"The Strange Case of Rabih Haddad"

Investigative Feature, The Ann Arbor Observer

by Derek Green

 

What people think about Rabih Haddad has a lot to do with who they are. If they work for certain government agencies, he’s an international man of mystery—a dark-bearded enigma with no visible means of support and close links to scary-sounding places like Lebanon and Pakistan. To members of the local Muslim community, he’s “Brother Rabih,” a beloved cleric, teacher, and family man whose fate smacks of ethnic intimidation and religious persecution. To Ann Arbor’s peace activists, Haddad is the newest cause célèbre, the I-told-you-so victim of a reactionary Justice Department run amok in the wake of September 11.

 

Haddad, forty-one, was arrested on a minor visa violation at his home in Ann Arbor on December 14, 2001, by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). In secretly conducted hearings later that month, he was denied bond. Though yet to be charged with a crime, Haddad has been imprisoned ever since.

 

Haddad’s case has received national and even international coverage. Yet in most ways his story remains as shrouded in mystery as it was the day he was detained last December. In that information void, Haddad has become a sort of post–September 11 Rorschach test: liberals see a gentle, devout man swept up in a heavy-handed governmental witch hunt, while conservatives offer ominous-sounding lists of false statements and questionable associations, suggesting a shadowy figure with much to hide.

 

No one can fully judge which picture is more accurate until Haddad is brought to trial—if that ever happens. Under an executive order issued last fall, there appears to be little limit to how long a person may be held without charge. However, because much of the government’s case has been leaked to the media or revealed in transcripts of Haddad’s detention hearings, the Observer was able to investigate at least some of the claims made about him—both against the public record and with Haddad himself.

 

Warned by INS officials that a face-to-face interview would not be granted, we prepared a list of questions for Haddad and mailed them to him at the Monroe County Jail. He responded with two letters, providing previously unreleased information about his detention and replying in detail to the allegations against him.

 

CONNECTIONS TO TERROR?

Haddad’s arrest came at the end of a dramatic day. Early on December 14, 2001, FBI agents raided the of-fices of an Illinois-based Islamic charity, the Global Relief Foundation (GRF). The U.S. Treasury Department, meanwhile, announced that the charity’s assets had been blocked and records seized on suspicion that the group had been funneling funds to terrorist organizations. The same day, NATO operatives raided GRF branch offices in Albania and Kosovo.

 

Rabih Haddad is a cofounder and board member of GRF. That afternoon he was discussing the day’s events by telephone with a GRF lawyer when a knock came at the door of his Scio Township apartment. Haddad opened it to find three INS agents, their weapons drawn.

 

Salma al-Rushaid, Haddad’s wife, had been visiting a sick neighbor. She recalls the scene when she returned. “I opened the door to my apartment, and there were three men dressed in black standing in my living room,” she says. Her husband was sitting on the edge of the coffee table, looking up at the agents. “I was trying to understand what’s going on. The agents were silent for the longest time. They were staring at him, not speaking.”

 

According to al-Rushaid, the agents asked Haddad a handful of questions, occasionally exchanging asides in Spanish. Then one of the agents approached her husband and told him he was going to be arrested. Haddad was cuffed and led away. “He had this look on his face like, ‘Where did this come from?’ ” says al-Rushaid. “The children were crying. I was crying. We had no idea why they were taking him.”

 

Two days later the INS informed her that her husband was being held in the Monroe County Jail. Even then, “it was a continual struggle to get to see him,” says al-Rushaid. “We heard that normally, especially for wives, you can visit after twenty-four or forty-eight hours. For over a week I couldn’t even get in to see him.”

 

The INS maintained that Haddad’s detention had nothing to do with the federal investigation of the Global Relief Foundation. The timing of his arrest, the agency said, was purely coincidental. This response suggested that he had been detained for a relatively minor visa violation: though Haddad had applied for permanent U.S. residency in 2001, his previous tourist visa had expired.

 

GRF’s attorney, Ashraf Nubani, based in Washington, D.C., immediately petitioned INS district director Carol Jenifer for Haddad’s release. It’s the normal procedure in such cases—but this time the director refused to consider the petition, saying the matter would have to be resolved in INS court.

