By Aaron Kesel
The Trump administration has enacted Section 412 of the PATRIOT Act to keep a Palestinian man behind bars. The provision of the act allows for the indefinite detention of resident aliens under national security grounds. Of course, not to be confused with the indefinite detention of American citizens under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Adham Amin Hassoun has spent nearly the entire “war on terror” behind four cement walls. Hassoun was first charged on immigration violation in June 2002. But Hassoun was never accused of any act or plot of violence. His crime was signing checks to extremist-tied Muslim charities operating in places like Kosovo and Chechnya that Congress outlawed following the 9/11 attacks. Hassoun wrote all but one of those checks before 9/11, the Daily Beast reported.
Hassoun was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, and should have been a free man in 2017. Instead, he finds himself in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which locked him up in western New York set for deportation.
Kevin McAleenan, then acting secretary at Homeland Security, recently informed Hassoun that he will “remain in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement pending your removal from the United States or reconsideration of this decision.”
ICE wanted to deport Hassoun; however, the fact that he lacks a state as a Palestinian got in the way. No single country—not the Lebanon of his birth, nor Israel that occupies the West Bank and Gaza—was willing to take him.
No single U.S. president in 18 years since The Patriot Act passed has ever used 412 to detain any non-citizens imprisoned on American soil who are deemed a “reasonable” threat to U.S. national security. Patriot Act (Section 412) gives the U.S. government extensive power to detain non-citizens on U.S. soil who cannot be deported, but on “reasonable grounds,” are considered to be involved in “activity that endangers the national security of the United States.”
Although President George W. Bush sent detainees to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, overreaching habeas corpus jurisdiction of the U.S., the Patriot Act has never been used until now to do the same within the borders of America.
Officials argue Hassoun poses a continuing threat to “recruit, plan, participate in, and provide material support for terrorist activity.”
The man’s lawyers, two professors from the University of Buffalo Law School, Nicole Hallett and Jonathan Manes, argue the U.S. is going to unprecedented efforts to keep their client in prison indefinitely without charge and by doing so are violating the man’s rights, calling the case an example of violation of habeas corpus and “unconstitutional.”
Hallet says the fact that Hassoun remains in federal custody after serving his time, in addition to the unprecedented usage of Section 412, proves the degrading of the rule of law following the attacks on September 11th.
“This is Guantanamo on domestic soil,” Hallet told the Daily Beast. “The government is trying to detain him as long as it wants, and that prison happens to be in Batavia, New York, not at Guantanamo Bay.”
“The government’s repeated and now unprecedented efforts to keep our client in prison indefinitely and without charge are unconstitutional,” a statement posted to ACLU added.
“If the government were to prevail in its claim of extraordinary and unprecedented executive power, the government would be free to lock up non-citizens indefinitely based solely on executive say-so, even after they completed serving their sentences,” Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the court, as reported by the Daily Beast.
Hassoun speculates that his prosecution is the consequence of his decision to refuse an offer to become a federal informant while in immigration custody in 2002.
Hassoun now faces an unpredictable future and the man is worried he will die behind prison walls without facing a single charge. It’s extremely telling that the Trump administration has become the first to enact the Patriot Act provision.
His attorneys state Hassoun isn’t fighting deportation and would be willing to leave the U.S. for any country that would accept him.
“He feels quite a bit of angst over [the fact that] he had served his sentence and feels like he should be released,” Hallett told the Daily Beast. “He’s worried about dying in prison.”
When Hassoun was first convicted, the federal judge in the case — Marcia Cooke — rejected a life sentence, stating that there was no evidence that the man had “maimed, killed or kidnapped anyone in the United States or elsewhere.” Beyond that, the U.S. government was unable to produce any “identifiable victims” as a result of Hassoun’s actions signing checks.
This means that without a trial, evidence to convict, or identifiable victims, the U.S. government has made the decision to imprison a man for the rest of his life until death, despite a prior sentence served. This is only first case but it demonstrates a large human rights abuse that can be freely practiced by the United States government; compound that with the fact the man turned down a deal to become an informant, and this case highlights how the government can pressure anyone to do their bidding.
The Patriot Act was just renewed earlier this month for three months of re-authorization (with zero reform) in the continuing resolution bundled and buried in a stopgap government funding bill. A fact which wasn’t reported by any mainstream media outlet to this writer’s knowledge, including NPR, Politico, and CNBC, among websites checked.
While most focus on the “terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers” that the act gives the Trump administration, they miss the provision for indefinite detention. But then again there’s a second provision that can be used for indefinite detention under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the U.S. also has the Continuity Of Government (COG) program under REX 84, along with PROMIS’ Main Core lists of dissidents to be rounded up in case of emergency, as this writer has written about extensively for his Octopus PROMIS series.
Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, highlighted the notorious Patriot Act buried into the government funding bill on Twitter shortly after House Democrats released the continuing resolution (pdf), which temporarily averts another looming government shutdown by providing federal agencies funding through December 20th.
Wow. House Democrats are ignoring civil liberties & including a three month straight re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act (with zero reform) in the Continuing Resolution.
Very cool way to resist Trump by ensuring he continues to have terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers. pic.twitter.com/KxiCBlPpKS
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) November 18, 2019
“The continuing resolution would reauthorize a mass surveillance authority that has never been proven useful and that has consistently broken the laws and rules governing surveillance,” tweeted Demand Progress. “Democrats must not hand this president these dangerous Patriot Act authorities.”
The Patriot Act was scheduled to expire on December 15th of this year. However, thanks to the renewal in the House spending bill this extends the law for an additional three months, until March 15th, 2020. The Patriot Act renewal includes controversial Sections 215, which allows the government to collect metadata without court authorization and 415 which allows indefinite detainment of foreign nationals.
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