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Administration Abuses Material Witness Law

by TChris

Bump and Update: The report is here. The ACLU's statement is here.
........

The Bush administration used "material witness" warrants to detain at least 70 individuals suspected of terrorism, a statistic leading two groups to conclude that the administration has been misusing its power to seek material witness detentions.

Only 28 of the suspects were eventually charged with a crime, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, and most of those charges were not related to terrorism. ... At least 30 detainees were never called to testify before a court or grand jury, the advocacy groups said in a report [to be released Monday]. All but one of those detained are Muslim, they said.

The most publicized abuse was the detention of Brandon Mayfield, but the report accuses the administration of twisting the material witness law "beyond recognition."

Twenty-three people were held two months or more without being charged, the report said. "They threw witnesses in a black hole where they didn't have access to the basis for their arrest, weren't provided with lawyers, weren't allowed to talk to family members and were held in complete secrecy with no concrete end to their detention," said Anjana Malhotra, the report's author.

Sen. Pat Leahy may introduce legislation to reign in the administration's abuse of the law.

"I am troubled by reports that this narrow law has been twisted from one of a specific statute to secure testimony, into a broad detention authority that has resulted in some notorious abuses," Leahy said.

Other legislators should support his efforts.

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  • Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#1)
    by DawesFred60 on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:35 PM EST
    TL, You do know that laws mean nothing in washington right? a law that can be used against a person for political reasons will be used against millions for control reasons some-day. this is not a free nation just becuase i can say that means nothing, becuase right now the pigs don't have "away", to put 50 million people in prison right now, but someday the Rats will have that one law that will do just that.

    Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:35 PM EST
    Police state tactics.

    Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#3)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:35 PM EST
    TChris, I think maybe some background on the purpose of the material witness law might be helpful for us non-lawyers. If you ever watch Law and Order, you might be lead to believe that the only reason the law exists is to jail people when the prosecution doesn't have enough evidence to make a case as an end-run around habeas corpus. Obviously that's what the Bush administration thinks, too. But an example of when the law might be useful and appropriate would give some us dummies a frame of reference.

    Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#4)
    by Domino on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:35 PM EST
    To Fred Dawes, how can you be so cynical and yet read this blog? The basis of this blog is that the law is everything everywhere. We have to fight for the law to be enforced and if needed, changed. This country was formed on the rule of law and still is.

    Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#5)
    by TChris on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:35 PM EST
    Michael, If the government can make a strong showing to the court that a witness can present testimony material to a criminal prosecution, but a subpoena will be ineffective to compel the witness' attendance (usually because the government fears the witness will flee in response to a subpoena), the government may ask the court to detain the witness until the witness testifies. Using the statute to detain suspects when the evidence isn't sufficient to justify arresting them is not an appropriate or intended use of the material witness statute.

    Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#6)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:36 PM EST
    Thanks, TChris!

    Re: Administration Abuses Material Witness Law (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:36 PM EST
    The right to remain silent should be absolute. If someone does not want to testify for any reason, the state can just lock em up. That isn't freedom.