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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] AFTER: HOW AMERICA CONFRONTED THE SEPTEMBER 12 ERA Steven Brill, Salon.com, 3/31/03 http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2003/03/31/brillexcerpt1/index.html (Access to this story is available on the Salon.com site with a one-day free pass.) In an excerpt from a riveting new book about post-9/11 America, GOP strongman Tom DeLay and corporate lobbyists toast their legislative clout, while John Ashcroft's men get rough with Muslim immigrants... The perspective the group started with was simple. The 19 men who had hijacked the planes could not be the only ones who were living in America quietly waiting to attack. There could be hundreds, even thousands, of others, and their job was to find them. The obvious target was young Muslim men, plain and simple. But they had no informants, really no contact at all, in those communities. So they had to use what they had to check as many of the target population as they could, as fast as they could. Again, the first goal wasn't to prosecute them but to prevent them, which meant that violating the kinds of rules pertaining to searches and interrogation that would get evidence thrown out of court wasn't that important. There were three ways Muslim men could be identified and checked out: First, if a Muslim name popped up in any context associated with the hijackers, they were immediately sought out. For example, if an Arab name was found in a list of students at one of the hijacker's flight training schools, he would be tracked down. Even having gone to the same state motor vehicle office to obtain a license was connection enough. The second category of people was those who came to the FBI's attention because citizens (such as Jaffri's landlord in the Bronx), or state or local police officials, notified the bureau about them. For example, a Missouri man with a Muslim name who had been arrested for outstanding traffic violations was turned over to the FBI in Kansas City when the police noticed that he had a lot of checks in his wallet. Their investigation produced an arrest for writing checks with insufficient funds in his account, a federal crime but one not typically resulting in arrests, let alone prolonged detention. The third category was just plain names. FBI offices, aided initially by INS and sometimes even local police, who were not busy questioning people in the first two categories, were told to check names in their areas from among the hundreds of thousands provided by the INS of Muslims who had come into the country in the last few years. When these proved mostly useless because INS records are almost always inaccurate or incomplete, they were even told to look in the phone book. How these people were treated depended on who was questioning them (some FBI offices had more polite agents than others, though the FBI was generally more respectful than the INS agents), and, more so, on how tenuous or direct their connection to the terrorists might have seemed. A professor at a college in Indiana, who thinks his name was simply picked from the phone book, says the agents who questioned him four times were polite and respectful and even seemed embarrassed at the job they'd been given. People like the professor who seemed to check out after being questioned would be left alone; there was little the feds could do to hold them anyway. But Ashcroft and his small group of deputies carefully mapped out how they could exert maximum pressure on everyone else -- which meant all noncitizens and any citizens who seemed the least bit suspicious. If they were not citizens, the FBI and INS would look for something that they had done wrong in terms of their immigration status. Had they taken jobs, even though they had tourist visas? Had they overstayed their visas? Such violations usually were easy to find, especially since INS's enforcement of these conditions over the years had been almost nonexistent. They would then be detained for immigration violations, if one could be found, and questioned repeatedly. It didn't matter if the violations were minor transgressions for which immigrants of other nationalities are rarely, if ever, held. Ostensibly, they were being held pending a hearing in which the government would move to deport them for the visa violation. But Chertoff had figured out that these hearings could not only be done in secret, but could also be delayed, and that even after the hearings were held and they were ordered deported, there was nothing in the law that said they absolutely had to be deported immediately. They could be held still longer, until the FBI decided they were of no use. Better yet, because immigration detentions are civil, not criminal proceedings, these people were not entitled to free lawyers. They could hire one if they could afford it, which was not often. Under INS rules, they were entitled to call a lawyer from jail, but the lists the INS provided of available lawyers invariably had phone numbers that were not in service. This was discussed at one of the Ashcroft meetings, and, according to one person who says he was there, someone in the room remarked that the government should not try too hard to make sure these people could get lawyers on the phone. "Let's not make it so they can get Johnnie Cochran on the phone," another lawyer added, according to one of the participants, referring to O. J. Simpson's famed defense lawyer. (Ashcroft says he does not remember this conversation or any reference to Johnnie Cochran, and that he had directed that all detainees be made aware of lawyers who could assist them.) The Justice officials were sure to a certainty that at least some of the men they were holding or were about to hold were people bent on killing more Americans if allowed to, or at least knew of people who were planning to do that. According to two people who attended these meetings, and to INS Commissioner James Ziglar, Chertoff was put in charge of all INS detentions. He and his deputies would make all decisions on who was released and even who was held in solitary. This was unprecedented; Chertoff is the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and INS detention proceedings were civil, not criminal, tribunals, held in front of INS judges. As for the detention conditions, no one at INS would be ordered in so many words to treat the inmates harshly. But the word would go out that these were suspected terrorists, or people who knew who the terrorists were -- and they needed to be encouraged in any way possible to cooperate. If the targets were citizens, or their immigration papers were in order, they would be held for minor crimes, such as lying to a federal agent or having fraudulent identification documents. The feds would then offer leniency, or threaten to throw the book at them, depending on how much information about terrorists they provided. In other cases, where not even minor crimes could be established, or where the government was worried that these people were so important that they did not want them to get lawyers quickly (as they would be entitled to if charged with any crime), the targets were held as material witnesses. The government can hold someone as a material witness if prosecutors claim to a judge that the person might have vital evidence in an investigation but might flee before being put before a jury or a grand jury to testify. The new twist Ashcroft's team now decided to add was that they would control when, if ever, that person might be asked to testify -- meaning they would seek to hold the person indefinitely so as to coerce him to talk. Chertoff reasoned that while they were being held they would be discouraged from calling lawyers, and could be questioned without lawyers present because they were not being charged with any crime. The advantage of using this newly expanded material witness classification was that the feds didn't have to prove anything criminal about the person being held, but only that he might have material information about an investigation. And as a practical matter it, too, could be done in secret because these material witnesses were meant to testify before grand juries, and all grand jury proceedings, including any hearings involving the status of a witness, are, by law, required to be secret. With a grand jury in New York empaneled for the foreseeable future to investigate the attacks and any plots for new attacks, these material witnesses could be held indefinitely, Ashcroft and his small team reasoned. The FBI, though, was another issue. FBI Director Robert Mueller was not comfortable with a dragnet that simply held people on the hope that some might know something simply because they were Muslim men. He didn't quite put it that way to Ashcroft, but he did say on several occasions that his agents were not used to going after people about whom they had no real evidence of criminal conduct. To which Ashcroft replied that that was precisely the point he had been making about how the world had changed -- how their job now was to prevent new crimes more than solve old ones. And the way to do that, Ashcroft literally said during one meeting at the FBI operations center, was to round up anyone who fit the profile. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk