US report criticises 9/11 detentions

A US government report released on Monday said that foreigners detained following the 11 September attacks were held for too long without being charged and subjected to “unduly harsh” confinement conditions.

    FBI failed to distinguish between
    wanted suspects and others who
    were illegal immigrants

    The report criticised the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for failing to distinguish between foreigners who were suspects in the investigations into the 11 September attacks and 762 people detained for immigration violations.

    “The FBI should have taken more care to distinguish between aliens who it actually suspected of having a connection to terrorism from those aliens who, while possibly guilty of violating federal immigration law, had no connection to terrorism,” the report said.

     

    The report was prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, who focussed on detainees held in Brooklyn, New York, and Paterson, New Jersey.

     

    The report said immigration authorities did not inform the detainees of the charges against them within normal specified timeframes. This limited immigrants' ability to obtain lawyers.

     

    The report criticised the failure of the FBI to complete the detainee clearance process. It also blamed the Justice Department for not reviewing the cases and keeping only those suspects who had a connection to what US authorities consider “terrorism”.

     

    The report also cited examples of “unduly harsh” conditions. In a Brooklyn prison, immediately after 11 September, authorities imposed a communications blackout of several weeks duration on detainees.

     

    Some detainees were locked up with their cell lights kept on 24 hours.


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


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