Saturday, June 7, 2003

DOJ Inspector General Criticizes DOJ for Treatment of Immigrant Detainees

Courtesy of EPIC Alert 10.10.

[3] Inspector General Criticizes DOJ on September 11 Detainees

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice has released a
198-page report examining the treatment of people who were held on
immigration charges in connection with the investigation of the
September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The report details how the
Justice Department used federal immigration laws to detain 762
persons, mostly of Arab or South Asian origin, who were suspected of
having ties to the attacks or connections to terrorism, or who were
simply encountered during the course of the FBI's inquiry into the
attacks. The report highlights serious problems with the round-up and
treatment of the 762 detainees, including arbitrary detentions,
prolonged detentions, restrictive detention conditions, and in some
instances physical and verbal abuse. The Office of Inspector General
is an independent internal investigation unit within the Justice

The report, instigated by media reports and reports from human rights
organizations, paints a picture of chaos immediately following the
attacks, followed by a long period of negligence that left detainees
in administrative limbo. Only after details of the abusive treatment
emerged in the press did the Department begin to process the detainees
more quickly in January 2002. DOJ has not apologized for its actions,
but instead has taken the position that the crisis atmosphere
immediately after September 11, and the fact that all the persons
detained were in technical violation of immigration laws, makes it
"unfair to criticize the conduct" of Department officials. The
Department spokesperson said that, "We make no apologies for finding
every legal way possible to protect the American public from further
terrorist attacks." EPIC and a coalition of public interest groups is
litigating under the Freedom of Information Act to require disclosure
of the names of the detainees; the case is now pending before the D.C.
Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the report, the Justice Department instituted a "no bond"
policy for all detainees connected to the terrorism probe after the
attacks -- even though immigration officials quickly questioned the
policy's legality. Without bail, terrorism suspects remained in jail
for an average of nearly three months, much longer than the FBI
projected before it cleared most of them for release, the report said.
In addition, detainees faced monumental difficulties and weeks of
delay before they were allowed to make phone calls and find lawyers.
Some were kept for months in cells illuminated 24 hours a day and were
escorted in handcuffs, leg irons and waist chains. Most of the
detainees were eventually found to have no connection to the terrorist

The September 11 Detainees Report, Office of Inspector General:

CNSS/EPIC v. Department of Justice (detainee FOIA case):

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for focusing attention on the plight of these detainees.
    At my blog, I have an update on the situation of a Pakistani immigrant named Ansar Mahmood -- a pizza delivery man in Hudson, NY, who has been detained for over two years despite being cleared of any terrorism-related activities.
    Despite calls from a wide range of sources to release Ansar (from Michael Moore and AlterNet to the LA Times and Washington Post, his detention status has not changed; indeed, he now faces the strong possibility of deportation.
    Go to this URL:
    Or cllick my name. Thanks and please spread the word.