Internal Justice Department investigators have identified 34 recent cases in which department employees have been accused of serious civil rights and civil liberties violations involving the federal antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, the New York Times says. The inspector general’s report, which is awaiting public release, is likely to raise new concern among lawmakers about whether the Justice Department can police itself when its employees are accused of violating the rights of Muslim and Arab immigrants and others swept up in terrorism investigations under the 2001 law.
The accused workers are employed in several agencies that make up the Justice Department, with most of them assigned to the Bureau of Prisons, which oversees federal penitentiaries and detention centers. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the department “takes its obligations very seriously to protect civil rights and civil liberties, and the small number of credible allegations will be thoroughly investigated.”
The department was continuing to review accusations made last month in another inspector general’s report that found broader problems in the department’s treatment of hundreds of illegal immigrants rounded up after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Most of the accusations are still under investigation, but a handful have been substantiated, including those against a federal prison doctor who was reprimanded after reportedly telling an inmate during a physical examination that “if I was in charge, I would execute every one of you” because of “the crimes you all did.”