Blog of Rights

ACLU of Southern California Demands Truth About Proxy Detention of Naji Hamdan

By Jennie Pasquarella, ACLU of Southern California at 1:38pm

Since shortly after Naji Hamdan, an American citizen, was arrested and held incommunicado in the United Arab Emirates in 2008, the ACLU of Southern California has been working to obtain the truth about why the U.A.E. held, tortured, and charged Mr. Hamdan as part of the U.S.'s controversial "proxy detention" program.

Today, the ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Los Angeles seeking to require U.S. national security agencies to release this information.

Proxy detention is the practice of the U.S. government using foreign allies to detain and interrogate terror suspects. The ACLU believes Mr. Hamdan is one of hundreds of people whom the United Nations and human rights organizations estimate the U.S. has subjected to this practice. Under proxy detention, the U.S. can subject individuals to indefinite detention, interrogation, and torture without accountability.

Mr. Hamdan spent his first three months in captivity in a secret prison somewhere in Abu Dhabi — held in solitary confinement, stripped and left in refrigerated rooms. Forced to confess under torture to a shifting array of accusations, he was released after more than a year following intervention by the ACLU and others.

In January 2009, the ACLU of Southern California filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies seeking information about the U.S. government's role in Mr. Hamdan's detention, interrogation and torture in the U.A.E.

Our request fell on deaf ears, so today, the ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Traber & Voorhees filed a lawsuit to enforce that FOIA request.

While it is no secret that the government has increasingly relied on the cooperation of foreign governments for secret national security detentions, the details of the program remain shrouded in secrecy. The American public needs to know whether the U.S. government was responsible for Mr. Hamdan's unexplained detention and for handing him over to be tortured. Mr. Hamdan has previously stated that he heard the voice of an individual speaking unmistakably American English during one of his interrogation sessions.

Mr. Hamdan's nightmare marked the culmination of a decade of surveillance by the FBI, beginning two years before 9/11, when FBI agents would frequently visit his home and his workplace for questioning, and also question his relatives and associates. Federal agents also routinely stopped him for questioning at the airport. FBI agents scrutinized his business and his financial transactions. Agents from the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office even flew to Abu Dhabi to question Mr. Hamdan after he moved to the U.A.E.

Despite the years of surveillance, the U.S. government apparently never found evidence of criminal activity. Mr. Hamdan has never been charged with a crime under U.S. law. In this video, he explains what how this situation has affected him and his family, now living in Beirut.

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