Muslim, Arab, South Asian Men Rounded Up Post-9/11 Based on Racial, Religious Profiling With Knowledge of Ashcroft, Others
Filing Discloses Previously Protected Details from Discovery and Depositions,
NEW YORK - Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men were targeted solely based on
race, country of origin, and religion in post-9/11 immigration sweeps
with the knowledge of former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI
Director Robert Mueller, according to a brief filed today with the
Supreme Court by plaintiffs in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, Center for Constitutional Rights's (CCR) class
action challenge. The amicus brief contains information previously
under a protective order and not made public until today, including the
exact tips that led to the arrest of CCR's clients and evidence of
daily briefings that went up the chain of command.
The Turkmen plaintiffs filed the brief in the Koob & Magoolaghan's case, Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
a companion case that will be heard by the Supreme Court this December.
The Supreme Court is to consider whether Iqbal can hold high-level
officials accountable for violations of his right to equal
protection-as allowed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The government is claiming high-level officials deserve some kind of
extra-special high-level immunity by virtue of their office," said CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol.
"Plenty of protections already exist for officials doing their job. If
their actions fall outside the law, they should be held accountable
like everybody else."
CCR's brief argues that the level of detail Mueller and Ashcroft would
require before allowing a case to proceed to discovery would
effectively bar victims of governmental discrimination from ever
holding high-ranking officials accountable for their wrongful acts. The
process of discovery is precisely what allows plaintiffs to trace
involvement up the chain of command. The brief offers examples of
documents and depositions obtained in discovery in Turkmen that support
The brief describes the tips that led to targeting of each of the
Turkmen plaintiffs and attaches the original FBI documents, previously
barred from disclosure by a protective order:
- Ashraf Ibrahim was described as one of "three males, who
appeared to be Arabs," who sought to purchase a used truck to carry
water and gave "vague" answers to questions about what kind of
containers the water would be carried in and whom they would deliver it
- Baloch was "a male, possibly Arab," with a fake Social Security card.
was said to have been speaking in Arabic (although in fact he is a
Hindu from India), and to have talked about "flying and flight
- Saffi, a Pakis¬tani by birth, appears to have been arrested solely because he had been refused admission to Canada.
was nothing to show a reason for suspicion of Turkmen in the FBI file
produced by the United States except a tip concerning three other
Turkish men, apparently based on their being Turkish.
The Turkmen plaintiffs argue that Ashcroft and Mueller must be held
accountable for this discrimination, as documents uncovered through
discovery indicate they were provided detailed daily briefings and
information about who was being arrested, and why. The brief also
provides quotes from interviews of Ashcroft, Mueller, and their
subordinates taken in the course of the Office of the Inspector
General's investigation of the 9/11 detentions.
"If the government applied the rule Ashcroft now wants to itself, major
investigations would never get off the ground," said co-counsel Michael
Winger of the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP. "How are Mafia
bosses caught? By starting at street level and working up the chain of
CCR's class action, Turkmen v. Ashcroft, was filed in September 2002 to
challenge the arbitrary detention and mistreatment of immigration
detainees by prison guards and high level Bush administration officials
in the wake of 9/11. With no evidence of any connection to terrorism,
hundreds of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men were rounded up on the
basis of racial and religious profiling and subject to unlawful
detention and abuse at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in
All of the men were eventually deported, though several of the
plaintiffs returned to New York under strict conditions to participate
in depositions for their case against the government in early 2006.
The suit names as defendants then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI
Director Robert Mueller, former INS Commissioner James Ziglar, and
officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where the
plaintiffs were held. The plaintiffs include Muslim men from Pakistan
and Egypt who were detained at the MDC, along with others held at
Passaic County Jail in New Jersey. Despite the fact that the government
never charged any of the plaintiffs with a terrorism-related offense,
the INS kept them in detention for between four to nine months, long
past the resolution of their immigration cases.
The suit further charges that some of these detainees were improperly
assigned to the Administrative Maximum Special Housing Unit (ADMAX
SHU); kept in solitary confinement with the lights on 24 hours a day;
placed under a communications blackout so that they could not seek the
assistance of their attorneys, families, and friends; subjected to
physical and verbal abuse; forced to endure inhumane conditions of
confinement; and obstructed in their efforts to practice their
religion. Some of the abuse includes severe beatings and sleep
deprivation. The allegations of inhumane and degrading treatment have
been substantiated by two reports of the Justice Department's Office of
the Inspector General, and several defendants in the case have recently
been convicted on federal charges of beatings and cover-ups of other
prisoners around the same time period.
For more information on the case and to read related documents, click here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.