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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Indefinite Detentions

Post 9/11/01 Detention of Individuals

The Justice Department began a program of secret arrests and detentions of individuals in the United States after September 11th, about which details only slowly emerged. Most of the targets were non-U.S. citizens from the Middle East or South Asia, and were arrested on the pretext of visa violations. On November 5, 2001, the Department of Justice announced that it had placed 1,182 people into secret custody since September 11th. 1   The DOJ released no further information on the number of detainees and refused to disclose their identities. 2   Eventually most of the detainees were released and none were charged with terrorist acts.

On June 3, 2003, a 198-page internal Justice Department report found "significant problems" with the treatment of the detainees. It said that some FBI agents in New York City made little attempt to distinguish between undocumented immigrants who were subjects of the FBI terrorism investigation and those encountered coincidentally to the investigation. 3  

By late 2006, a total of five investigations by the Department of Justice inspector general's office had documented "wholesale abuse of the Muslim detainees" at the Brooklyn detention center, where 84 Arabic men were held after the attack. 4   One of the Brooklyn detainees, Ehab Elmaghraby, described incidents in which:

... inmates head-slammed into a wall where the staff had taped a T-shirt with an American flag printed on it. The motto on the shirt proclaimed: "These colors don't run." In time, that spot on the wall was covered with blood.

Guantanamo Bay Detainees

Hundreds of men and some minors captured during the U.S. war against the Taliban government of Afghanistan where shipped over to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and into indefinite detention and interrogation. Jamie Feliner wrote:

On March 11, 2003, a federal appeals court ruled that the 650 detainees have no legal rights in the United States and may not ask courts to review their detentions. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, consisting of judges A. Raymond Randolph, Merrick Garland, Stephen Williams, means that the detainees can be held indefinitely without access to lawyers or judges. The decision upheld a federal court ruling issued in August of 2002. 6  

It is unclear how many children are being detained at Guantanamo. The military has confirmed that at least three are 16 years or younger. William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said "The detention of children in these circumstances is particularly repugnant and flouts basic principles for the protection of children under international law." 7   Suicide attempts of prisoners started being reported as early as August of 2002. 8   By June of 2003, there had been 23 suicide attempts.

In June of 2006, three of the 460 Guantanamo Bay detainees hanged themselves using nooses made from clothes and bed sheets. The three had been engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention without charges, but had ended the strike in May of 2006 after being force-fed. In an apparent attempt to dehumanize the victims Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris said of them:

They have no regard for human life ... Neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.

Prior to these successful suicides, there had been 41 suicide attempts by 25 detainees, according to Guantanamo officials. 9  

10   11  

1. Judge Orders U.S. to Release Names of 9/11 Detainees, New York Times, 8/3/02 [cached]
2. The Disappeared, Independent, 2/26/02 [cached]
3. U.S. Faulted on Detainees, newsday.com, 6/3/03 [cached]
4. 9/11 prisoner abuse suit could be landmark, LATimes.com, 11/20/06 [cached]
5. Watching Guantanamo, Washington Post, 3/14/03 [cached]
6. Court Backs U.S. on Detentions, Washington Post, 3/12/03 [cached]
7. U.S. Urged to Release Guantanamo Minors, Associated Press, 4/23/03 [cached]
8. Guantanamo Detainees in Suicide Bid, theage.com, 8/16/02 [cached]
9. 3 Gitmo inmates hanged themselves, Associated Press, 6/10/06 [cached]
10. Double Standards, International Herald Tribune, 3/31/03 [cached]
11. The Rumsfeld-Bush Legal Black Hole, the Village Voice, 2/27/04 [cached]

page last modified: 2006-12-15