News and Features
As the Taliban retreat in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has ample opportunity to expand its far-reaching 'war on terror.'
Food companies ship supplies to Cuba in the aftermath of Hurricane Michelle, in what could be the beginning of the end for the tediously long US embargo of the island country.
On November 27, Samira Dahduli waited in the Amman, Jordan, airport to pick up her husband, Ghassan, who was being deported after two months in a Denton, Texas, INS detention facility. Having lived in the States for twenty-three years, she had arrived in Jordan just weeks before with her five children, all US citizens, with the expectation that Ghassan would follow. But when the flight came, she saw no sign of her husband, a Palestinian with a Jordanian passport. She was about to leave when her 15-year-old son spotted his father surrounded by Jordanian security and American INS agents. Her son recognized one: Donna Chabot, an INS criminal investigator who had attended hearings in Dallas wearing a jacket with an antiterrorism task force insignia.
Samira Dahduli returned home and waited for her husband's call. After a week she still hadn't heard from him. "I would love to hear his voice," she said from a furnished apartment she has rented in Amman. Friends there tell her not to worry. "They need to make sure that he is not a danger to his community," she said. "Everyone says that this is normal procedure."
If the first chapter of the 9/11 detention story was the rounding up of 1,200 people, Dahduli's case ushers in the next phase, in which the government will decide their fate. Amnesty International believes that Dahduli is the first 9/11 deportee who could be facing ill treatment or torture in another country, says Angela Wright, Amnesty's chief US researcher. The arrest at the Amman gate and the accompaniment by a US task force member are troubling and unusual, according to immigration advocates and Dahduli's Dallas lawyer, Karen Pennington. "Nobody represents him now," said Pennington. "They took him away, and now he will be without the protections of American law, and they can torture him as much as they want."
Dahduli had a tense relationship with the US government well before September 11. He had been a leader of the Islamic Association for Palestine, an Illinois-based nonprofit with an office in Texas that has been the subject of federal scrutiny for allegedly having ties to Hamas. On September 25, 2000, federal agents confronted Dahduli in a Wal-Mart parking lot and then threatened to deport him, but offered to halt the proceedings if he agreed to become an informant on the IAP and other Islamic organizations. The FBI warned him that if he refused and was deported to Jordan, officials there would not be so understanding, according to three lawyers who worked on his case. Says Pennington, "The FBI said he would be treated a lot better by them than he would be by Jordanians." Elise Healy, a lawyer who represented him during the early deportation proceedings, adds, "He was perfectly willing to give information if he had it. But he was unwilling to be a lifetime mole." Dahduli not only rejected the government's offer but made it public, and news of it soon appeared on the Internet. "He became useless to them," says Healy. The INS began deportation proceedings but set him free on $50,000 bond.
Meanwhile, Dahduli was pursuing several avenues in immigration court to stay in the United States. He also filed an asylum claim, arguing that the FBI would paint him as a terrorist if he was returned to Jordan, rendering him vulnerable to torture. Amnesty has documented Jordan's practice of torturing terrorist suspects. In a trial last year in Jordan of Al Qaeda associates accused of planning bombings in Israel and Jordan during the millennium celebrations, the defendants testified that they had falsely confessed after beatings that included shabeh (suspending the victim by the feet with arms tied behind the back) and falaqa (lashings on the soles of their feet, sometimes followed by dousing in salt water). In the mid-1980s, in order to penetrate the Abu Nidal organization, responsible for 900 deaths or injuries in twenty countries, Jordanian security moved against suspects' family members.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, INS officials revoked Dahduli's bond and arrested him on September 22 at his home in Richardson, Texas. A few days later, news accounts said, the name of Dahduli had turned up in an address book of Wadih el Hage, a former personal secretary to Osama bin Laden who was convicted in the 1998 bombings of the two US embassies in Africa. Pennington says that in the 1980s, when the two were students in Tucson, Dahduli and el Hage were members of the same mosque, the Islamic Center of Tucson. Later, they had a brief encounter in 1998 at a Dallas restaurant.
