Federal authorities violated the civil rights of hundreds of immigrants detained after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and demonstrated “a pattern of physical and verbal abuse” at a federal prison where 84 of them were held, the Justice Department inspector general said yesterday.
The Washington Post said the Justice Department instituted a “no bond” policy for all detainees connected to the terrorism probe, even though immigration officials questioned the policy’s legality. Without bail, terrorism suspects remained in jail for an average of nearly three months, much longer than the FBI projected before it cleared most of them for release, the report said. Detainees faced monumental difficulties and weeks of delay before they were allowed to make phone calls and find lawyers. Some were kept for months in cells illuminated 24 hours a day and were escorted in handcuffs, leg irons and waist chains.
In a Brooklyn detention facility, some detainees complained of being slammed against walls and taunted by guards, claims that inspectors found credible. The 198-page report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine is the most thorough account to date of the government’s handling of 762 immigrants — most of Arab and South Asian descent — taken into custody during the terrorism probe. All had violated immigration laws. The inquiry focused on two detention facilities that housed the majority of the detainees, the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and the Passaic County jail in Paterson, N.J.
Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock called the report “fully consistent with what courts have ruled over and over — that our actions are fully within the law and necessary to protect the American people.”