Terror Cases: Material Witness Nightmare
The New York Times writes about the abysmal treatment accorded those arrested on material witness warrants in terror cases.
About 60 other men have been held in terrorism investigations under the federal material witness law since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a coming report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. Such laws, meant to ensure that people with important information do not disappear before testifying, have been used to hold people briefly since the early days of the republic.
But scholars and critics say the government has radically reinterpreted what it means to be a material witness in recent years. These days, people held as material witnesses in terrorism investigations are often not called to testify against others; instead, frequently they are charged with crimes themselves. They lack constitutional protections like the requirement that criminal suspects in custody be informed of their Miranda rights. Moreover, they are often held for long periods in the same harsh conditions as those suspected of very serious crimes.
Abdullah al Kidd is one of them. As a result of his arrest and prolonged detention, he lost his marriage, his scholarship and almost his sanity:
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