In late November, Dahduli gave up his asylum claim and agreed to be deported to Jordan. Now, in the Dallas Muslim community, "everybody is sick and worried," said a colleague at Dahduli's mosque, where he was a leader. INS spokesman Russ Bergeron said the INS accompanies deportees who pose a risk of flight or a risk to public safety. He declined to comment on Dahduli and denied the possibility of torture. "As a signatory of the torture convention it is a US policy not to deport someone to a country that there is reasonable cause to believe that person will be tortured or physically or mentally abused," he said. (Chabot's voicemail says she won't return calls until December 11. Lynn Ligon, INS spokesperson in Dallas, says Chabot is "on leave" until then. The Jordanian Embassy did not return e-mails or calls.)
Other 9/11 detainees could encounter similar problems. The government has reported links to Al Qaeda among only ten to fifteen detainees; the rest are being held on material-witness warrants and on immigration charges for violations like overstaying visas or lying on documents. It is doubtful that they'll be allowed to stay, although under the revamped "responsible cooperators" program, some who offer helpful information might remain. Many, however, will likely be deported, often to countries that don't offer protection from interrogational abuse.
It's possible that the Jordanian government is holding Dahduli as part of a routine check on a man with a native passport who has been detained in the United States; or maybe Jordan has some information on Dahduli; or Dahduli may have made an extradition deal with the United States and Jordan, in which he agreed to work as an informant (his lawyers and wife deny this); or perhaps, as Pennington fears, the FBI hopes to reap the benefits of interrogation tactics that contravene US law.
Why did Dahduli decide to abandon his fight with the US government and agree to be deported to Jordan? Pennington says it was because his application to the United Arab Emirates took too long, and he wanted to get out of jail. An Amnesty memo on post-September 11 human rights abuses, which describes Dahduli's case without naming him, says he was shackled during contact visits, held in solitary confinement for months and allowed only one hour of exercise per week. "He seemed to be treated more harshly than other detainees," said Wright of Amnesty. Could America's justice system have appeared so bereft of due process that he preferred the possibility of torture in Amman? "We had exactly that discussion," said Pennington. "If he didn't end up killed in Jordan, he thought he would be treated much more fairly there. He thought he would get out much more quickly."
See also "The Afghan Humanitarian Crisis," by Matt Bivens.
We are all multilateralists now, or so President George W. Bush would have us believe.
"The government destroyed my life," Mazen Al-Najjar said with both anger and wonder. "Slandered me with secret evidence. And all that time, they were after the wrong man. While I was in jail, the terrorists were loose."
A few days before Thanksgiving Al-Najjar sat across a coffee table from me, explicating the relationship between T.S. Eliot and contemporary Palestinian poetry, repeating a Ramadan joke he'd heard at his mosque the night before, pensively analyzing what he called the "terrible crime" of September 11 and how its perpetrators could best be fought. But mostly Al-Najjar talked about the three and a half years he spent in jail, based on still-secret evidence alleging terrorist associations. He stayed locked up until a no-nonsense federal judge declared his detention unconstitutional in May 2000, and an immigration judge, in a new and more fair proceeding, declared the charge unfounded and last December ordered his release. Neither of us had an inkling that just a few days later, Mazen Al-Najjar would end up as one of the post-September 11 "disappeared."
On the morning of November 24, Al-Najjar left his apartment near the University of South Florida, where he used to teach, to get quarters for the laundromat. His wife was at work, his three daughters still in bed. Federal agents arrested him. A Justice Department press release, repeating the same allegations that had been thrown out of court last year, described his arrest as an effort to "address terrorism by using all legal authorities available."
I sought out Al-Najjar before his unexpected second incarceration because the case of this Gaza-born, US-educated PhD is a bellwether challenge to the constitutionality of secret-evidence antiterrorism trials. He had attracted supporters ranging from Republican Congressman Bob Barr to Democrat David Bonior. Yet here was Al-Najjar arrested again, once more labeled a terrorist, locked up for yet another Ramadan. Has the Justice Department uncovered new evidence linking him to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the group he was once accused of aiding? Or to the September 11 plot?
According to the Justice Department, there is no new evidence. Al-Najjar's latest arrest is ostensibly on technical grounds. Although freed by court order of terrorism charges, he still is under a deportation order for overstaying his student visa. Although he is contesting that deportation (in mid-November he lost a case before the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which he plans to take to the Supreme Court), the INS may hold someone under a final deportation order for up to six months while it seeks to deport him--but only if he poses a danger to the community or a risk of flight, neither of which the INS has been able to establish.