 

Nubani filed an emergency motion for bond with the court in Detroit. Haddad was granted a hearing for Friday, December 19. Minutes before it began, INS judge Elizabeth Hacker announced that all proceedings regarding Haddad’s case would be held in secrecy.

 

Ten days after the terrorist attacks last September, chief INS judge Michael Creppy had instructed judges to close all hearings for immigration cases deemed “of special interest” by the attorney general. Citing the “Creppy directive,” Hacker barred Haddad’s family, the public, and members of the media from the courtroom. They were told that no official record of the case would be released.

 

Hacker ordered Haddad to be held for two weeks without bond and scheduled a continuation. When he returned to her courtroom in early January, Hacker again refused bond and ordered him to be held indefinitely. Though Haddad had been charged with nothing more than a visa irregularity, the implication was clear: he was suspected of something much worse.

 

The atmosphere darkened further the following week, when Haddad was transferred from the custody of the INS to the U.S. Marshals Service and disappeared. The marshals would say only that he had been transferred to “an undisclosed location.”

 

VEIL OF SECRECY

Opinions on the case hardened quickly. Barely a week after Haddad’s arrest, the Ann Arbor News ran a pair of letters from readers that typified the emerging camps. One decried the arrest as a “brutally insensitive act which brought tragedy and trauma on an innocent person and his family.” Another concluded that Haddad had “simply ignored our country’s laws and must be punished. . . . We must take every precaution to avoid a repeat of the September 11 tragedy.”

 

One group that quickly got involved was the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace, a group formed immediately after September 11 to promote “civil liberties and nonviolent responses to terrorism.” The group began leafleting and faxing press releases to local news organizations, fanning the flames of a growing controversy.

 

Detroit congressman John Conyers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and several newspapers filed suit, challenging the closing of Haddad’s immigration hearings. Making no comment on the merits of the case against Haddad, the suit argued only that the “blanket closure” of his removal hearings was in violation of the Constitution.

 

Haddad’s mysterious transfer had deepened anxiety within the local Muslim community and caused further outcry from his supporters. They eventually learned that he was being held at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center. GRF’s headquarters are in the Chicago area, and a secret federal grand jury was being convened in the city—a combination that led many to believe that Haddad and GRF were finally going to be charged with something. But on February 14, U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald surprised everyone by informing both GRF and Haddad that they were not targets of the grand jury’s investigation. Nonetheless, Haddad would still be required to answer questions before the panel.

 

Attorney Nubani says that neither he nor Haddad was ever informed how his case might be linked to the grand jury’s investigation. Citing these and other concerns, Nubani asked for immunity for Haddad from federal prosecution in ex- change for his testimony. When that was denied, Haddad exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

 

On April 3 Detroit federal district judge Nancy Edmunds issued her decision on the lawsuit challenging the closure of Haddad’s INS hearings. The government’s arguments for secrecy, Edmunds concluded, failed “under even the most deferential standards of review.” She ruled that future hearings must be opened to the public and ordered the release of transcripts of all the proceedings to date.

 

The government requested the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to stay Edmunds’s decision pending appeal. The appellate panel refused, saying it saw only a “slim likelihood of reversal” of Edmunds’s decision.

 

On Friday, April 19, the government released over 1,200 pages of court documents. In one last odd turn, associate attorney general Jay Stephens said that the Justice Department had concluded that their disclosure would not “cause irreparable harm to the national security”—a seeming contradiction of the government’s position since the case began.

 

The release of the documents lifted the veil of secrecy that had shrouded the Had- dad case for months. Haddad’s supporters had won an extraordinary victory—but at a cost. Some of the released documents painted a chilling picture of Rabih Haddad.

 

THE GOVERNMENT’S CASE

The released documents are a curious, sometimes confusing assortment of transcripts, legal briefs filed by the opposing lawyers, and letters and petitions submit- ted on Haddad’s behalf. Reporters sorting through the pile, however, soon zeroed in on a single document: a terse, six-page memorandum by INS judge Elizabeth Hacker. The memo—in which Hacker ex- plains why she rejected Haddad’s request for bond—succinctly outlines the government’s case against Haddad.

