The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]


from Viet Nam Veterans Against the War. best, f. McCarthy was a sweet lil'
old softie.

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post
February 8, 2002

Federal agents will soon begin apprehending and interrogating thousands of
illegal Middle Eastern immigrants who have ignored deportation orders,
seeking ways to prosecute any who have ties to terrorism and compiling the
results of interviews in a new computer database, according to a Justice
Department memo.

The Jan. 25 memo instructs federal agents to find methods of detaining some
of the immigrants for possible criminal charges, rather than merely
them from the United States as previously planned.

The tactics are part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's efforts
to locate an estimated 314,000 foreign nationals, known as "absconders," who
have ignored court orders to leave the country. Justice Department and FBI
officials have said that the operation would focus first on about 6,000
immigrants from countries identified as al Qaeda strongholds, though the
majority of absconders are Latin American.

Yesterday, officials said the arrests will begin next week with a group of
fewer than 1,000 illegal immigrants, most from the Middle East and Pakistan,
who are believed to be the most dangerous because they are convicted felons.

The "Absconder Apprehension Initiative" is the latest example of the Justice
Department's wide-ranging efforts to thwart terrorism by increasing its
on domestic intelligence gathering. So far this campaign has involved, in
part, compiling information on foreign nationals living in the United States
both legally and illegally.

The internal department memo, sent to anti-terrorism officials by Deputy
Attorney General Larry Thompson and obtained by The Washington Post, shows
that the FBI and Justice Department have created a special computerized
reporting system that already includes information gathered from recent
interviews with thousands of Middle Eastern men who were invited to come
forth voluntarily. Results from the new round of interrogations will be
to the database.

U.S. officials are forming special "apprehension teams" that include agents
from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the INS, according to the memo.

Justice Department officials said it is logical to start the absconder
program by gathering information on people living here who may have ties to
Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, which has been blamed for the
Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

"We can't go after 314,000 people at a time, so it only makes sense to
prioritize them in a way that makes sense from a law enforcement
perspective," said one senior Justice Department official. "If we didn't do
this, then we should be criticized."

But the absconder program's initial focus on Middle Eastern nationals has
renewed complaints from Arab American and civil liberties groups that the
Bush administration is practicing racial profiling in its war on terrorism.

Khalil E. Jahshan, vice president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee here, said yesterday that information in the special terrorism
database could be used to unfairly smear the reputations of innocent

"This whole path the government is taking is clearly a case of racial
profiling," Jahshan said. "It's clearly a case of selective enforcement. . .
. These half-baked methods seem totally isolated from a whole tradition of
respect for civil liberties and civil rights in this country."

Unlike the recent round of interviews with thousands of foreign nationals
submitted voluntarily, the interrogations will focus on people who have
ignored orders to leave the United States and may have committed other
crimes, according to the memo. The first list will include many "who appear
to be convicted felons," Thompson said.

"While there are aspects of this Initiative that are similar to the
Project that was recently conducted by the [Anti-Terrorism Task Forces], I
want to make clear that this is a very different undertaking," Thompson
wrote. "Unlike the subjects of the Interview Project . . . these absconders
are to be apprehended and treated as criminal suspects, and they are to be
afforded all standard procedural rights and constitutional protections."

Each subject will be read Miranda rights before being questioned, according
to the memo. Investigators have also been instructed to point out monetary
rewards and special immigration breaks available to those who cooperate.

"Investigators conducting interviews should feel free to use all appropriate
means of encouraging absconders to cooperate, including reference to any
reward money that is being offered and reference to the availability of an
Visa'," Thompson wrote. Dubbed "snitch visas" by critics, S visas are
to immigrants who provide valuable information for criminal or terrorism

Although the general outlines of the initiative have been reported
previously, Thompson urged participants to keep the operation secret. "This
Initiative will not entail any official notice to either the public or the
absconders," he wrote. "It would be counterproductive, and potentially
dangerous, to provide the absconders with official warning that agents and
officers will be seeking to locate and capture them."

Immigrants with no links to terrorism will be swiftly deported through
INS procedures, according to the memo. But if the FBI decides that an
immigrant should be investigated further, federal prosecutors will seek to
charge the person with a felony for failing to depart the country as

U.S. attorneys offices also "should consider whether the absconder has
engaged in criminal conduct, aside from the immigration violation, during
stay in the country," the memo said.

Terri Allred
Seattle, WA 
This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]