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Supreme Court Accepts Material Witness Case Against Ashcroft

The Supreme Court today announced it will review the case of former detainee and material witness Abdullah al-Kidd against former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Al-Kidd is a U.S.-born American citizen:

Al-Kidd, a one-time University of Idaho football star who converted to Islam, was arrested at Dulles International Airport in 2003 as he was boarding a plane for Saudi Arabia, where he planned to study.

He was held for 15 nights as a material witness in a broader terrorism probe. But he claims that was simply a pretext for a larger plan approved by Ashcroft to sweep up Muslim men it could not prove had any ties to terrorism.

The 9th Circuit rejected personal immunity for Ashcroft. En Banc hearing was denied.

The Obama Administration is representing Ashcroft and asking the Supreme Court to overturn the decision. The ACLU says more than 70 people have similar complaints about their detention as material witnesses. More on the abuse of the material witness statute is here.

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9th. Cir. Rules Against Immunity for John Ashcroft for Illegal Detention of Material Witness

The ACLU scored a big win today in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is al-Kidd v. Ashcroft. The upshot is that the court again rejected personal immunity for former Attorney General John Ashcroft over his post 9/11 policy of arresting and detaining people as material witnesses when there was no evidence those arrested were either involved in criminal activity or a flight risk. Today's decision, denying an en banc rehearing of the court's September decision, is here (pdf.)

In September, the 9th Circuit ruled that the federal material witness law cannot be used to detain or investigate suspects where no probable cause exists for criminal charges. The ruling also held that Ashcroft does not have immunity in this case and can be held personally liable for the wrongful detention of al-Kidd. [More...]

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Huge Win for Detainee Against Gov't and Ashcroft Personally

This is really a big deal. A three judge panel in the 9th Circuit has ruled Abdullah al-Kidd, an American who converted to Islam during college, was illegally detained by the Bush Administration under the material witness statute, and can seek damages personally from former Attorney General John Ashcroft. The opinion is here (pdf).

“We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history,” said the opinion, written by Judge Milan D. Smith Jr.

al-Kidd was represented by the ACLU, which has released this statement: [More...]

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