 

The memo summarizes the testimony of several character witnesses, Haddad, and the arresting INS officers. Noting that the “Board of Immigration Appeals has held that an alien generally should not be detained or required to post bond . . . un- less there is a finding that he is a threat to the national security, likely to abscond and/or a threat to the community,” Hacker then lays out her reasons for keeping Haddad in jail.

 

Hacker begins by questioning Haddad’s claims that he has deep ties to the local community, saying that “the witnesses who responded in his behalf have either no long term knowledge of the respondent or by their testimony demonstrate the lack of any in depth knowledge [of him].” Haddad himself, she notes, had “testified that he resided in Pakistan between 1988 and 1992” and had visited the country on two occasions after that. He also had lived in Kuwait, his wife’s homeland, in 1992. And five times since then he had traveled to Lebanon, his own native country.

 

Noting that Haddad told the INS agents who arrested him that he had a gun in his apartment, Hacker says ominously that Haddad “faces the possibility of criminal charges relating to possession of a firearm” and adds that “the possession of a weapon does represent a danger to the community.”

 

Hacker states that Haddad lied about his income on an apartment lease form and falsely named GRF as his employer. “The respondent has testified that he has not been employed in the U.S., yet when he filed an application for an apartment, he stated he was employed by Global Relief Foundation. Indeed, that foundation filed an employment verification form on respondent’s behalf! The respondent now claims that he has never been employed by this foundation.” She adds grimly that the “foundation has had its assets, business accounts and funds blocked by the U.S. Treasury Department pending investigation of its possible support for terrorism.”

 

Haddad’s lack of verifiable sources of income looked especially bad in light of another widely reported disclosure in Hacker’s memo: arresting agent Mark Pi- lat testified to seeing what he described as “four to six ‘bricks’ of cash about two or three inches high” in the briefcase where Haddad kept his and his family’s passports.

 

Hacker even challenges Haddad’s familial ties in the United States. In addition to his wife and four children, the memo observes, Haddad claims to have numerous family members living here. But, Hacker writes, Haddad “has presented no evidence of familial ties other than that of his own testimony. Respondent’s wife and three of his children are also illegally present in the United States. He claims to have a brother who is a United States citizen, but there has been no evidence of this relationship.”

 

Hacker’s suspicious tone was amplified in a March 1 reply brief by INS district counsel Marsha Kay Nettles. The memo was presented to the Board of Immigration Affairs (BIA), an independent board that has the authority to reverse INS court decisions. In urging the board to uphold Hacker’s bond denial, Nettles calls almost everything about Haddad’s character into question.

 

Nettles accuses Haddad of “providing false testimony” in his attempt “to paint himself as a law abiding longstanding ‘resident’ of the country with substantial familial, community, and religious ties.” Neither Haddad’s cousins nor his brother appeared in court, Nettles points out, and “the record is bereft of evidence that these people even exist.” She even seems to question that one of Haddad’s children is American born, describing the boy only as a “purported United States citizen.”

 

At the end of the brief Nettles springs a surprise. If the BIA does find in favor of Haddad, she writes, the government re- quests Haddad be remanded into INS custody based on “previously unavailable” information: a classified FBI memo known as the “Potter declaration.” According to Nettles,

 

the declaration describes how in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the respondent has been directly linked with and observed at multiple overseas locations that housed and sup- ported terrorist organizations associated with the Al-Qaeda Network. Moreover, the declaration describes how sources place respondent in the company of leaders and members of Al-Qaeda related terrorist organizations.

 

The declaration itself was never entered into the record; Nettles simply mentions its existence and suggests the government might use it at some future date. Consequently, Haddad and his counsel (and of course the public) never got to see it. But her summary cast an even longer shadow across the case—and sealed Haddad’s po trayal in local and national media. “U.S. Files Link Founder of Charity to Al-Qaeda” announced an April 21 Chicago Tribune headline. “Ann Arbor Immigrant Traveled Extensively, Had Briefcase Full of Cash in Home,” wrote the Detroit News. Newspaper reports and TV news- casts across the country somberly repeated the long litany of allegations against Haddad—overstayed visas, false income statements, bricks of cash, possession of firearms, dubious connections to political hotbeds.

