Four Muslim men in Indiana were listed in a national crime registry as having been accused of terrorism, even though they were never charged. The listing prevented them from flying, renting apartments and landing jobs. Last week a federal judge ordered that the men’s names be erased from federal crime records, the New York Times says.
The unusual move comes after several terrorism cases collapsed because they were based on tips that proved wrong. The Times says that federal agents, facing ressure to avoid another terrorist attack, have acted on information from tipsters with questionable backgrounds and motives, touching off needless scares and upending the lives of innocent suspects.
The FBI’s aggressive pursuit of leads is attributed to Director Robert Mueller. “At one time, when information came to us, a lot of times based on experience the investigator would say, `Nah, this is not something we will follow through on,’ ” said Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, “The director has stated that no counterterrorism lead will go uncovered.”
In he case of a trucker of Yemenese descent who was jailed in Michigan for a week on what proved to be a false charge, a federal prosecutor said, “With terrorism you do not have the luxury of sometimes waiting to figure out if the guy is truly a terrorist.”