Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

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Three Courts Have Now Spoken [on Secret Detainments]

June 3, 2002

Three separate courts have told the U.S. Justice Department that
its secrecy policy regarding the arrest of 1,200 Muslim immigrants
after Sept. 11 is illegal. Yet the department, in particular its
Immigration and Naturalization Service, has failed to heed the
The latest decision came this week when Judge John W. Bissell of
U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., ruled that closing
deportation hearings in every instance is unacceptable. He said
hearings could be closed selectively if the government convinces a
judge that an open session would compromise an investigation or
endanger national security.

The Justice Department's response was to ask the federal appeals
court in Philadelphia for an immediate stay of Judge Bissell's

History will not treat kindly this chapter in the federal
government's response to Sept. 11. Deportation hearings, which
until Sept. 11 were open, are now closed airtight for those
arrested after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon. Even family members of the accused are barred from
attending. Hearing dates and docket information are stamped
secret. In most cases, the names of the accused and the reasons
for their arrests have never been disclosed. Most of those
arrested after Sept. 11 reportedly have been deported.

In addition to Judge Bissell's ruling, a federal judge in Detroit
has invalidated the secret hearings held by the Immigration and
Naturalization Service and a state judge in New Jersey has upheld
a challenge to the government's refusal to identify the detainees.
Those cases are before appeals courts.

How many more times will the Justice Department have to be told
that blanket closings of deportation hearings and refusing to
disclose names or charges and to admit even family members to
hearings, constitute a violation of due process rights? The
public's right to monitor the conduct of government officials is
also abridged.



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