Concerned About Reports of Denial of Rights, ACLU Asks Ashcroft for Details on Widespread Detention

October 17, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Saying that unprecedented government secrecy is raising questions about the fairness of the government’s investigation into the terrorist attacks, the American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Justice Department to release to the American public additional information about the more than 700 people held in detention since September 11.

In a letter sent today to Attorney General John Ashcroft, the ACLU said that it was troubled by reports that some detainees have been impeded in their ability to contact lawyers and their families. If accurate, “these reports raise fundamental due process issues that we hope the Department will promptly address,” the ACLU letter said.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said that the ACLU recognizes that some aspects of this important investigation are necessarily and appropriately confidential. “But we also believe that specific information can and should be released to assure the American public that the government’s investigation is both thorough and fair.”

In its letter, the ACLU raised a series of specific questions about the ongoing investigation, including:

  • How many people have been detained by the federal government and what is the nationality and/or ethnicity of those people?

  • What criteria is the government using to request secret proceedings or the entry of gag orders?

  • Have all detainees been given full access to lawyers?

  • How many are being held as material witnesses and is there any limit on how long they will be jailed?

  • Of the total number detained since September 11th, how many have been cleared of any connection with terrorism and of those who have been cleared, how many are still in detention, and on what basis?

    The ACLU letter to Attorney General Ashcroft can be found online at:

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