 

A July report in the Detroit Free Press further deepened doubts about Haddad and GRF. Under the headline “Detained Cleric’s Account Has Gaps,” the Free Press repeated many earlier allegations— but also reported that “new questions have emerged about [Haddad’s] candor and the overseas programs of the Global Relief Foundation.”

 

In addition to lying about his employment when he rented his Ann Arbor apartment, the Free Press discovered, Haddad had similarly falsified a 1994 lease application in Justice, Illinois, near GRF headquarters. Haddad had claimed to earn $40,000 a year from GRF and had submitted a letter on the foundation’s letterhead as confirmation. As the Free Press ob- served, “Before September 11, such discrepancies may have been overlooked. Now, small fictions take on a darker cast.”

 

The Free Press’s most damning allegation, though, concerned GRF. In a “winter 2001 Global Relief newsletter,” the paper wrote, foundation donors were told that GRF had a signed contract with the UN World Food Program “to distribute $380,000 in wheat to Afghans.”

 

But according to the Free Press, UN officials “flatly deny the claims.” The allegation called into question the fundamental legitimacy of the organization Haddad helped found.

 

A PRESUMPTION OF SOMETHING

By July the story had come full circle: Haddad and GRF were more entwined than ever and now cast in an even darker light. But how accurate is this portrayal? The Observer’s review of the record suggests that the case against Haddad isn’t nearly as black-and-white as it appears.
Consider, for example, Haddad’s “purported” relatives in the United States. Contrary to INS counsel Marsha Nettles’s brief, Haddad had in fact provided the court with affidavits about his family members who are U.S. citizens—including the information that his younger brother, Bassem, lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Even if the INS for some reason chose to disregard the affidavits, how hard is it to find someone and ask whether he’s a citizen? Getting a phone number for Bassem Haddad turned out to be as simple as searching in the white pages.

 

“I assure you, I exist,” Bassem says with a laugh when I call. “I think Judge Hacker can swear to the fact that I’ve mailed her more than a few letters.”

 

Bassem explains that he went to Ne- braska because that’s where Rabih, his elder brother, was studying in the late 1970s. He and his wife have two children—Rabih’s U.S.-citizen nieces.

 

What does he think of his brother’s incarceration? “I’ve read the reports,” Bassem says after a pause. “Judge Hacker’s arguments, and the government’s innuendo and rumor and ‘evidence’—I feel like they haven’t given him a chance to respond. There was no contact with family for some time; he’s been placed in solitary confinement. They’ve treated him like a criminal when he’s not.”

 

A phone call isn’t incontrovertible evidence that Haddad’s brother is a citizen, of course, and the burden of proving his existence doesn’t fall on the government’s shoulders. Yet the government bases much of its argument that Haddad is a flight risk on his purported lack of familial ties—and his alleged dishonesty about them.

 

The government’s suggestion that one of Haddad’s sons is not actually a citizen is outright disingenuous. In her memo, Nettles herself points out that only three of Haddad’s four children have been placed into INS removal proceedings—presumably because the INS knows the fourth, Rami, was born a citizen.

 

How about the possession of a firearm? The government’s entire case that Haddad represents a danger to the community rests on the weapon found by INS agents, and Judge Hacker initially justified holding him because of possible criminal charges relating to its possession. According to court records, however, what Haddad turned over to the INS agents was a shotgun for hunting small game. He had a valid permit for the gun and a current small-game license as well. More than eight months after Judge Hacker raised the possibility, no weapons charges have been filed.

 

It’s as if the government has assumed Haddad was a terrorist and then interpreted everything he said or did to support that view. By comparison, the Free Press story was a model of dispassionate clarity. Even fair-minded observers, however, can make mistakes—which is just what the Detroit paper did in its exposé of GRF.