But the visa issue is just a smokescreen. In fact, Al-Najjar's latest detention appears to be the leading edge of an alarming strategy by John Ashcroft's Justice Department to resuscitate and expand secret-evidence trials and to prepare the way for the imprisonment of noncitizens for virtually unlimited terms.
Until September 11 the use of secret evidence in immigration cases appeared to be finished: All but one of the noncitizens held on the basis of secret evidence had been freed, a Congressional bill restricting the practice had passed the House Judiciary Committee and last year candidate George W. Bush himself denounced secret-evidence trials, after hearing complaints from Arab-Americans in Michigan. But now his Justice Department is seeking broader secret-trial powers than ever--with Mazen Al-Najjar a convenient guinea pig.
Al-Najjar's case aroused strong emotion in Florida even before he became a civil liberties cause célèbre. He arrived in the United States in 1981 after living in the United Arab Emirates. While earning a PhD from University of South Florida and teaching there, Al-Najjar helped establish an Islamic studies center that invited to its conferences a wide range of scholars and speakers from the Muslim world--some of whom espoused controversial views on Israel. In 1995, Al-Najjar's co-editor at the center's journal disappeared and later turned up in Syria as general secretary of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As a result, the FBI--apparently convinced the center was a front-- seized its computers, videotapes and files and froze its accounts; USF, under intense media scrutiny as "Jihad U," conducted its own independent investigation.
Both inquiries cleared the center of any connection to terrorism--it was, a federal judge would later declare, "a reputable and scholarly research center." But local FBI officials arrested Al-Najjar, its executive director, anyway and detained him on secret evidence. What lay behind the charge was never made public, but court papers hint that agents decided, on murky evidence, that he helped raise money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Al-Najjar now believes the FBI may have been hoping to make him an informant. "But I hadn't done anything," he insists. "I hate violence. I have never been a paramilitary. I have never raised money for killers." Finally, last fall, Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh heard two weeks of evidence allegedly supporting the government's claim--and promptly slammed the Justice Department for a case "devoid of any direct or indirect evidence" to support imprisonment of Al-Najjar. He refused to rely on secret evidence, because the government did not provide a summary that offered Al-Najjar a meaningful opportunity to respond. Janet Reno, after a personal review of the record, open as well as secret, declined to bar Al-Najjar's release.
Facing the collapse of its terrorism case, the only face-saving course for the INS was to deport Al-Najjar through conventional channels. He had indeed overstayed his student visa. But deportation is no simple matter: Many of the logical destinations for Al Najjar--Egypt, Saudi Arabia--have grown hostile to stateless Palestinians. The INS ostensibly plans to deport him to the Emirates, but his attorneys (including Nation legal affairs writer and Georgetown law professor David Cole) believe it unlikely that the Emirates would welcome him back. Even as the INS is seeking his deportation, Al-Najjar has applied for political asylum, claiming he would face persecution in any of his former homes.
All this still leaves the matter of Al-Najjar's arrest a mystery. Even if the government intends to deport him, why jail a man who repeatedly demonstrated that he is not a flight risk and whose name has been cleared by an Attorney General and a federal immigration judge? Why issue a press release that resurrects allegations already thrown out of court?
The answer may lie, in part, with an accident of geography. Al-Najjar may not be a terrorist, but he is guilty of living in the territory covered by the Eleventh Circuit, one of the most notoriously pro-prosecution, law-and-order appellate benches in the country. Arguments presented by Ashcroft aide Douglas Ginsburg at a November 8 circuit court hearing on Al-Najjar's case suggest a specific goal: establishing a blank-check policy for terrorism prosecutions. Ginsburg argued that even though Al-Najjar has no connection to the September 11 attacks, those attacks should convince the appellate court to set aside a district court ruling that his detention on secret evidence was unconstitutional and simply grant the Justice Department virtual unreviewable power to bring secret-evidence cases. Clearly, Justice thinks that in this courtroom it has perhaps the strongest chance in the nation of securing a new secret-evidence precedent.
