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May 03, 2004

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This link won't dry up and rot away in a week.

I've also linked to the piece, with little comment.

I've had to stop myself from posting my original thoughts about this. The idea that an innocent Muslim in America could be subjected to this brutality scares the hell out of me and pisses me off beyond words.

Mr. Iqbal said he was not looking for revenge. "Then there will be no difference between them and us," he explained. "They should just apologize in front of all the people of the United States of America who love freedom and justice. And they should apologize to each of us personally."

They should rethink their committment to the Patriot Act as well. The goals of such actions are only defendable if the people in charge are trustworthy and accountable. They're clearly not.

I had a friend detained and questioned by Homeland Security for a few hours, based on a combination of racial profiling, honest misunderstanding, and orange alert paranoia. He's a U.S. citizen, is not Muslim, does not look Muslim (a visiting friend of his did), knew he was innocent and there was no plausible reason for them to believe otherwise. The Homeland Security people were reasonably polite. He was questioned in an office, not a prison. It was just a few hours.

I was furious. I was surprised how furious I was--it's not like I didn't know racial profiling happened, and this happened in an area with plenty of likely targets. But to have someone you know affected, even in a very mild way--It completely changes how you look at these things.

I fixed the Times link. I really should get in the habit of using the link generator in our sidebar...sheer laziness on my part.

"...does not look Muslim...."

What does a Muslim look like? What does a Christian look like? A Buddhist, a Jew?

There are some positive signs, yes, but hardly universal or dispositive.

Vice Admiral Sir John Cunningham: Ah, hello. Well, first of all I'd like to apologize for the behaviour of certain of my colleagues you may have seen earlier, but they are from broken homes, circus families and so on and they are in no way representative of the new modern improved British Navy. They are a small vociferous minority... and may I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy. Absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than we are prepared to admit, but all new ratings are warned that if they wake up in the morning and find tooth marks at all anywhere on their bodies, they're to tell me immediately so that I can immediately take every measure to hush the whole thing up. And, finally, necrophilia is *right out.

An unidentified quote from Monty Python.

Katherine, a friend of mine works for a-major-British-airline-that-I'm-not-going-to-name. He mentioned on livejournal not long ago that all the British Muslim crew members that he knew were being routinely harassed by the Immigration authorities whenever they came to the US, any time over the past eighteen months or so: to the extent that none of them were willing to serve on transatlantic flights any more.

We're not talking being imprisoned and beaten up: we're talking about people being separated out from the rest of the crew because of their surname/skin color, taken to a police station, and questioned like criminals: then photographed, fingerprinted, their belongings searched, their address books and their diaries photocopied, being required to give all their family connections, their education history their career history, their car details, their phone/e-mail details, and all their past international travel itineraries, before being taken back to the airport. All of this after working nine to twelve hour flights.

Granted, this is all anecdotal: for obvious reasons I'm not going to link you to my friend's post on livejournal (it's friends-only anyway) but I don't believe he's making it up.

So in order to defend ourselves, the Bush League and John "Scum of the Earth" Ashcroft would have us become that which we allegedly fight against.

Disgusting.

If Bush were at all serious about civil liberties, we would have a new attorney general. Period. The end. I know Ashcroft's a convenient bogeyman, and that many of his critics don't know what they're talking about. But I also know his record.

I don't tend to attack the Patriot Act too much, for two reasons:
1) it's really not the heart of the problem. Some parts of the Patriot Act were bad to begin with; others were justifiable in an emergency but aren't anymore; others we should keep. But the worst abuses & the most sweeping powers, almost without exception, have been committed or claimed by the executive branch with no Congressional authorization.

2) Perhaps more importantly, I don't want civil liberties and the terror war to become a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" topic for Congress. If that happens, Congress will abdicate completely, or pass meaningless legislation, and the executive will just keep doing whatever s/he wants--not a good idea, even if it's an administration far more trustworthy than Bush's.

Did I already highly recommend this (the whole piece, actually)?

Katherine,

At that, he was dragged to the floor, kicked in the stomach with steel-toed shoes and punched in the face

Not a day goes by that similar allegations are made against NYPD. I came close to a beat down myself back in HS. I went to see my gf who went to a different school and almost got arrested for trespassing. While I was sitting in the office alone with the cop he promised me that I'll need a "f'n ambulance", thankfully at that point the dean walked in and let me go (after he made a call to my school and figured out that I was in good academic standing and not a punk). I had friends who had stuff taken from them while searched, another friend of mine was denied food during his stay in central booking. You get the drift.
Anyway, the officers involved - what was their previous records like? Any previous claims of abuse from non muslims? Or you don't find their history to be relevant at all?

I have no way of knowing who the officers involved were, of course. Maybe it's possible to FOIA the Justice Department investigation--this seems less certain than the Arar case to be classified. But my guess is it is still secret, and the earliest I'd hear back would be six weeks.

I certainly plan to look at any available court files this summer.

Police brutality to non Muslims doesn't exactly seem to justify brutality towards Muslims, though; and if I were going to indefinitely detain people without probable cause or any charges or access to lawyers or their families--I would d*mn well be careful about which officers I selected to interrogate them. The Inspector General's report seems to point to a systematic problem. More systematic than "ordinary" police brutality, unless our police departments are much worse than I think they are. These people were detained for months or years. One of them lost 40 pounds. After it ended, they were deported for crimes they said they only confessed to because they were being beaten.