 

The Free Press quoted UN representatives in Afghanistan as denying that GRF had any contract with the World Food Program there. Yet the GRF provided the Observer with a copy of a food-distribution agreement between the UN program and the Canadian Relief Foundation that clearly identifies GRF as one of the participating agencies. WFP spokesman Khaled Mansour, who was quoted in the Free Press story, says the misunderstanding arose because the Canadian foundation, not GRF, was listed as lead agency. GRF, he admits, “did do UN work distributing food in Afghanistan.”

 

LETTER FROM MONROE COUNTY JAIL

Some of the charges against him can be addressed only by Haddad himself. After his appearance before the Chicago grand jury, the U.S. marshals returned him to the custody of the INS, who again confined him in the Monroe County Jail. Told that the INS wouldn’t permit a face-to-face interview, the Observer prepared a list of detailed questions and mailed them to Haddad there. He replied with a pair of letters that give his side of the story in his own words.

 

Haddad readily admits to having over- stayed his visa, but he contends, “I was out of status and in violation of my visa because the INS itself had put me in that situation. I had applied for a visa extension two months before it expired, but by the time the INS sent me the extension, it had already expired two months earlier, which put me in limbo until the LIFE Act [the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act of 2000] was passed in December of 2000 I believe.

 

“I applied for permanent residency in April 2001 under the LIFE Act. By doing that, I was basically telling the INS that I was out of status and I would like my status adjusted. I was not hiding or even trying to conceal my status.”

 

Asked how he supported himself since moving to Ann Arbor in 1998, Haddad writes, “I made it clear in my testimony in court that I had different sources of in- come. The major source was zakat, which is something like tithing in a church or love offerings. Only in Islam, zakat is specifically 2.5 percent of accumulated and unused wealth to be taken from those who can afford it. As someone who did charity and religious work, I was entitled to receive zakat which came from individuals mainly. My family and my wife’s family helped a little too.”

 

Is this a plausible answer? Nazih Hassan, president of the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor, basically con- firms Haddad’s description, adding that “the closest word to zakat in English is alms.

 

“It’s different from regular donations,” Hassan continues. “It has to be spent in specific ways, enumerated in the Koran.” One of the ways it is spent is to support people who “work on collecting donations, on encouraging others to give. Sometimes these people do have other in- comes, sometimes they don’t. It’s easily misunderstood, but Islamicly, it’s very legitimate and very common.”

 

What about the bundles of cash reported by the INS agents?

 

“It was actually ‘bricks’ as they put it and the agent claimed I was trying to hide it from him,” Haddad responds. The agent “later admitted on cross examination that the denomination of the money was ‘ones’ which makes one wonder how he was able to determine that if I was trying to hide it from him, and having determined they were singles, why portray it in such suspicious light? The fact of the matter is that December 14 was one of the last days of the holy month of Ramadan. ‘The month of charity’ as Muslims call it, the cash I had was donations given to me during that month which totaled $600 as I was later told. So yes, I had six bricks of $100 each of single dollar bills which constitute, by far, the majority of cash donations.”

 

Hassan of the Muslim Community Association finds that easily conceivable. “Every Friday at our mosque alone we collect seven to eight hundred dollars, most of it in singles and fives,” he says. “It’s counted out in the office. Then a specific person takes the money and deposits it, usually the next day or on Monday.” During Ramadan, he adds, for a Muslim cleric, “having six hundred dollars, a thou- sand, even more, is not uncommon.”

 

Admitting he has no way to be sure, Hassan suspects the “bricks” of cash were nothing more than singles bundled for de- posit. “It sounds to me like much ado about nothing.” The government appears to have reached a similar conclusion: the money was never confiscated as evidence.

 

Haddad admits that he claimed to be employed by GRF when he rented his apartment. “The false documents they refer to is a letter issued by GRF that was meant to be used as a proof of income asserting my ability to meet the rent required every month,” he says. “The letter used the word ‘employed’ which is technically not true and I regret that deeply.”

