The Militant (logo) 
   Vol.66/No.25            June 24, 2002 
lead article
U.S. gov’t begins jailing
citizens without charges
First fruits of ‘preemptive action’
at home and abroad
The U.S. government has begun to jail citizens without charges. This was revealed when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced June 10 that Abdullah al-Muhajir had been held since May 8, first in a high-security prison in New York, and then transferred to a military jail in Charleston, South Carolina.

In a sensationalist press conference from Moscow, the Justice Department head claimed Washington had captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States. Officials later admitted al-Muhajir had neither a plan nor materials to make a weapon of any sort and that they think he discussed a vague proposal with leaders of al Qaeda.

Donna Newman, the lawyer for al-Muhajir, filed a writ of habeas corpus with a federal judge in Manhattan, seeking an order for authorities to produce her client in court so arguments can be made before a judge on the legality of his detention.

"My client is a citizen," the lawyer said after the hearing. "He still has constitutional rights, the right to counsel, the right to be charged by a grand jury. And he has not been charged."

Washington has also kept Yasser Esam Hamdi in prison and fought attempts by the Virginia federal public defenders’ office to have a lawyer meet with him. Hamdi is a prisoner from Afghanistan who was put in a cage at the illegally-occupied U.S. base in Guantánamo, Cuba, along with 300 other men. He repeatedly explained he was a U.S. citizen because he was born in the United States, and was finally transferred to a military base in Norfolk, Virginia. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asserted April 15 that the government "has every right" to hold Hamdi without charges.

The jailing without charges of U.S. citizens is the first fruit of a policy speech presented by U.S. president George Bush June 1 at the West Point military academy graduation exercise.

Bush said that "homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they’re essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge."

Blurring the line between actions abroad and at home, Bush said, "Our security will require the best intelligence to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they’re prepared to act, and act quickly, against be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."

Six days later the president announced a proposal to reorganize sections of the federal government in order to create a Department of Homeland Security. The department would have under its command the police forces and armed federal units of the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Secret Service. Bush proposed creating a division to analyze information collected by the FBI, CIA, and other government spy agencies.

"This new department will review intelligence and law enforcement information from all agencies of the government," Bush said. "Analysts will be responsible for imagining the worst and planning to counter it."

The Bush administration announcement won wide bipartisan support. Similar plans were well underway in Congress, such as a decision a month ago by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Democratic senator Joseph Lieberman, to create a Homeland Security Department. Sen. Robert Byrd from West Virginia, a prominent Democrat, said in response to the proposal, "It is about time, and I hope that it is not too late."

Some Congressional leaders urged approval of deeper connections between the proposed department and the CIA and FBI. "We may have to pull those agencies more fully into the structure than was proposed," House majority leader Richard Armey said.

The new department is to be cabinet level, and is slated to have a budget of $37 billion and employ nearly 170,000 people.

The Bush administration’s bipartisan course of waging more wars abroad, further steps toward militarization of the United States, and establishing repressive measures initially targeting immigrants and ultimately all workers is being built on the groundwork prepared by the Clinton administration. During the years the liberal was in office he engineered an increase of 100,000 more cops on the streets, while the U.S. prison population doubled to 2 million inmates.

During those years the U.S. ruling class escalated its assaults on immigrant workers, with the INS, now the largest federal cop agency, deploying some 15,000 armed agents, and stepping up factory raids and deportations to record numbers.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, both of which Clinton signed into law in 1996, expanded the powers of the INS to seize and deport undocumented immigrants without the right to judicial review or appeal. The laws authorized the INS to jail noncitizens based on "secret evidence" without bail in detention centers.

In early 1999 Clinton called for spending $2.8 billion to establish a domestic military command.

Federal officials say they arrested Abdullah al-Muhajir as he arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on a flight from Zurich. Thirty-one years old, his former name was José Padilla, a Puerto Rican who lived in Chicago. He has been held under a sealed material witness warrant, a favorite tactic used by the government since September 11 to keep people indefinitely in prison.

Federal officials took the man to New York and locked him up in a high-security prison in Manhattan, where he was shackled on trips back and forth to court and not allowed to see his family.

Al-Muhajir was transferred to another high-security facility, this time on a military base in South Carolina, after a federal judge ruled in New York in a separate case that the material witness law cannot be used to hold people indefinitely in criminal investigations.

Press reports say that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, speaking from Doha, Qatar, said the administration is "not interested in trying him at this moment," adding they wanted to continue questioning him instead.

The New York Times had the following to add: "Justice Department officials concluded they could not bring a winnable court prosecution, largely because evidence against him was derived from intelligence sources and other witnesses the government cannot or does not want to produce in court."

"One law enforcement official cautioned that no specific target city or mode of carrying out the bombing had been determined. The official said it was not clear whether Al Qaeda leaders had fully embraced Mr. Padilla or the plan, which he had proposed to them. There is no indication he had the means to do it or was given the authority to do it."
Related article:
Washington’s preemptive actions
U.S. govt to fingerprint ‘security risk’ visitors
Other cases of illegal detention by U.S. gov’t  
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