In the weeks following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the U.S. government rounded up several hundred individuals suspected of ties to terrorism. The arrests were allegedly based on tips received through a hotline. In total, 762 people were detained around the country. Detainees were held between three to eight months in facilities in New York and New Jersey. Some individuals were even deported after being found to have no ties to terrorism.
Since that time, not one U.S. government official has been held accountable. However, that might change with a recent ruling from a federal appeals court.
ABC News reports that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a 2 to 1 ruling that will allow a lawsuit against former top U.S. officials, including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller. The judges wrote that treatment of detainees such as “solitary confinement 23 hours a day with regular strip searches because their perceived faith or race placed them in the group targeted for recruitment by al-Qaida violated the detainees’ Constitutional rights.”
“The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy,” the ruling continued.
Rachel Meeropol, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the decision may shed light on how then-president George W. Bush handled decision-making in the days following the attacks.
“Frankly, while this decision is only an interim victory, and doesn’t provide my clients with any actual compensation, its bold rebuke to unchecked executive power is itself worth the years of effort,” she said.
The court heard evidence that the detainees were subjected to authorities slamming them into walls, bending or twisting their arms, hands, wrists and fingers, stepping on their leg restraints, leaving them handcuffed or shackled in their cells, insulting their religion, and making humiliating sexual comments during strip searches.
Originally filed in federal court in April 2002, the lawsuit now has eight plaintiffs, all of Middle Eastern, North African or South Asian origin. Each of the plaintiffs was deported after being cleared of wrongdoing.
In her dissenting vote, Circuit Judge Reena Raggi said the government’s actions, even if mistaken, were justified because of the possibility of further attacks.
“It is difficult to imagine a public good more demanding of decisiveness or more tolerant of reasonable, even if mistaken, judgments than the protection of this nation and its people from further terrorist attacks in the immediate aftermath of the horrific events of 9/11,” she argued.
One thing remains clear: Since the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. government has used the event as a tool for stripping away rights in the name of security. The attack has also been used as a tool to promote Islamophobia and division. Bit by bit, however, the truth about the 9/11 attacks is revealed and the powers that be are revealed as the criminals they truly are.