Monday, June 27, 2005

Get some perspective

The BBC today hypes up a story covered by The New York Times this weekend, about several dozen Muslims who were held by the US in the weeks following 9/11 under the material witness law.

The US indefinitely detained some 70 Muslim men after the 11 September attacks on baseless accusations of terrorist links, US rights bodies say.

The US Justice Department held the men under a federal law as witnesses likely to flee, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union say.

The actual HRW report can be found here.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy puts the hysteria of HRW and the ACLU, and that of their cooperative sponsors in the media, into perspective. A snippet:

So here is the problem: You identify a large number of people who, at a minimum, have information that might be vital to protecting against terrorist attacks, and who might in fact be terrorists or at least facilitators. It is very early in your investigation, so you do not have sufficient evidence to charge them with a crime or to say conclusively either that they are not dangerous or that they will willingly tell you what they know rather than flee. What do you do? It would be irresponsible to do nothing, but you also can't watch people 24/7. There aren't anywhere close to enough agents for that — and when they even try to shadow people, the ACLU and HRW can always be relied on to thunder, through their mouthpiece, the New York Times, that the civil rights of uncharged innocents are under attack, that the Constitution is in tatters, that John Ashcroft is poised to pounce on their local library, etc.

Well, the law does not require you to do nothing. It permits the government to detain people for a brief time in order to compel their information, either in the grand jury or in other court proceedings.

Contrary to what you might think from the latest spate of "coverage," the government may not sweep innocent people up and hold them in secret. While grand-jury proceedings are supposed to be kept secret from the Times, they are not kept secret from the court. A prosecutor has to go to court and get a material-witness arrest warrant. This means the arrest does not happen unless the government satisfies a federal judge (you know, those public officials from whom the ACLU says the Patriot Act needs more supervision) that there is a reasonable basis to believe that (a) the person at issue has information that would be important to an ongoing investigation, and (b) the person might flee without providing that information to the grand jury or the court (as all Americans are obligated by law to do) unless the person is detained until his testimony can be secured.

Read the whole thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You work for the CIA, don't you? You talk like a spin doctor. How much do you receive to do that? Is it worth it? Can you sleep at night? Really? Hmmmm....

10:24 PM  

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