Department. The Court approves secret
      intelligence-gathering warrants at the request of these law enforcement
      agencies, and uses a lower criterion for approval than the probable cause
      standard applied in other criminal matters. The target of the requested
      warrant is not represented at the courts hearings. It has not been made
      public how many secret warrants the FISA court has issued since September

      Tremendous secrecy surrounds the legal proceedings involving those picked
      up by the government in the investigation. In some cases, detainees own
      lawyers have been left in the dark about the questioning of their clients
      or the charges against them. New York criminal defense lawyer Gerald
      Lefcourt told the Wall Street Journal, Not since World War II and the
      internment of the Japanesewhich we have conceded was illegalhave we picked
      up so many people and held them on secret evidence. We dont know why some
      are released and some are detained. Under US law, INS agents do not need a
      warrant to arrest non-citizens, and immigration courts are not required to
      provide lawyers for suspects who cant afford them.

      Dr. Al Badr Al Hazmi, a Saudi Arabian radiologist, was one of those
      rounded up and detained in the governments investigation. Federal agents
      armed with search warrants banged on the door of his San Antonio home at
      5:00 a.m. on September 12. Dr. Al Hazmi was taken into custody on alleged
      immigration violations and flown to New York, where he was held in a
      prison in downtown Manhattan for 14 days. He has since been officially
      cleared as a suspect in the terrorist attacks, but his attorney, Sean
      OShea, told the Journal that he was not at liberty to disclose what
      happened to Al Hazmi because of a federal court order to that effect.

      Ali Maqtari, a 50-year old Pakistani immigrant, was also taken into
      custody for questioning on September 12. Maqtari, a French teacher from
      New Haven Connecticut, was driving his American-born wife to basic
      training at a US Army base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Tiffinay Nicole
      Maqtari was wearing a veil, having adopted her husbands Muslim traditions.
      When the couple arrived at her new barracks, Army officers and agents from
      the FBI and INS took Mr. Maqtari in for questioning.

      Ali Maqtaris attorney Michael Boyle told the Washington Post that the
      agents subsequently informed his client that there was no evidence
      connecting him to the September 11 attacks. But he is still being held on
      a $50,000 bond in a Tennessee jail on immigration violations. Its scary to
      me that this list of people theyve picked up included people like him,
      Boyle told the Post. I cant imagine how hes at all relevant to the

      According to another report in the Post, the FBI carried out a raid in the
      early morning hours of September 26 on the Metuchen, New Jersey home of
      Syed Asif, a 50-year-old Pakistani immigrant. Federal agents had
      reportedly received a phone tip that, following the September 11 attacks,
      one of Asifs neighbors had been dancing and celebrating at the gas station
      next door to the rooming house where Asif lived. Jagdis Deol, the owner of
      the both the gas station and the rooming house, denied the report when
      local police came by the station several days later.

      At around 5:45 a.m. on September 26, FBI agents beat down the doors of the
      rooming house. Their guns drawn, they ordered everyone onto the floor.
      Syed Asif said he and several other men were handcuffed while the agents
      rifled through their belongings. They were then taken to local police
      headquarters where the FBI agents inspected their identification
      documents. After it was determined that Asif was a naturalized American
      citizen, the agents removed his handcuffs. They asked him to translate as
      they questioned his neighbor, who confessed to having a false New Jersey
      license. Although they were all subsequently released, Asif said he does
      not know what has become of his neighbor who worked at the gas station.

      Many people have been interrogated or detained although there is no
      credible reason to connect them to the suspected hijackers. Brothers Anwar
      and Aman Montaser, US citizens of Yemeni descent, were questioned by FBI
      agents in New York City. They were not detained following their
      interrogation, but were fired soon thereafter by the Brooklyn public
      schools where they worked as custodians.

      Raid Abdelkarin is a physician who lives in Los Angeles. He was born in
      Santa Monica, California to Palestinian parents, and has written many
      newspaper opinion pieces criticizing US support for Israel. He was taken
      in for questioning by FBI agents, and his wife and boss were also later

      Abdelkarin said the agents began their interrogation by asking him about
      his political views. He told the Washington Post, I felt like I was in a
      B-movie, with this guy holding a folder marked SECRET. I started to say, I
      speak as an American, and like most American Muslims I was horrified by
      this, but they didnt want to hear that.

      Anti-terrorism legislation

      On Wednesday night, Senate Democrats and the Bush administration reached
      agreement on provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001. The legislation
      has been rushed through Congress, with the Democrats agreeing to most of
      the proposals of Attorney General John Ashcroft, with only minor
      revisions. The House and Senate are expected to pass separate versions of
      the bill next week, which must then be reconciled.

      In the days following the September 11 attacks, Ashcroft vigorously
      campaigned for the new legislation, declaring, Talk will not prevent
      terrorism. We need to have action by Congress. The attorney general cited
      the imminent threat of another terrorist attack in an effort to stampede
      passage of the bill. Jerry Berman, director of the Center for Democracy
      and Technology, commented, People are being told that if they do not sign
      onto this bill they will be blamed for the next terrorist act.

      In fact, many of the provisions of the new legislation are curbs on civil
      liberties and constitutional protections that were sought by both
      Republicans and Democrats long before the attacks on the World Trade
      Center and the Pentagon.

      In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Anti-Terrorism and
      Effective Death Penalty Act, which included a stepped-up deportation
      process for immigrants and allowed courts to use secret evidence in
      deportation hearings. It stopped short, however, of giving federal agents
      the right to use wiretaps that follow a person instead of a specific wired
      phone line, a provision that will be included in the new bill. The new
      legislation also broadens the authority of law enforcement agencies to
      seek not only the phone records of suspected terrorists, but also records
      of Internet connections, such as e-mail, and cellular phones.

      One section of the bill gives the government authority to seek judicial
      approval to conduct secret searches of suspects. With judicial approval,
      federal agents could search a persons property without giving notice for
      90 days, or even longer. This violates Fourth Amendment guarantees against
      unreasonable searches and seizures, including a requirement that the
      government obtain a warrant and inform a person of the search before it
      proceeds. This new legislation would apply to all criminal cases, not only
      those designated as terrorism investigations.

      The Bush administrations version of the bill would have permitted the
      indefinite jailing of non-citizens suspected of terrorist offenses. The
      compromise bill reached in the Senate limits the detention of such
      suspects to seven days, after which they would have to be charged or
      released. They could still be held longer, however, under certain narrow
      circumstances, according to Senate sources.

      The bill would also allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to
      share wiretap and grand jury information without receiving a court order.
      The Bush administration had also sought to relax legal standards covering
      wiretaps in intelligence-gathering cases.

      Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, looser standards have
      been applied in cases where intelligence gathering is the primary purpose.
      Ashcroft had wanted these standards to apply when intelligence is simply a
      purpose. Senate Democrats compromised on this by saying the less
      restricted standards could be used when intelligence gathering constitutes
      a significant purpose in a case.

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      "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was
      not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not
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      me, and there was no one left to speak for me." - Pastor Martin Niemoller
      regarding the Nazi reign.
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