Stan, I really don't get your point.

Surely this kind of brutality ought not to be tolerated regardless of its target?

Stan, I really don't get your point.

Or so you claim...

Surely this kind of brutality ought not to be tolerated regardless of its target?

See? And you said you didn't get it. Ofcourse its not to be tolerated. However, the post was all about muslims, 9/11, Ashcroft, the Patriot act, etc.
Now if NYPD treated everybody with respect and had a sqeeky clean reputation, then yea, you would have a story on NYPD mistreating muslims.

Stan-- Sorry to hear about your harrowing near-beatdown. I was waiting for the part where you spent a year in jail, lost 40 pounds, had a flashlight inserted in your rectum, or confessed to crimes while being beaten.

Also, it seems that the accused parties in these cases are the DOJ and federal corrections officers, not the NYPD.

I'm still not getting it, Stan. You appear to be arguing that it's no big deal that innocent people picked up by the DOJ and federal corrections officers were mistreated, because all innocent people picked up by the DOJ and federal corrections officers are mistreated.

JakeV, Jes,

I was waiting for the part where you spent a year in jail, lost 40 pounds, had a flashlight inserted in your rectum

Well, sorry. can put your kleenex away.

You appear to be arguing that it's no big deal that innocent people picked up by the DOJ

Uh. No. Let me cut and paste what I just said:

Ofcourse its not to be tolerated. However, the post was all about muslims, 9/11, Ashcroft, the Patriot act, etc.

Uh. No. I claim that NYPD is abusive in general. This article makes it out to be that NYPD is abusive to muslims specifically.

I claim that NYPD is abusive in general. This article makes it out to be that NYPD is abusive to muslims specifically.

Well, presumably, if the NYPD is abusive in general, you would not be surprised to hear that (a) it is abusive to some groups of people more than to others* (b) that those groups of people include Muslims.

I thus still fail to see your objection in seeing NYPD abuse highlighted.

*If you assert that all NYPDers are equally abusive to everyone on an equal-opportunity basis, I shall, regretfully, declare my disbelief.

Reread the article, and note that Iqbal also explicitly says he was abused by federal agents.

I don't know what your stake is in declaring this is completely unrelated to their identity as Muslims and immigrants, but to me it doesn't pass the laugh test. And you've provided no real evidence, other than a few anecdotes about police doing bad things that don't rise to the same level.

The DOJ explicitly allows racial profiling in anti-terrorism measures (with an empty disclaimer about "to the extent permitted by the Constitution"--but they give no guidance as to what violates the Equal Protection Clause and what doesn't; and they don't want the courts to get a chance to decide.) There are some arguments that that's justified, but whatever--it's definitely real.

Off-topic a bit, but who cares - from a comment on Calpundit:

"On O'Reilly last night, Hersh said there are videotapes involving the young boy prisoners. Apparently there are LOTS of videotapes that WILL surface involving the rape of the young men, women and boys in the prison by Americans."

And honestly--whether they were ABUSED because they were immigrants and Muslims is slightly beside the point.

Maybe they were only abused because the NYPD/federal agents are abusive towards anyone they have power over. Okay. There's some truth to that, though I find it pretty implausible that anger over 9/11 and the fact that these men shared certain characteristics with the hijackers had nothing to do with it.

Here are some excerpts from the report I linked to:

Twenty-two detainees alleged that staff members verbally abused them by calling them names, cursing at them, threatening them, or making vulgar or otherwise inappropriate comments during strip searches. For example, detainees alleged staff members called them names like "terrorists," "mother fuckers," "fucking Muslims," and "bin Laden Junior." They also said staff members threatened them by saying things like:

"Whatever you did at the World Trade Center, we will do to you."
"You're never going to be able to see your family again."
"If you don't obey the rules, I'm going to make your life hell."
"You're never going to leave here."
"You're going to die here just like the people in the World Trade Center died."
Several of the detainees said that when they arrived at the MDC, they were yelled at and told things like:

"Someone thinks you have something to do with the terrorist attacks, so don't expect to be treated well."
"Don't ask any questions, otherwise you will be dead."
"Put your nose against the wall or we will break your neck."
"If you question us, we will break your neck."
"I'm going to break your face if you breathe or move at all."
One detainee stated that when the detainees prayed in the ADMAX SHU, officers said things like, "Shut the fuck up! Don't pray. Fucking Muslim. You're praying bullshit." Another detainee alleged that when the officers were mistreating the detainees, the officers sometimes said, "Welcome to America."

(that's the section on verbal abuse--physical abuse is reported elsewhere).

But say that was just talk; that if they were white or black or hispanic, the officers would have been equally bad to anyone they had complete power over. Well. Why did they have such power over these detainees? Why did these detainees have almost no access to an attorney? Why were they held without charge and in secret for months and months and months? Because they were immigrants from Muslim countries.

By the way--I accidentally linked only to the follow up report about the Brooklyn Detention Center. The original inspector general's report, released in June of 2003, is here.

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