The Post 9/11/01 Attack on Civil Liberties Through Executive and Judicial Orders
Since September 11th, the Bush Administration has made sweeping attacks on constitutional due process through executive orders and Justice Department rule changes. Several federal judges have cooperated in these attacks. Following is a partial chronology of the attacks.
- September 21, 2001 - Secrecy of Immigration Hearings -- Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy issued a memo to all immigration judges requiring the closure of all deportation proceedings to the public and press when directed by the Justice Department.
- October 17, 2001 - Freedom of Information Act -- Attorney General Ashcroft issued a directive limiting FOIA compliance and cites the threat of terrorism as justification. However, the directive actually covers all government information, much of which has no national security or law enforcement connection.
- October 31, 2001 - Attorney-Client Privilege -- The Department of Justice published a new regulation authorizing prison officials to monitor communications between detainees and their lawyers without obtaining a court order. The government can listen to conversations between attorneys and their clients in federal custody, whether they have been convicted or merely accused of a crime. Previously, this type of monitoring could only occur if the government had obtained a court order based on probable cause to believe that communication with an attorney was being used to facilitate a new crime or for foreign intelligence purposes. aclu.org
- November 9, 2001 - Racial Profiling -- Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a plan to target some 5,000 young men of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritage who entered the country in the last two years on non-immigrant visas but who are not suspected of any criminal activity for questioning by the federal government. aclu.org
- November 13, 2001 - Secret Military Tribunals -- President Bush issued an order that asserted his authority to try by military commission any non-citizen suspected of being a terrorist, aiding a terrorist, or harboring a terrorist. Under the order, the President effectively decides who will be entitled to constitutional rights and who will not. In these courts, military officers would serve as judges and jurors and a two-thirds vote would be sufficient for conviction in all but capital cases, where unanimity would be required. The trials may be held in secret. No court -- federal, state, foreign or international -- is allowed to review the military commission's proceedings. aclu.org
- March 2002 - Privacy -- Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the expansion and increased funding of the National Neighborhood Watch Program. The plan extended the neighborhood watches to include terrorism prevention, a move critics fear could fuel ethnic and religious scapegoating. Ashcroft asked neighborhood groups to report on people who are "unfamiliar" or who act in ways that are "suspicious" or "not normal."
- March 20, 2002 - Racial Profiling -- FBI Dragnet -- Attorney General John Aschroft announced a second FBI dragnet plan to question an additional 3,000 individuals of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritage. aclu.org
- April 18, 2002 - Government Secrecy -- Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered state and local governments not to release the names of people detained since September 11, stating that federal law supersedes any state or local claims to the information. In January, the ACLU of New Jersey sued, claiming the names of people arrested and held in New Jersey are public information under the state's right-to-know law. A New Jersey court mandated that the names of immigration detainees in jails be released under the state's open records law by April 22, 2002. Immediately, Ashcroft ordered state and local governments not to release the names. The ACLU is seeking the names to find out how the detainees are being treated and to provide access to legal representation. aclu.org
- May 30, 2002 - Domestic Spying/New FBI Guidelines -- Attorney General John Ashcroft announced new FBI guidelines that granted agents new authority to monitor the activities of private citizens and organizations. The FBI can freely infiltrate mosques, churches, synagogues and other houses of worship, attend public meetings, listen in on online chat rooms and read message boards even if it has no evidence of criminal activity. The FBI will now be able to purchase information from data mining companies to build profiles on individuals and will be able to conduct full investigations for one year with no evidence of a crime being committed. The guidelines were originally put in place in response to well-documented FBI abuses in the 1950s and 1960s. aclu.org
- June 5, 2002 - Ethnic Discrimination -- Attorney General John Ashcroft announces a plan that would require hundreds of thousands of lawful visitors -- including those already in the country -- from mostly Muslim nations to provide fingerprints to authorities upon arrival and register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service after 30 days in the country. Visitors who fail to do either of these things face fines or even deportation. The fingerprinting and tracking proposal is only the latest Bush administration action targeted at Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent. aclu.org
- June 9, 2002 - U.S. Citizen Subject to Military Detention -- President Bush designated U.S. citizen, Jose Padilla, an "enemy combatant" who is under military detention despite earlier assurances that U.S. citizens would not be subject to military jurisdiction. Padilla was suspected of plotting to detonate a so-called "dirty bomb" even though law enforcement officials concede that the plot might never have moved beyond the discussion stage. The Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican has been held in military custody since May 8 and has not been charged with any crime. On June 11, the Bush administration announced that Padilla may be held indefinitely without a trial. aclu.org
- August 12, 2002 - Fingerprinting Immigrants from Muslim Nations -- The Department of Justice finalized a plan that would require thousands of lawful visitors -- from a list of predominantly Muslim nations -- to provide fingerprints to authorities upon arrival and register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service after 30 days in the country. Visitors who fail to do either of these things face fines or even deportation. Attorney General John Ashcroft, with the support of the Administration, made this announcement despite intense opposition from the State Department. aclu.org
- October 8, 2002 - Upholding of Secret Immigration Hearings -- The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in New Jersey ruled that immigration hearings involving people detained after September 11 may be closed by the government without the input of the court. At issue is a policy set forth in a September 21, 2001 memo from Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy to all immigration judges requiring the closure of all proceedings to the public and the press, when directed by the Justice Department. aclu.org