By Jason Halperin, AlterNet
Published on Friday, June 27, 2003 by the Inter Press Service
Post-9/11 Immigrant Roundup Backfired - Report
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - Measures take by the U.S. administration against Arab and Muslim immigrants after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon have not only failed to protect U.S. security, but may have made it more vulnerable, according to a major report released here Thursday.
The round-up and detention of more than 1,200 immigrants after the attacks were particularly abusive, says the report by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI) an influential think tank.
It said that the government's efforts to depict some of those who were detained as terrorists were simply wrong." The only charges brought against them were actually for routine immigration violations or ordinary crimes,'' concludes the 165-page report, ''America's Challenge: Domestic Security, Civil Liberties and National Unity After September 11''.
''Many of the policies that have been adopted in the wake of Sep. 11 are an attempt to use immigration as a proxy for anti-terrorism,'' said Vincent Cannistraro, a former senior counter-terrorism official in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who is on MPI's board of advisers and helped prepare the report.
''We haven't learned anything about pre-empting terrorism in America, but we have intimidated, antagonized and alienated many (minority) communities (which is) counter-productive to what the FBI and other agencies are trying to do," he added at the report's release.
What breakthroughs have been made in identifying and apprehending terrorists have been the result of traditional police and intelligence work and co-operation and information-sharing with foreign intelligence agencies, not from any of the immigration initiatives taken by the administration, says the report, which also includes the most comprehensive compilation of the individuals detained after 9/11 and their experiences.
''Arresting a large number of non-citizens ... only gives the nation a false sense of security,'' the document added.
The report is likely to be taken seriously. The MPI's advisory board members include the last two commissioners of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS): James Ziglar, who just served in the current administration; and Doris Meissner, INS head under former President Bill Clinton. Meissner co-authored the report.
In addition to Cannistraro, it also includes Mary Jo White, who, as a former U.S. attorney in the southern federal district of New York, gained a reputation as a tough and relentless prosecutor in high-profile terrorism cases.
The report also coincided with news that the Justice Department's inspector general (IG) is investigating possible abuses by federal prison guards in Brooklyn against immigrants detained there.
In a widely noted report released earlier this month, the IG found ''significant problems'' in the way federal officials dealt with the post-Sep. 11 roundups. Dozens of detainees were subject to verbal and physical abuse by guards at the facility, where they were left to languish in ''unduly harsh'' conditions for months, some without access to family members or attorneys, it said.
The MPI report, whose scope is broader than the plight of the detainees, nonetheless ''puts flesh on the bones of the IG's report'', according to David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who also contributed to the document.
It found, for example, that, unlike the Sep. 11 hijackers, the majority of those detained had significant ties to the United States and roots in their communities here. Of the detainees on which relevant information was available, almost half had lived in this country for at least six years and had close family relationships here.
The report examines the government's post-9/11 immigration measures from three distinct perspectives -- their effectiveness in actually fighting terrorism; their impact on civil liberties; and their effect on America's sense of community as a nation of immigrants. In each case, it concludes that the administration's policies were largely counter-productive.
The key to fighting terrorism, according to the report, is focusing on improved intelligence, information and information sharing; better and more targeted border protection; vigorous intelligence-based law enforcement; and engagement with Arab- and Muslim-American communities.
''We believe it is possible to use immigration measures more effectively to defend against terrorism, while also protecting the fundamental liberties at the core of American identity,'' Meissner said.
The latest raids follow an established pattern in U.S. history, according to the report. During the McCarthy era in the 1950s, Congress enacted strong anti-immigration measures while, during the ''Red Scare'' that followed World War I, the attorney general at the time, A. Mitchell Palmer, ordered thousands of immigrants rounded up and detained without due process.
During national security crises, Washington has often followed ''the course of least resistance'', according to Cole, who noted that immigrants are particularly vulnerable to abuses at such times.
But the greatest harm to U.S. anti-terrorist efforts in this case has been the impact of the administration's harsh measures on Arab- and Muslim-American communities says the report. Programs such as requiring special registration by males from certain countries carried out last year has discouraged co-operation with law-enforcement agencies, in part because they became a vehicle for sweeping up those with minor immigration violations.
At the same time, the alienation and persecution felt by the same communities immediately after Sep. 11 have also had the unintended effect over time of reaffirming their identity as Muslims and Arabs in the United States, according to Muzaffar Chishti, an MPI senior fellow and co-author.
''The experience of Muslim and Arab communities post-Sep. 11 is, in many ways, an impressive story of a community that first felt intimidated, but has since started to assert its place in the American body politic,'' he said.
But Cannistraro stressed that the administration's ham-handed attack on immigrant communities had also taken a heavy toll on its image in the immigrants' homelands overseas.
''If anything, we have painted an image of us as a narrow, biased society that really believes in the Clash of Civilizations,'' he said, singling out Attorney General John Ashcroft as especially responsible. ''It serves us poorly abroad, and it has provided ammunition to some of the fiery imams who encourage young people (to sacrifice) themselves.''
