Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism'

by TChris

We can speculate about Ronald Ferry's motive for lying to the FBI, but whatever his reasons were, they turned Abdallah Higazy into another victim of 9/11. Ferry, ex-cop turned hotel security guard, claimed he found an aviation radio in a hotel room safe with Higazy's passport while inventorying property left behind by guests when the hotel was evacuated. The radio had actually been left in a different room, but FBI agents believed Ferry and therefore disbelieved Higazy when he told them he'd never seen the radio.

Higazy, an Egyptian graduate student, was arrested as a material witness. He knew he was in trouble when he was locked up in a maximum security wing with Zacarias Moussaoui.

Being in Moussaoui's company -- and being strip-searched, shackled and insulted by guards -- was unnerving to a moderate Muslim who had never even read the Koran.

Higazy submitted to a polygraph, but his story didn't square with the FBI's understanding of the "truth," so agents coerced Higazy into telling a story they liked better.

[Higazy] stuck to the truth, he said, until an FBI agent made veiled threats against his family in Egypt. He broke down and responded with wild and contradictory tales: He found the radio in the subway. No, he stole it from the Egyptian military.

Having induced Higazy to lie, the FBI promptly sought criminal charges for making a false statement -- that is, his original, truthful statement that he'd never seen the radio. Things looked bleak for Higazy until a pilot showed up at the hotel three days later looking for his aviation radio. Two days after that, Ferry admitted that the radio and Higazy's passport had been found in different rooms.

The same day, with no explanation, a deputy U.S. marshal removed Higazy's shackles and told him, ''You're free to go.''

Welcome to America. As for Ferry:

Ferry, who pleaded guilty on Feb. 27, 2002, to lying to the FBI about the radio, served his sentence of weekends in jail for six months, then faded back into obscurity. ... ''That was during a time of patriotism,'' he said at his sentencing, ''and I'm very, very sorry for that mistake.''

What kind of "patriot" knowingly fabricates a story that links an innocent man to a monstrous act of terrorism simply because of the man's nationality? What patriotic American values did Ferry think he was embracing?

And what kind of American values do FBI agents exhibit when they rely on threats to induce false confessions? (Higazy's lawsuit against the FBI was predictably dismissed.) Or prosecutors who make misleading statements about the evidence? The only American values on display in this story come from the ordinary New Yorkers who apologized to Higazy.

Now married and teaching computer courses, Higazy still blames Ferry for ''fooling the government.'' But he also has fond memories of New Yorkers who, after recognizing him from news accounts, greeted him with kind words after he was freed.

''Aren't you the Egyptian man?'' he recalled some saying. ''We're sorry.''

< Weekend Open Thread | The Evolution of Torture and Secret Prisons in the Bush Administration >
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    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:12:43 PM EST
    Actually there is a very long tradition of patriotic bearing false witness in this country. Goes back at least to WWI. Really. Too bad we have learned...nothing!

    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:18:48 PM EST
    This is just so sad and so not what America should be, should stand for...

    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:18:48 PM EST
    *sigh* This is the sole reason why neoconservatives are comparing war dissenters with Nazi appeasers. Extereme rhetoric is a last-ditch attempt to distract the American people from actrocities such as this. My apologies on behalf of real patriots here to Higazy and his family.

    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:18:48 PM EST
    And of course, if Higazy had been convicted of making a false statement, his punishment would have been a little harsher than weekends in jail for 6 months. The system is rotten, when the judges and FBI tacitly cooperate to discriminate thusly.

    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:18:48 PM EST
    I have a feeling the entire Bush era is going to go down in history as a shameful time when America was eager to be deceived.

    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#1)
    by mpower1952 on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:18:49 PM EST
    Guess those NYers who apologized to Higazy were some of those apeasers Bush is talking about.

    Re: Remembering Post-9/11 'Patriotism' (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 08:09:39 AM EST
    From Wikipedia:
    To maintain the political power of the Nazi party, the SS was given authority to establish and run the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), which was the security and intelligence service, and the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo), or SS secret police, effectively putting the SS above the law.