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Homeland Security

SLUG: 6-12958 CQ Justice / Detentions Report










INTRO: A highly critical Justice Department report about treatment of foreigners detained for immigration violations after the September 11th attacks in 2001 is drawing a large editorial response from the nation's press. We get a sampling now from V-O-A's ____________ with today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: A report by the Justice Department's inspector general -- the department's in-house watchdog -- found significant problems with the way more than 700 immigrants were detained after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The long-awaited report says they were subjected to "a pattern of physical and verbal abuse."

The report reinforces long-standing criticism of the detainee's treatment from civil rights and Islamic organizations. Editorials are highly critical of both the Justice Department and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has this to say:

VOICE: Repressive regimes, such as Nazi Germany or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, arrest people suspected of opposing the government and send them away with no notice to their families of their whereabouts. But in America, where the Constitution guarantees civil liberties, that couldn't happen, could it?

It did. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it . [happened] to hundreds of. men. mostly from Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Justice Department's unapologetic response . suggests that Attorney General John Ashcroft fails to appreciate the need for . safeguards.

TEXT: In San Diego, [California] The Union-Tribune agrees, commenting -- quote -- "The need for Attorney General . Ashcroft . to protect the American people was paramount. But the Justice Department failed to protect the alien detainees' rights." And in Minnesota, The Saint Paul Pioneer Press calls what happened "at once shocking and familiar."

VOICE: Racism, xenophobia and disregard for the rule of law recur as ugly motifs on the story ... of the American experience. The . investigation concluded that authorities trampled on the civil rights of hundreds of immigrants hauled into custody in the New York area . For the Justice Department to dismiss the conclusions . is an affront to all Americans.

TEXT: The San Francisco Chronicle says of the Justice Department's response to the report, it -- quote -- ". disappointingly, . [shows] little recognition or remorse about the flaws of its methods. " Missouri's Saint Louis Post-Dispatch quotes some of the starker points of the investigation.

VOICE: Many of the men were held in high security cells at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. For three weeks, they were trapped in a communications blackout, denied contact with family and lawyers. They spent 23 hours a day in cells, where lights were on day and night. [and] When moved . were put in leg irons with heavy chains.

TEXT: Tennessee's Memphis Commercial Appeal is clearly not satisfied with the Justice Department's response either.

VOICE: The . Department's . response to its own devastating findings was consistent with the end-justified-the-means posture Attorney General . Ashcroft has maintained since the September 11 attacks.

TEXT: Hawaii's Honolulu Advertiser sums ups its misgivings in these words: "Attorney General . Ashcroft seems to have no qualms about the harsh treatment . That's troubling because true justice must work as hard to protect the innocent as it does to punish the guilty." The Chicago Tribune reminds readers:

VOICE: A catastrophe on the order of September 11 doesn't follow any script. It stunned this nation [producing] . a sudden and overwhelming sense of vulnerability. . The debate about the debate between national security and due process will go on, all the more urgently under the cloud to terrorism. The inspector general's report is . valuable . to this process. The Justice Department can't dismiss it.

TEXT: In Iowa, The Des Moines Register calls the men's treatment "appalling," while in Kentucky, Louisville's Courier-Journal brands it "disgraceful." And with that we conclude this editorial sampling.


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