MI6 and CIA 'sent student to Morocco to be tortured'
David RoseThe Observer, Sunday 11 December 2005
Binyam Mohammed, 27, says he spent nearly three years in the CIA's network of 'black sites'. In Morocco he claims he underwent the strappado torture of being hung for hours from his wrists, and scalpel cuts to his chest and penis and that a CIA officer was a regular interrogator.
After his capture in Pakistan, Mohammed says British officials warned him that he would be sent to a country where torture was used. Moroccans also asked him detailed questions about his seven years in London, which his lawyers believe came from British sources.
Western agencies believed that he was part of a plot to buy uranium in Asia, bring it to the US and build a 'dirty bomb' in league with Jose Padilla, a US citizen. Mohammed signed a confession but told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, he had never met Padilla, or anyone in al-Qaeda. Padilla spent almost four years in American custody, accused of the plot. Last month, after allegations of the torture used against Mohammed emerged, the claims against Padilla were dropped. He now faces a civil charge of supporting al-Qaeda financially.
A senior US intelligence official told The Observer that the CIA is now in 'deep crisis' following last week's international political storm over the agency's practice of 'extraordinary rendition' - transporting suspects to countries where they face torture. 'The smarter people in the Directorate of Operations [the CIA's clandestine operational arm] know that one day, if they do this stuff, they are going to face indictment,' he said. 'They are simply refusing to participate in these operations, and if they don't have big mortgage or tuition fees to pay they're thinking about trying to resign altogether.'
Already 22 CIA officers have been charged in absentia in Italy for alleged roles in the rendition of a radical cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, seized - without the knowledge of the Italian government - on a Milan street in February 2003.
The intense pressure on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, coupled with Friday's condemnation of the use of evidence extracted under torture by the House of Lords, has intensified concerns within the CIA. The official said: 'Renditions and torture aren't just wrong, they also expose CIA personnel and diplomats abroad to enormous future risk.'
Mohammed arrived in Britain in 1994. He lived in Wornington Road, North Kensington, and studied at Paddington Green College. For most of this time, said his brother, he rarely went to a mosque. However, in early 2001 he became more religious.
The Observer has obtained fresh details of his case which was first publicised last summer. He went to Pakistan in June 2001 because, he says, he had a drug problem and wanted to kick the habit. He was arrested on 10 April at the airport on his way back to England because of an alleged passport irregularity. Initially interrogated by Pakistani and British officials, he told Stafford Smith: 'The British checked out my story and said they knew I was a nobody. They said they would tell the Americans.'
He was questioned by the FBI and began to hear accusations of terror involvement. He says he also met two MI6 officers. One told him he would be tortured in an Arab country.
The interrogations intensified and he says he was taken to Islamabad; then, in July 2002, on a CIA flight to Morocco. His description of the process matches independent reports. Masked officers wore black. They stripped him, subjected him to a full body search and shackled him to his seat wearing a nappy.
In Morocco he was told he had plotted with Padilla and had dinner in Pakistan with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the planner of 9/11, and other al-Qaeda chiefs. 'I've never met anyone like these people,' Mohammed told Stafford Smith. 'How could I? I speak no Arabic... I never heard Padilla's name until they told me.'
During almost 18 months of regular beatings in Morocco, Mohammed says he frequently met a blonde woman in her thirties who told him she was Canadian. The US intelligence officer told The Observer this was an 'amateurish' CIA cover. 'The only Americans who historically pretended to be Canadian were backpackers travelling in Europe during the Vietnam war. Apart from the moral issues, what disturbs me is that, as an attempt to create plausible deniability, this is so damn transparent.'
According to Mohammed, he was threatened with electrocution and rape. On one occasion, he was handcuffed when three men entered his cell wearing black masks. 'That day I ceased really knowing I was alive. One stood on each of my shoulders and a third punched me in the stomach. It seemed to go on for hours. I was meant to stand, but I was in so much pain I'd fall to my knees. They'd pull me back up and hit me again. They'd kick me in the thighs as I got up. I could see the hands that were hitting me... like the hands of someone who'd worked as a mechanic or chopped with an axe.'
Later he was confronted with details of his London life - such as the name of his kickboxing teacher - and met a Moroccan calling himself Marwan, who ordered him to be hung by his wrists. 'They hit me in the chest, the stomach, and they knocked my feet from under me. I have a shoulder pain to this day from the wrenching as my arms were almost pulled out of their sockets.'
Another time, he told Stafford Smith: 'They took a scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Then they cut my left chest. One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute watching. I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming... They must have done this 20 to 30 times in maybe two hours. There was blood all over.'
In September he was taken to Guantanamo Bay where he has been charged with involvement in al-Qaeda plots and faces trial there by military commission. Stafford Smith said: 'I am unaware of any evidence against him other than that extracted under torture.'
The Foreign Office, the Moroccan Embassy and the CIA refused to comment yesterday.