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Ninth Circuit Rules: “Ashcroft Is Not Above The Law” By Mike Whitney

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By Mike Whitney
September 06, 2009 “Information Clearing House

In a critical case which could determine the future of “preventive detention” in the U.S., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft can be sued for arresting Muslims as material witnesses as a pretext for investigating their possible links to terrorism. The 2 to 1 ruling (all three judges were Reagan or Bush appointees) is a setback for hardliners in the Bush administration who maintain that the state has the right to circumvent the 4th amendment and imprison “suspects” without establishing probable cause. Judge Milan Smith–a George W. Bush appointee–reproached Ashcroft’s conduct in an eloquent defense of the Constitution and basic civil liberties:

“Almost two and a half centuries ago, William Blackstone, considered by many to be the preeminent pre-Revolutionary War authority on the common law, wrote:
‘To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom. But confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to gaol, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten; is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.” (WILLIAM BLACKSTONE)

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Ashcroft Can Be Held Accountable For Post-9/11 Wrongful Detention, Court Rules

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American Civil Liberties Union
9/4/2009

Government Cannot Use Material Witness Statute To Unlawfully Detain People

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212 549-2666; media@aclu.org

SEATTLE – In an unprecedented ruling that places responsibility squarely on government officials who after 9/11 championed polices clearly outside the boundaries of the law, a federal appellate court ruled today that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held personally responsible for the wrongful detention of an innocent American, Abdullah al-Kidd. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit also ruled that the federal material witness law cannot be used to “preventively” detain or investigate suspects. The American Civil Liberties Union represents al-Kidd in the case, al-Kidd v. Ashcroft.

“The court made it very clear today that former Attorney General Ashcroft’s use of the federal material witness law circumvented the Constitution,” said ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project Deputy Director Lee Gelernt, who argued the appeal. “Regardless of your rank or title, you can’t escape liability if you personally created and oversaw a policy that deliberately violates the law.”

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