Released August 7, 2000
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Enver Masud

Secret Evidence Laws Target Arabs, Muslims

by Enver Masud

U.S. federal agents stormed into Hany Kiareldeen's shop, handcuffed him, and detained him for what would become 19 months in jail--all on the basis of secret evidence.

Kiareldeen, a 32-year-old Palestinian immigrant, had been held by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) since March 1998 because the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force had developed secret evidence that he had hosted a meeting with terrorists planning the World Trade Center bombing, and had talked of murdering Attorney General Janet Reno.

Kiareldeen has been freed, but 20 other Muslims remain in U.S. jails on the basis of a 1996 anti-terrorism bill authorizing the use of secret evidence--evidence that neither the defendants nor their lawyers have the right to see--in deportation proceedings.

The use of secret evidence by the INS was first authorized by the 1996 anti-terrorism bill that followed the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings.

Secret evidence has been used in about two dozen cases around the country in which the INS asserted national security concerns as the basis for depriving immigrants of the right to examine and confront adverse witnesses and evidence. All of the cases are against Arab or Muslim immigrants reported Lorraine Adams and David A. Vise of the Washington Post ("Classified Evidence Ruled Out in Deportation, Oct. 21, 1999).

Hany Kiareldeen was freed after seven judges reviewed his case and rejected government claims that he posed a threat to national security. But he has never seen the classified report used to jail him.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, "The main charges apparently came from Kiareldeen's ex-wife, who was locked in a custody battle with him and had repeatedly made false accusations against him. The INS evidence alleged that Kiareldeen had hosted a meeting with terrorists in his Nutley, N.J., apartment 18 months before he had moved there."

Nasser K. Ahmed, jailed by the U.S. government for more than three years on the basis of secret evidence was freed 40 days after Hany Kiareldeen, but Ahmed's case is not yet over--he is free on personal bond pending a final ruling by the INS Board of Immigration Appeals on whether he should be granted asylum. Using secret evidence, the INS had sought to deport Ahmed to Egypt after he overstayed his visa.

Ahmed was accused of belonging to an Egyptian terrorist group of which Sheikh Abdel Rahman is said to be the spiritual leader. Ahmed admitted to being an admirer of Sheikh Abdel Rahman, but has denied involvement in terrorism.

The U.S. government also sought to use secret evidence to expel six Iraqis brought to this country by the CIA. In another case, the government arrested and sought to deport eight Los Angeles activists for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on the basis of secret evidence.

For the first time, on October 20, 1999, a federal court weighed the constitutionality of the use of secret evidence and found it unconstitutional.

Federal district Judge William Walls held in Kiareldeen's case that "the government's reliance on secret evidence violates the due process protections that the Constitution directs must be extended to all persons within the United States, citizens and resident aliens alike."

Immigration judge, Donn Livingston, sharply criticized the government's case against Nasser K. Ahmed, calling it "double or triple hearsay," and questioned the reliability of some government sources, saying he had a "very real concern" that the Egyptian government might be the source of secret evidence against Ahmed. Judge Livingston cited "the very real danger that the Egyptian government" was seeking to silence Abdel Rahman, one of its harshest critics reports Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times ("U.S. Frees Egyptian Jailed on Secret Evidence," Nov. 30, 1999)

Muslim and Arab groups have lobbied aggressively to repeal secret evidence laws.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, says "secret evidence is unconstitutional and is used disproportionately against members of the Muslim and Arab-American communities. Almost all of the individuals held based on secret evidence are Muslims and Arabs." CAIR argues that "the basic guarantee to due process of law contained in the Fifth Amendment should not be denied to anyone, citizen or non-citizen. To deprive any individual in the United States of liberty without a chance to confront the evidence used against him is a denial of justice. It flies in the face of American values."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee argues, "this practice is manifestly unconstitutional and stands in direct violation of long-standing traditions guaranteeing the rights of defendants to confront the evidence against them. Moreover, since the passage of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, secret evidence has been used primarily against persons of Arab ethnicity and Muslim religious affiliation. At least three Federal judges have ruled that it violates 5th amendment rights to due process."

Secret evidence threatens not just Arabs and Muslims, but everyone's right to free speech--a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Representative David E. Bonior of Michigan says it is a "travesty of justice that this continues in our country without people having the right to face their accusers."

While the laws remain intact, on June 22, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut $173,480 in U.S. Justice Department expenses, the estimated annual cost of detaining people based on secret evidence.

Largely symbolic, the amendment to a government appropriations bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA)-- co-sponsored by Reps. David Bonior (D-MI), Ray LaHood (R-IL) and Mark Sanford (R-SC)--does send a signal regarding Congressional intent, and reinforces recent court decisions.

Campbell's amendment passed 239-173 following a one-hour debate in which House members voiced their opposition to secret evidence. Mr. Campbell also introduced legislation to ban the use of secret evidence entirely. The Secret Evidence Repeal Act (H.R.2121) has more than 100 congressional sponsors.

The only organizational opposition to H.R.2121 has come from the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League--also a Jewish organization. The American Jewish Committee issued a statement voicing "deep regret" over the June 22 vote on the Campbell amendment.

[Enver Masud is an engineering management consultant, author of "The War on Islam," and founder of The Wisdom This article was published in England as "Fighting terrorism on hearsay," Impact International,August 2000.]

[Yet another federal appeals court has slammed the door on public interest groups trying to stem the power of the government to detain, arrest, try, and deport people in secret.--Elaine Cassel, "Secret Trials, Nameless Defendents, Veiled Threats to Defense Lawyers," CounterPunch, June 18, 2003]

Linda Greehouse, "Justices Allow Policy of Silence on 9/11 Detainees," New York Times, January 13, 2004

[ . . . in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the US government undertook the "preventative detention" of about 5,000 men on the basis of their birthplace and later sought a further 19,000 "voluntary interviews". Over the next year, more than 170,000 men from 24 predominantly Muslim countries and North Korea were fingerprinted and interviewed in a programme of "special registration". None of these produced a single terrorism conviction.--Gary Younge, "The war on terror has been about scaring people, not protecting them," Guardian, January 3, 2010]

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