 

Under provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act passed by Congress last fall, GRF has been closed since the December raids. Yet the foundation itself, Haddad notes, “is not accused of anything. The government claims it suspects GRF of funneling funds to terrorists. GRF was shut down on that suspicion only. The government says it’s had GRF under surveillance since 1997 and here we are six years later and the government still has not produced a shred of evidence. That is so simply because there is none.”

 

If GRF and, by extension, Haddad are innocent, then why did he ask for immunity when faced with going before the federal grand jury in Chicago? And when immunity was refused, why did he invoke the Fifth Amendment?

 

“Prior to my testimony before the grand jury in Chicago there was no talk of immunity,” Haddad responds. “My attorneys felt that it was merely a perjury trap and that I should not say anything until I had immunity. Taking their advice, I exercised my 5th amendment rights and have not heard from the government since. . . . Other than that I was not concerned with any other potential charges.”

 

The most chilling allegations against Haddad—and the only ones that mention terrorism—are raised in the FBI’s “Potter declaration,” which is said to link Haddad with groups connected to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. I asked him what he thought that document might refer to, whether he had ever been interrogated by the FBI regarding its contents, and whether he has ever had contact with groups or individuals who were later connected to terrorists.

 

No one outside the government, Haddad points out, knows anything about the Potter declaration beyond the description in Martha Nettles’s summary. Noting that “the grand jury investigation is still open and on-going,” he says that on advice of counsel, he “cannot speculate on the contents of that declaration one way or another.”

 

That said, Haddad continues, “I have never been involved in any activities that can be constituted as ‘a danger to the national security.’ To my recollection, there was no such thing as Al-Qaeda in the late 80s and early 90s (I permanently left the ‘overseas locations’ that I think they are referring to in mid 1992).”

 

During his humanitarian work in Pakistan, Haddad writes, “one of my main accomplishments (I like to think of it as such) was opening channels of communications and cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim relief organizations working in the area.” If the FBI believes that effort brought him into contact with present or prospective terrorists, it some- how reached that conclusion without ever talking to him: during his long confinement, Haddad says, “I was never approached, interrogated, or questioned by anyone.”

 

Haddad has now spent more than eight months behind bars. “I was put in solitary confinement in Monroe County Jail three days after my arrest, for my own protection they said,” he recalls. “On January 11 I was turned over to the U.S. Marshals without notifying my attorney, my family or anyone else. I was taken to the federal facility in Milan where not only I was put in a solitary cell, but in a solitary ward. I had a video camera fixed on my cell 24-7 and the only other soul I saw was the guard making his rounds. Prison staff members dropped in every morning when making their rounds.

 

“On the morning of January 17, I was taken to the Willow [Run] airport with my hands and feet cuffed and they put what is known as the ‘black box’ on my hand- cuffs for further restraint. I was getting quizzical looks from other prisoners who told me that this box is usually used with the most dangerous criminals. This was later confirmed by one of the guards in Chicago who was taking it off and shouted in my face with 30 other inmates looking on: ‘What’d you do? Kill somebody?’ and then burst out laughing.

 

“I was humiliated and ‘cussed-out’ by many of the guards who later on came to respect me and adjusted their attitude. The temperature that day was 20 below (wind- chill) as I heard over the bus radio. Once the U.S. Marshal jet arrived we were ordered to exit the bus and subsequently made to stand and wait in 20 below weather on the airport tarmac for 15–20 minutes. Our only attire was Hanes T-shirts and light cot- ton khakis while everyone else around us was bundled up in down-insulated jackets.”

 

After his return to the Monroe County Jail, Haddad says, “[I] was not allowed to make phone calls, send or receive mail for a week, and have been the subject of harassment and discrimination by at least two of the guards. I have made many requests to see the INS officer who I’m told is the only one who can authorize anything in my case. My mail is intercepted and I’m denied receipt of it because it has material related to my case which other inmates should not see ‘for your own safety,’ again. This I find disturbing since one of their own, a guard, was telling other inmates of the unit that I was a terrorist supporting Bin Laden!!”

 

 

THE WRONG PROFILE?