At the same time, Mazen Al-Najjar's case plays into a little-noted Justice Department change in policy with sweeping implications for Palestinians and other stateless or unpopular migrants. In mid-November Ashcroft quietly issued a new regulation allowing indefinite detention of noncitizens under a final deportation order if they are deemed to be national security risks and if no country can be found to accept them. Call it Mazen's Law: Should the Eleventh Circuit hand the government its secret-evidence authority, under this new regulation Al-Najjar, a man never indicted or convicted of a crime, would once again be labeled a terrorist and face imprisonment without end.
During his first 1,307 days in prison, Al-Najjar came to believe, he said, that "the government's intention all along was to detain me, not deport me." His new arrest, and Justice's cynical use of discredited charges, suggests that he's right. This time Justice appears determined to keep him far away from the press and his Tampa supporters: Instead of a nearby immigration jail, he's been shipped to solitary confinement in Coleman federal penitentiary seventy-five miles away and may not make phone calls or receive visits from his family for thirty days. The latest--perhaps indefinite--imprisonment of Al-Najjar deeply calls into question the factual and moral basis for the Justice Department's ongoing dragnet.
As world leaders convened at the 56th Session of the General Assembly of the UN in early November, the main topic of discussion was the fight against terrorism.
To: The Foreign Policy Therapist
From: The United States of America
Date: November 12, 2001
Dear Foreign Policy Therapist,
I don't know what to do. I want to be safe. I want safety. But I have a terrible problem: It all began several weeks ago when I lost several thousand loved ones to a horrible terrorist crime. I feel an overwhelming need to apprehend and punish those who committed this unbearably cruel act, but they designed their crime in such a diabolical fashion that I cannot do so, because they arranged to be killed themselves while committing the crime, and they are now all dead. I feel in my heart that none of these men, however, could possibly have planned this crime themselves and that another man, who is living in a cave in Afghanistan, must surely have done so. At any rate I know that some people he knows knew some of the people who committed the crime and possibly gave them some money. I feel an overwhelming need to kill this man in the cave, but the location of the cave is unknown to me, and so it's impossible to find him. He's been allowed to stay in the cave, however, by the fanatical rulers of the country where the cave is, Afghanistan, so I feel an overwhelming need to kill those rulers. As they've moved from place to place, though, I haven't found them, but I've succeeded in finding and killing many young soldiers who guarded them and shepherds who lived near them. Nonetheless, I do not feel any of the expected "closure," and in fact I'm becoming increasingly depressed and am obsessed with nameless fears. Can you help me?
To: The United States of America
From: The Foreign Policy Therapist
Dear United States,
In psychological circles, we call your problem "denial." You cannot face your real problem, so you deny that it exists and create instead a different problem that you try to solve. Meanwhile, the real problem, denied and ignored, becomes more and more serious. In your case, your real problem is simply the way that millions and millions of people around the world feel about you.
Who are these people? They share the world with you--one single world, which works as a unified mechanism. These people are the ones for whom the mechanism's current way of working--call it the status quo--offers a life of anguish and servitude. They're well aware that this status quo, which for them is a prison, is for you (or for the privileged among you), on the contrary, so close to a paradise that you will never allow their life to change. These millions of people are in many cases uneducated--to you they seem unsophisticated--and yet they still somehow know that you have played an enormous role in keeping this status quo in place. And so they know you as the enemy. They feel they have to fight you. Some of them hate you. And some will gladly die in order to hurt you--in order to stop you.
They know where the fruits of the planet, the oil and the spices, are going. And when your actions cause grief in some new corner of the world, they know about it. And when you kill people who are poor and desperate, no matter what explanation you give for what you've done, their anger against you grows. You can't kill all these millions of people, but almost any one of them, in some way, some place, or some degree, can cause damage to you.
But here's a strange fact about these people whom you consider unsophisticated: Most of the situations in the world in which they perceive "injustice" are actually ones in which you yourself would see injustice if you yourself weren't deeply involved. Even though they may dress differently and live differently, their standards of justice seem oddly similar to yours.
Your problem, ultimately, can only be solved over decades, through a radical readjustment of the way you think and behave. If the denial persists, you are sure to continue killing more poor and desperate people, causing the hatred against you to grow, until at a certain point there will be no hope for you. But it's not too late. Yes, there are some among your current enemies who can no longer be reached by reason. Yes, there are some who are crazy. But most are not. Most people are not insane. If you do change, it is inevitable that over time people will know that you have changed, and their feeling about you will also change, and the safety you seek will become a possibility.
