June 4, 2003
Joint Letter to House Judiciary Committee on Secret Detentions
June 4, 2003
Dear Members of the Committee:
As you know, the Justice Department Inspector General issued a report on June 2 describing widespread and systematic violations of the rights of those detained on immigration charges after September 11. In preparing that report, the IG looked at 119 of the more than 760 cases of special interest INS detainees, and interviewed 32 detainees and seven of their lawyers. He found that many were classified as September 11 detainees “regardless of the factual circumstances of the aliens’ arrest or the absence of evidence connecting them to the September 11 attacks or terrorism,” (report at 186) and as a consequence, were held in harsh conditions for long periods.
As you also know, the Attorney General has imposed an unprecedented regime of secrecy concerning these detentions. Even twenty months after the arrests, the Justice Department continues to refuse to release the names of the detainees and has appealed a U.S. District Court decision ordering such release. The Attorney General also mandated secret immigration hearings for all the detainees. At the same time, he regularly assured the Congress and the American people that the Department was acting within the bounds the law.
It is time for the Justice Department to end its regime of secrecy, which only serves to block Congressional and public scrutiny of the kinds of abuses found by the IG. The Attorney General is scheduled to appear before your committee on Thursday, June 5. We urge you to demand that he release the names of those who have been detained and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that this policy of unwarranted secrecy will not be repeated.
Thank you for your consideration.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Civil Liberties Union
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Amnesty International USA
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for National Security Studies
First Amendment Foundation
Human Rights Watch
The Multiracial Activist
National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
National Black Police Association
National Coalition Against Repressive Legislation
National Council of La Raza
Open Society Policy Center
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
World Organization Against Torture USA