Court Says 9/11 Witnesses Can Sue Ashcroft
Former Student Filed Lawsuit Claiming Civil Rights Were Violated
A federal appeals court has ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft may be held liable for people who were wrongfully detained as material witnesses after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In a harshly worded ruling handed down Friday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the government’s use of material witnesses after Sept. 11 “repugnant to the Constitution and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.”
The court found that a man who was detained as a witness in a federal terrorism case can sue Ashcroft for allegedly violating his constitutional rights. Abdullah Al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen and former University of Idaho student, filed the lawsuit in 2005, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was detained as a material witness for two weeks after 9/11.
“Sadly, however, even now, more than 217 years after the ratification of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, some confidently assert that the government has the power to arrest and detain or restrict American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because there is evidence that they have committed a crime, but merely because the government wishes to investigate them for possible wrongdoing, or to prevent them from having contact with others in the outside world,” Judge Milan D. Smith Jr., for the majority. “We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.”
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