If nothing else, the guard’s statements demonstrate the staying power of the rumors that surround Haddad. But if the government has any evidence to back them up, it appears to be in no hurry to provide it. On August 5 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the government’s appeal of Judge Edmunds’s decision to open Haddad’s INS removal hearings. No immediate decision was made. Beyond that, this strange case has not moved very far forward since the day Haddad was arrested.

 

Haddad is not a United States citizen. By his own admission, he was a foreign national in violation of his visa at the time of his arrest. Should anyone outside his family even care about his fate?

 

Nancy Chang, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, thinks so. “Around a thousand noncitizens have been arrested and detained behind a wall of secrecy since September 11,” Chang says. “Many were picked up in dragnets or during routine traffic stops or on the pretext of minor immigration violations. Many have been imprisoned for weeks and even months on end without being told of charges against them. Many have been placed in dangerous conditions while they have been denied access to counsel.”

 

In effect, Chang argues, these people are being held in a form of “preventive detention” while the government tries to figure out whether they might be dangerous. “Preventive detention” is a chilling phrase to civil libertarians and history buffs alike—it was a euphemism used by the federal government to justify placing over 100,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II.

 

Chang believes the analogy isn’t far out of line. “The fact that . . . since September 11 only a few of the one thousand or so detainees has been charged with a terrorist crime strongly suggests that these individuals were profiled based on their religion, ethnicity, and political views rather than on actual ties to terrorism,” she says.

 

Chang points out that two different methods of investigation have traditionally been used by law enforcement. One is built around the careful gathering and impartial interpretation of criminal evidence, as demanded by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The other relies on racial and ethnic profiling, guilt by association, and inferences based on political views.

 

Authorities, she says, are always tempted to “take a shortcut around the Constitution” and fall back on the second approach. But not only does that invite police and prosecutors to “disregard the Fourth Amendment,” Chang argues, it also doesn’t work. “While you might get an occasional lucky catch,” she says, “racial profiling and guilt by association are inefficient and ineffective ways to catch criminals.”

 

Chang is especially critical of cases tried in closed hearings. “The government and its prosecutors are not being held to account to the public,” she says. “This means the public and
the press cannot know
whether justice is being
done.” Secrecy, she
continues, “breeds mistrust for law enforce
ment at the precise moment when it’s essential
that we have the full
trust of and cooperation
from the Muslim Amer
ican community in
fighting terrorism.”

 

The handling of the Haddad case certainly hasn’t won the government any friends among local Muslims. Nazih Hassan is among those who suspect that Haddad is being detained not because of anything he may have done but simply be- cause he’s a Muslim from the Middle East. The irony, Hassan says, is that not only is the government guilty of profiling, but it’s also gotten the profile wrong.

 

“These people they’ve identified as real terrorists—the September 11 murderers and so on—they were instructed to avoid mosques and gatherings of Muslims,” Has- san says. “The government is looking in the wrong places and finding the wrong people and spending their energies doing it.”

 

Hassan says that the detentions are “definitely hurting the government’s reputation in the legitimate Muslim community and ruining a critical source of assistance. If the government had not cast an indiscriminate net against Muslims in general, then more Muslims, if they thought they could help, would come forward and help.

 

“Right now there is so much distrust at a very basic level—a distrust of government—that I doubt many Muslims would dare be willing to assist the government. That’s understandable. The government now can use secret evidence. They can prevent you from meeting with your lawyer. What assurance do people have that if they come forward, they won’t be arrested, denied a lawyer, and disappear?”

 

To Hassan, the case against Haddad says as much about the people investigating Haddad as it does about the target of their investigation. “They want to show they’re doing something. They can say, ‘Look, we’re fighting terrorism. We’re making progress.’ But I’ m afraid they’ re incompetent. They’re typical bureaucrats covering their rears so that if something else happens they can say, ‘Hey, we were trying our best.’

 

“I’m a practical person,” says Hassan. “There might be something to the charges against [Haddad]. You can never know anyone one hundred percent. But then, if there is evidence, the government has to show it. If there’s something there, tell us! We’ll review our position. As of now, we’re one hundred percent supporting this brother and this man, because we’ve seen nothing from him but decency and good humanitarian work.”  

 

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