USA government tramples on civil rights again 

USA government tramples on civil rights again

The USA government is screwing democracy even within their own country.


Court Nixes Appeal on Sept. 11 Detentions

January 12, 2004 05:13 PM EST

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday it would not second-guess the
government's holding in secret hundreds of foreigners after the Sept. 11 attacks.

None of the more than 700 illegal immigrants was charged as a terrorist, and the
Justice Department's inspector general concluded last year that the government had
trampled on a law stipulating such detentions be limited to 90 days.

The high court turned down a request to review the secrecy surrounding the
detainees, nearly all Arabs or Muslims, who were picked up in the United States
following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most were
eventually deported for immigration violations. The government refused to disclose
whom it held and why.

The court's action, taken without comment, was a victory for the Bush
administration. Civil liberties and media organizations had sought access to the
names and other basic information about the detainees.

A federal appeals court had sided with the administration and its argument that
knowing the names or details of the arrests would give terrorists a window on the
post-Sept. 11 terror investigation. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court
allowed that ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to

"Until some other court says otherwise, the government can continue the policy of
secret arrests that seems fundamentally inconsistent with basic American values, and
that we know in this case led to a series of abuses," said Steven Shapiro, national
legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had urged the court to
hear the case.

The audit by the Justice Department's inspector general found significant problems
with the detentions, including allegations of physical abuse by jail guards at a
facility in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The report, released in June, found that many of the 762 illegal aliens were held
until cleared by the FBI of any terrorism connections. Sometimes the process took
many months despite the law requiring that most aliens be deported or released
within 90 days.

A follow-up analysis last week cited progress in centralizing vital terrorist
information databases so that authorities can more quickly assess who might be a
threat, but warned the job is not done. The government has said that improvements
since the Sept. 11 attacks make it easier for government agencies to share
information about foreigners in the country.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment Monday.

Lawyers for the ACLU and other civil liberties groups argued the government grabbed
people on thin suspicion, then moved to deport detainees who had no demonstrated
link to terrorism but who had violated civil immigration laws.

The government sealed immigration records and omitted detainees' names from jail
rosters, among other tactics, to make sure details of hundreds of arrests remained
secret, the lawyers said.

The appeal raised constitutional questions under the First Amendment right to
freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and legal questions under the federal
Freedom of Information Act.

Twenty-three news organizations and media groups, including The Associated Press,
joined in asking the high court to hear the case.

Last week, the high court disappointed the administration by agreeing to hear a
broader anti-terrorism case that asks whether the government can indefinitely jail
American citizens as "enemy combatants" without giving them access to lawyers or the
courts. The Bush administration had argued strongly that it has authority to hold
Yaser Esam Hamdi without charges.

The Hamdi case and another testing the legal rights of foreigners detained
indefinitely at the Navy's prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, draw the court
squarely into the debate over security and liberty after the terrorist attacks.

The justices earlier had rejected several cases that raised more oblique questions
about the government's response to the terror threat. One involved an issue similar
to Monday's secrecy case. It asked whether the government could keep reporters and
the public away from closed-door deportation hearings.

"In any ongoing law enforcement investigation, requiring the police to open their
investigative files and provide a comprehensive list of the persons interviewed and
detained - and by the same token to reveal which persons they have not interviewed
and detained - would necessarily interfere with the investigation by providing a
roadmap of law enforcement's activities, strategies and methods," Solicitor General
Theodore Olson argued in the latest detainee secrecy case.

The case is Center for National Security Studies v. Justice Department, 03-472.


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