June 4, 2003
The evidence is in, and the Justice Department is guilty.
Guilty of violating the due process rights of 762 immigrants, primarily Arab and Muslim ones, after September 11. Most have now been deported. Not one has been charged with terrorism.
A report by the Justice Department's own inspector general lays out the damning evidence.
The FBI made "little attempt" to distinguish between potential terrorists and immigrants picked up on minor technical violations who, under normal circumstances, would never have been nabbed. Some were detained because anonymous callers said "they were Muslims with erratic schedules."
One was held because a tipster told officials the immigrant had made "anti-American statements."
The Justice Department, by fiat, allowed itself to hold immigrants indefinitely without bond and without charging them with any crimes. This kind of detention violates the essence of our judicial system. Most were held for more than 50 days, and more than 300 were held for more than 100 days.
And even if an INS judge said they could go, the Justice Department held them longer under a novel policy of "hold until cleared"--cleared by John Ashcroft, that is.
They were not given easy access to attorneys.
Their families were often lied to about their whereabouts.
Many immigrants faced harsh conditions behind bars, including 23-hour lockdown. In New York, some officers allegedly would "slam inmates against walls before videotaping their statements," The New York Times reported. Other guards heaped verbal abuse on them.
As Anthony D. Romero, head of the ACLU put it, "The war on terror quickly turned into a war on immigrants."
And Aschroft was the general who commanded this illegal war.
He should be held responsible.