When 21-year-old Fernando Jiménez Molina failed to return from his job delivering pizzas two blocks from the collapsed twin towers on September 11, his roommates, also undocumented immigrants, made the grim decision to warn his mother, Nora Elsa Molina, in Mexico. Then they headed for Asociación Tepeyac, a Mexican community organization that emerged as the city's alternative emergency system for the immigrant workers, families and binational communities whose lives and livelihoods lay buried beneath the smoldering rubble.
While these September 11 victims slipped through the cracks in federal relief systems, Tepeyac shifted into crisis mode as soon as the first workers covered with soot and ash stumbled into its office. Arnulfo Chino Rojas "appeared like a ghost, stricken with sadness and pain, frightened and white with dust," said a staff member. Arnulfo squeezed time from his long hours as a waiter at the World Trade Center to teach Mexican dance classes for the association. He and the other dazed workers who converged on the center soon joined Tepeyac's director, Joel Magallán, a Jesuit priest, in cobbling up an emergency response system.
"Undocumented immigrants are the invisible workers and victims of the disaster," says Brother Joel. Tepeyac, a network of forty Mexican organizations in the city and upstate New York, has firsthand knowledge of sixty-three desaparecidos, sixty-five small-business closings and 3,095 lost jobs, roughly half of which were held by undocumented workers in and around the trade center. The disappeared came from Mexico and several other countries. Many immigrants worked seventy- and eighty-hour weeks at subminimum wages or off the books for cash in restaurants, cafes, bakeries, hotels, for custodial companies, cleaning shoes, selling flowers and newspapers, and ascending the twin towers to deliver coffee, newspapers, flowers and gifts.
Brother Joel insists, "The only way we can know for sure who is missing is for the employers to cooperate. They are the ones who have lists of who was working for them, documented or undocumented. But the employers are afraid that they will be penalized. We want the INS to waive employer sanctions so companies can come forward."
Frantic family members and co-workers flooded Tepeyac with local and international calls. As word of the group's good deeds spread, AFL-CIO unions, churches, community organizations, businesses and individuals donated $35,000, which Tepeyac quickly dispensed to victims and their families. The organization is now working with the Red Cross and Safe Horizon to obtain further relief and has dispatched volunteers as far as Guatemala and El Salvador to test relatives with DNA kits so that the remains of loved ones can be identified.
"Jane," who asked that her real name be withheld, turned to Tepeyac after two lengthy visits to the Family Assistance Center on Pier 94 left her empty-handed because she could not produce a pay stub. She worked as a nanny to a 4-year-old before her employers disappeared on September 11. A member of Freedom and Unity Among Pilipina Workers, Jane groaned, "What domestic worker do you know gets a pay stub?" Thanks to Tepeyac's intervention, Jane finally received a $50 grocery voucher and the promise of Red Cross vouchers of $300 for rent and $250 for emergency cash for one month. Joining the tens of thousands of immigrants who have lost their jobs in recent weeks, Jane wonders how she will support herself, her husband and two children back home once the emergency funds run out. Like all undocumented workers, she is not eligible for FEMA assistance or unemployment benefits.
Immigrant communities, hard-hit by recession and lacking the cushion of a safety net, are also gripped with fear as the Bush Administration recasts immigration policy within the framework of national security and the war on terrorism. Before September 11, patient community education, organizing, coalition-building and lobbying for humane immigration policies had begun to bear fruit, especially with the AFL-CIO's shift last year toward opposing employer sanctions and calling for unconditional amnesty for undocumented workers. After Mexican President Vicente Fox's visit here this past summer, George W. Bush and Congressional leaders had begun to discuss a limited program of "phased legalization"--although this was coupled with an exploitative guest-worker program without a guarantee of permanent residency--while Congressman Luis Gutierrez had crafted progressive legalization legislation. Now the amnesty debate is on hold in Washington, and community groups are steeling themselves for reversals on hard-fought battles against Border Patrol violence, INS raids and detentions and racial profiling. Catherine Tactaquin, director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, says, "We're hit with a revival of historic patterns of fear, hatred, of fingering immigrants as threats to national security."
