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In Light Of 1,000 Detentions It Is Hard To Believe That This Is Not A Government War Guided By Religion And Race

I can't recall an instance where a criminal act was committed where the chief 19 suspects were known and dead, that required an additional 1,000 arrests and a military campaign, before a grand jury, which had already been enpaneled, came forth with an indictment. It is facts like these that really make it difficult for many people to accept President Bush's argument that this is not a war on Islam or non-Whites, in America and abroad. Even though the president has demonstrated a great deal of respect for Islam in his words -- even at times comfortably speaking to the press with a dark green Yusef Ali translation of the Holy Qur'an in front of him -- the actions of the government that he leads, toward many of its own citizens (or those that aspire to become such) has done everything but embody that spirit.

Our reading of two important articles recently contributed to this opinion. We especially recommend them to anyone who remains enamored with the handling of the "war on terrorism" by their government. As we have said before, we find it so interesting that some of the most vocal opponents of Big Government seem to have little problem with it when its efforts are aimed at non-Whites and non-Christians within this country.

The first article that we saw that laid out the seriousness of the problem, we found in The Nation, the progressive weekly that has embarked upon an effort to gain information on the status of over 800 persons detained in connection with the September 11th attack. A group of activists and civic organizations actually had to file a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Government in their effort to obtain information regarding the unprecedented detentions. The group is concerned about the "growing number of reports that raise serious questions about deprivations of fundamental due process including imprisonment without probable cause, interference with the right to counsel, and threats of serious bodily injury."

The other article we found in The Washington Post was called "A Deliberate Strategy of Disruption", which details some of the circumstances surrounding the arrests of some of the 1,147 detainees (the total umber it has arrived at) held in relation to the September 11th attack. The article points to an unprecedented 7-page document being used rather loosely by law enforcement officials and lawyers to justify the detention of individuals since September 11th. The racial and religious undertones and implications of the "detentions" are easily seen. Here are a few excerpts from the article, dealing with the 7-page document and some of the race and religion-related aspects of the detentions,

Signed by a top international terrorism official at FBI headquarters in Washington, the seven-page document, which has not been previously disclosed, is being used repeatedly by prosecutors in detention hearings across the country. The FBI affidavit explains that "the business of counterterrorism intelligence gathering in the United States is akin to the construction of a mosaic.

"At this stage of the investigation, the FBI is gathering and processing thousands of bits and pieces of information that may seem innocuous at first glance. We must analyze all that information, however, to see if it can be fit into a picture that will reveal how the unseen whole operates. . . . What may seem trivial to some may appear of great moment to those within the FBI or the intelligence community who have a broader context."

The document's language offers the clearest window so far into a campaign of detentions on a scale not seen since World War II. As investigators race to comprehend the ongoing terrorist threat, the government has adopted a deliberate strategy of disruption -- locking up large numbers of Middle Eastern men, using whatever legal tools they can.

The operation is being conducted under great secrecy, with defense attorneys at times forbidden to remove documents from court and a federal gag order preventing officials from discussing the detainees. Law enforcement officials have refused to identify lawyers representing people who have been detained or to describe the most basic features of the operation. The officials say they are prohibited from disclosing more information because of privacy laws, judges' orders and the secrecy rules surrounding the grand jury investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The result has been confusion over exactly who is being counted in the government's official tally of 1,147 detainees and who is still being held. When asked directly how many people have been released, Justice Department officials say they are not keeping track.

Of the 1,147, Justice officials have specifically singled out only 185 detainees who are being held on immigration charges. An INS official described them as "active cases" believed to have "relevance to the investigation."

To try to illuminate this hidden campaign, The Washington Post identified 235 detainees and examined the circumstances of their cases.

The analysis of these cases -- located through court records, news accounts, lawyers, relatives and friends -- shows that three-fifths of the detainees found by The Post are, like Mubeen, being held on immigration charges. Seventy-five have been released.

A small, as-yet-unknown number are being held on "material witness" warrants, an indication that investigators believe they have information vital to the probe. Another small number -- perhaps 10 -- are believed to lie at the center of the investigation, with ties to the al Qaeda network or some knowledge of the hijackers. But sources say none of those men is cooperating.

The 235 identifiable cases reveal the essential nature of the current effort: It appears to be less an investigative search for accomplices to the Sept. 11 attacks than a large-scale preventive operation aimed at disrupting future terrorism.

That is evident, in part, from the fact that none of the detainees has been charged in the plot or with other acts of terrorism. In addition, the pace of detentions has accelerated visibly as government officials have received information about new threats and issued public warnings -- spiking sharply, for example, after rumors of planned attacks Sept. 22.

The government's strategy and methods have elicited protests from defense attorneys and civil libertarians. They say the campaign is a massive act of racial profiling similar to the internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans at the start of World War II...

The Post's analysis of the identified 235 detainees shows with greater precision who is being picked up. The largest groups come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. Virtually all are men in their twenties and thirties. The greatest concentrations were arrested in several states with large Islamic populations and what law enforcement officials have identified as al Qaeda sympathizers: Texas, New Jersey, California, New York, Michigan and Florida.

The next time someone stresses the great care that the Bush administration is demonstrating in its diplomacy in the Islamic World, one should consider how that "diplomacy" seems to not apply to those Muslims and non-Whites who live within her borders. This admonition should especially apply to those Muslims in ths country who seem more concerned with gaining acceptance from the U.S. Government and watching President Bush quote verses from the Qur'an, than they are with challenging this nation's foreign policy, and maybe more importantly, in light of over 1,000 detentions -- its domestic policies.

If not charity, at least justice should begin at home, we think.

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, November 6, 2001

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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