September 29, 2005

THIS SOMEWHAT UNDERCUTS claims that we’re living in some sort of 1984-world:

A federal judge has rejected former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s attempt to block a lawsuit by claiming that the threat of terrorism exempts the government from following peacetime regulations.

The decision allows a lawsuit by two Muslim men who were detained after the Sept. 11 attacks to go forward against Ashcroft and other high-ranking federal officials. The two, who were later deported, are seeking to hold the officials responsible for their confinement and alleged abuse at a federal jail in Brooklyn where Arab and Muslim men were held after the terror attacks.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson’s ruling Wednesday also opens the door for depositions of Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other officials, who will be questioned under oath about their personal knowledge of detention policies if they are unable to successfully appeal the decision.

As I recall, though, the detainees were charged with various crimes — such as immigration law violations, etc. — not simply with “being Muslim.” And, in fact, these guys were apparently guilty: “Elmaghraby and Iqbal were deported to their home countries after serving time for charges unrelated to terrorism — Elmaghraby for a counterfeiting charge and Iqbal for fraud.”

Prosecutors enjoy nearly unlimited discretion on whom to prosecute, and if federal prosecutors chose to prosecute people they feared might have terror connections for unrelated crimes I don’t see how that can make out a constitutional violation. Perhaps, though, I misunderstand the claim, as the story isn’t very clear.