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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Detaining American Citizens Under False Pretenses

Today’s Washington Post features an editorial urging the Supreme Court to side with the former Attorney General in the case of Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd. Abdullah al-Kidd, a natural-born American citizen, was detained for more than two weeks under false pretenses as a “material witness,” without access to legal counsel. He was never charged with a crime, or called to testify as a witness against anyone else.

The Post and others have said that Ashcroft was justified in ordering the detention of an American citizen under a “material witness” warrant, and then holding and interrogating him for more than two weeks without counsel.

Here's how the government treated this "material witness:"
  • Mr. Kidd was detained as a "witness" in a case a month after the indictment was issued, and a full year before the trial was to begin.
  • He was released from detention long before the trial began, and was never called as a witness.
  • During his detention, he was repeatedly strip-searched, interrogated, and kept in a lighted cell to interfere with his sleep.
  • During his previous -- cooperative -- interviews with the FBI, Mr. Kidd was never asked or told to be available as a witness.
It's hard to see how the Washington Post could examine those facts and come to any conclusion other than the one reached by Mr. Kidd: that the government never intended to use him as a witness, and so detained him under false pretenses.

For more on this case, see AFJ’s analysis here.

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