AG ASHCROFT CLAIMING GOOD RESULTS, ANNOUNCES NEW INTERVIEWS
Attorney General John Ashcroft this week unveiled plans for a second round of interviews with young males visiting the U.S. from Arab and Muslim countries. He claimed that the first set of 5,000 interviews: "generated a significant number of leads...into the September 11 attacks"; "fostered new trust between law enforcement" and the Arab and Muslim communities; and helped to "disrupt potential terrorist activities". However, according to the Department of Justice's own report on the first round of interviews, which reads like a mad lib because of its many blanks, no real useful information was derived from the interviews. And comments from Arab and Muslim community leaders establish that the highly publicized interviews created tension between the communities and law enforcement. Yet, the second interview campaign is pressing ahead, and Mr. Ashcroft has yet to indicate how investigators might achieve a higher rate of success, nor has he publicly noted if any of the information gathered has or will directly impact the 9/11 terrorism investigation.
REP. ISSA INTRODUCES RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF US-BROKERED UN RESOULTION
Reps Dan Issa (R-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) introduced H.RES. 374, "Calling for an immediate cessation of the violence in the Middle East and a resumption of negotiations to end the conflict in the region." The resolution is an attempt to demonstrate Congressional support for the mediation efforts of Middle East Envoy Anthony Zinni on behalf of the Administration to reduce the violence, implement a cease-fire, and bring Israel and Palestine back to negotiations. While the results of Vice President Cheney's trip are not yet clear, events on the ground seem to be working against any reduction in violence. The White House reiterated its oft used phrase that Arafat should work more aggressively to curb the violence by arresting those responsible for the suicide bombings. In typically one sided fashion, no similar rebuke was given to Israel, despite several home destructions in the previous week.
TREASURY RAIDS IN VA AND GA RAISE ISSUES OF SECRET EVIDENCE, 4TH AMMENDMENT
Under new rules of the USA Patriot Act, a special Treasury task force was able to use sealed affidavits to conduct secret search and seizure in a series of raids conducted on Islamic offices and private homes in Virginia and Georgia. Denounced as a "fishing expedition" by a number of groups, the roundup netted dozens of boxes of documents, computers, files and miscellaneous information materials. Agents destroyed private property, surrounded private homes with numbers of armed agents who broke in doors, overturned furniture, handcuffed young people who lived in the homes as well as their parents, and provided no explanations to those invaded. Residents and owners have yet to be charged or questioned by the authorities. Articles in the Washington Post indicate that the raids were a result of government concerns with money laundering schemes to shift charitable donations to support terrorist causes. Community leaders voiced public outcry, claiming that these raids were but the first brick down the road to the destruction of the 4th Ammendment, which states that people have the right to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
AAI LEADERS ADDRESS NEW ROUND OF DOJ INTERVIEWS AND CONCERNS FOR DETAINEES
James Zogby and Jean AbiNader were active this week before a number of audiences expressing concerning with the latest announcement of "voluntary" interviews and the continued lack of information on the status of the remaining detainees. In media appearances ranging from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to major newspapers, Dr. Zogby said that the interviews "created deep strains between law enforcement and recent immigrants who are Arab and/or Muslim. It was a mistake the first time around. This only compounds the error by repeating it." Speaking before the National Newspaper Association, Zogby concluded, "This creates more of a chill than cooperation." At the National Association of Attorneys General, Mr. AbiNader called on the chief state law enforcement officials to make serious outreach efforts to the Arab and Muslim communities before undertaking the interviews. He also encouraged them to work with their state legislatures to avoid the introduction of legislation or resolutions that damaged US relations with Arab people, especially students coming to this country.
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by Jean AbiNader
Arab American Institute
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