Ashcroft under steady criticism
The report says that some foreigners were confined for months although they had no connection to what US authorities call “terrorism”, the Washington Post quoted Justice officials as saying.

The reason for their long confinement was the slow pace in exchanging information between the immigration service and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Justice and FBI officials said.

According to the report, 54 of the 762 detainees were kept in confinement for more than 90 days, despite objections from officials in the former Immigration and Naturalisation Service that they should be set free.

At least 130 detainees, most of who come from Muslim countries, had no access to lawyers.

The report was prepared by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine.

The Justice Department and Attorney General John Ashcroft were repeatedly criticized by civil liberties groups, Arab American organizations, and some lawmakers for detaining hundreds of immigrants after the September 11 attacks.

Executive director of the American Civil Liberties Unions Anthony Romero, said that “the inspector general report shows that the war on terror quickly turned into a war on immigrants”.

"Government officials were implementing policies targeting immigrants who have no connection to the terrorist attacks, and their policies did not make the country any safer," Romero said.

Justice Department officials declined to comment on the issue.