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2004-01-13

Supreme Court Upholds U.S. Policy of Secret Arrests & Detentions

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Without comment the Supreme Court decided not to review a lower court ruling that backed up the Bush administration’s post 9/11 policy in which hundreds of Muslim men were secretly picked up and detained. [includes transcript]

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a federal court ruling that allows for the government to secretly arrest and detain people inside the United States.

Without comment the court decided not to review the lower court’s ruling that backed up the Bush administration post 9/11 actions in which hundreds of Muslim men were secretly picked up and detained. The Justice Department refused to release the names of the detainees or their charges claiming the release of information could jeopardize national security. Most of the men caught in the sweep have long since been deported on immigration violations.

This comes after the Supreme Court decided to hear appeals in cases involving detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the detention of so-called enemy combatants.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said he was pleased that the court let stand a decision that "clearly outlined the danger of giving terrorists a virtual road map to our investigation."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday we spoke with someone not so pleased with the decision Kate Martin, Director of the Center for National Security Studies. I asked her her response.

KATE MARTIN: The justice department rounded up 1,000 people because they were Arabs or Muslims, and arrested them in secret. Jailed them without charges. Kept them incommunicado and now we discovered as we suspected and feared all along that they were beaten up when they were in prison. None of these people, or at the most, a mere handful of them had anything to do with terrorism.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are these people, how many are they?

KATE MARTIN: We don’t know exactly how many they are. There are at least 800. There may be more. Most of them were foreign nationals. A few of them were citizens. The vast majority of them were Arabs and Muslims. But what people misunderstand is that there — since specifically the justice department has identified and arrested some individual terrorists suspects. All of those people have been publicly identified by the government. Usually the Justice Department calls a press conference and says — or Ashcroft does and says, oh, we have arrested so and so. And here’s what we are charging him with or not charging him with, and here’s the evidence against him. Only in the instance of these people have they said, oh, we cannot tell you anything about them. And what we know now — which we gathered from a piece of information here or there, and through the inspector general at the Justice Department is that they had nothing on them. And in fact, in our case, the Justice Department was forced to submit affidavits under oath outlining why they had arrested and jailed these people. And the affidavits are very carefully written to say — we came across their names in the course of this, you know, kind of panic that followed. Understandable panic that followed September 11. We discovered that they might have immigration violations. And that’s why they were arrested, then we went back to the court and said, there’s nothing in here about suspecting that these people have terrorist links. The government never put in an affidavit saying that there were links between these individuals and terrorism. Even though the justice — even though the Attorney General in his public speeches gives that impression over an over again. When they’re forced to answer under oath, they never say that.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, additionally, Justices will consider whether the so-called enemy combatants who are also U.S. citizens deserve to have their appeals heard by federal courts. Can you explain that ruling?

KATE MARTIN: Yes. Well, you know, that’s a different case. Of course, that’s — the case are now two U.S. citizens whom the government has held, as, quote, 'enemy combatants' but without charges, held them in commune cad dough and without access to a lawyer. In those cases, the government identified the individuals. And in one of those cases, the guy who was picked up in the Chicago airport, the court of apiece in the second circuit said this is unconstitutional. They say it was barred by an act of congress. You cannot hold a citizen without giving him access to a lawyer and charging him with a crime. And the — two cases, the supreme court has agreed to take one and it is expected to take the second as well.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you contrast the two cases?

KATE MARTIN: Well, it’s interesting. They’re quite different cases. On the one hand, you have two individuals who are charged by the government with being associated with Al Qaeda. And they have been denied all process whatsoever, but at least we know that they were picked up. At least we know where they have been held, and at least we have some statement from the government about here’s our claimed legal basis for holding them, and here is the facts about why we are holding them, even though so far we have had no judicial process looking at that. In the case of the detainees whose names are secret who have been in court, and in our case what we — what appears to be true about them is they have nothing to do with terrorism, and the government never thought they had anything to do with terrorism, and they are innocent people who — many of whom it appears had jobs and families in the United States who were literally seized off the street, thrown in jail without any lawyers, without any court hearing, and then deported. Because they were Arabs or Muslims. And the government it — it’s interesting, because in this case, the government doesn’t make any legal argument, that it had the right to do what I have just described. Rather, they basically claimed — what they never — that they never did it. They, for example, claimed, oh, they weren’t arrested in secret, even though the inspector general then said, what do you mean, they’re — there was a policy to told them incommunicado. But you have this terrible situation where what they — what the government did was so lawless in a way that they didn’t go to court and defend it on its merits, but some people, basically first said, you have to defer to us and not look at what we have done, and then told the court of appeals, kind of implied to the court of apiece that — appeals that there was some real problem here and that the — and there — but nobody’s rights had been violated because everyone who had been jailed was free to talk, which was not true.

AMY GOODMAN: Has this ever happened before this level of roundup of — at least hundreds upon hundreds of immigrants without knowing their names?

KATE MARTIN: As far as we can discover, there’s never been secret arrests in the United States. I mean, it is clear that there is a history and tradition of public arrests in the united states. You know, the Palmer Raids are the closest you get to a roundup of immigrants in the early —

AMY GOODMAN: Kate Martin, Director of the Center for National Secured Studies, speaking to us yesterday about the decision of the Supreme Court to let stand a Federal Court ruling that allows the government to secretly arrest and detain people inside the United States.

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