On October 24 more than a hundred displaced workers jammed into Judson Memorial Church for a meeting convened by Tepeyac with relief agencies. Among them were Mexicans, Dominicans, Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Filipinos, Koreans, Bangladeshis. Brother Joel asked whether anyone was willing to risk speaking to the press. A sea of hands shot up. Why shouldn't we be entitled to the same relief as other New Yorkers during the city's hour of need--papers or no papers? they asked. Many wept when Luz María Mendoza appealed to Governor Pataki for full legalization. She has yet to find the remains of her husband, Juan Ortega, who worked in a restaurant at the WTC and left behind three small children.
Isn't it time to join Mendoza in the call for legalization? Shouldn't widows like her, mothers like Molina and displaced workers like Arnulfo and Jane finally be allowed some relief as they deal with their grief?
Muhammed Butt, a 55-year-old laborer from Pakistan who was detained for a day as a terrorist suspect after September 11 and then imprisoned for a month on a simple visa violation, was said by authorities to have died of a heart attack. In fact, his heart was misshapen from birth and his coronary arteries were blocked. Wrongly suspected of anthrax exposure and isolated from the world, he was overcome by the stress. As a doctor, I can say that in all ways, he was a man who died of a broken heart.
Muhammed Butt's death illustrates a central problem that is the direct consequence of a zealous backlash against terrorism. Hundreds of people are rounded up without justification, and once interned, they are kept for weeks behind bars without ready access to their families or to lawyers. It is hard to imagine a situation better designed to produce severe stress and depression.
Butt worked all his life as a laborer, often traveling between oil fields in Qatar and Dubai to provide for his family. Last year he came to New York on a temporary visitor visa. His goal, as it often is for those who leave their families behind, was to send home money for his three daughters' weddings and to give his two sons the opportunities in life he'd never had. But he was only able to find odd jobs, first in a deli, later stacking boxes and waiting on tables in a restaurant in Queens. His nephew, Muhammad Bilal Mirza, a longtime resident of Brooklyn, gave him cash whenever he could, but he couldn't drive a taxi like his nephew because he didn't know how to drive.
Mirza describes his uncle as a large man. His picture shows a broad face featuring oversized, oblong ears, a rough, pear-shaped nose and small, squinty, suspicion-raising eyes. He was graying visibly and gaining shadows and lines from rapid aging mixed with worry. Mirza says his uncle never complained of not feeling well. Not long before September 11, he told his nephew that he was considering giving up and returning to Pakistan.
In late September a local pastor reported to the FBI that several men who had arrived in two vans had entered Butt's residence, leading the FBI to investigate. Butt was arrested for overstaying his visa, but, finding nothing to interest them, the FBI turned Butt over to the INS after holding him only one day. Meanwhile, knowing that his uncle had been arrested, Mirza tried to obtain a lawyer, but couldn't afford the $7,000 fee the lawyer quoted. For the next month, the INS held Butt in the Hudson County, New Jersey, jail pending his deportation, during which time Mirza tried unsuccessfully to locate his uncle. Alan Apselbaum, a prison social worker, said that prisoners may call collect on pay telephones inside the prison. "I have no idea why Mr. Butt didn't call anyone," he said.
On October 1 Butt underwent a routine physical. His blood pressure and medical findings were normal, but the dentist started him on an antibiotic for gingivitis. Dr. Francis Molinari, a prison doctor, said that the guards and other prisoners were worried that Butt might have been handling anthrax because he was now taking antibiotics--despite the fact that the antibiotics had been prescribed by a prison dentist--and Butt was compelled to undergo a nasal swab test for anthrax. Dr. Molinari tried to downplay the persecution and isolation experienced by Butt and others. "It's calm here," he said. "Nothing strange is going on."
However calm Butt may have appeared, not complaining of chest pain or anything else, his stress was apparently building. On October 23 he rose as usual before dawn, ate breakfast and passed several hours on his cot, where he was found dead just before 11 am. The New Jersey state medical examiner, Dr. Faruk Presswalla, like many pathologists a keen puzzle-solver after the fact, said, "The stress must have killed him. He already had a bad heart, even if it never affected him before. His coronaries were 70 percent blocked and one of the coronary sinuses was missing. His heart wasn't made to handle a crisis." The seasoned coroner found no sign of trauma, anthrax or even gingivitis, which may have been cured by the antibiotic. "This man was basically healthy," he said. "He could have lived a long time even with his heart like this."
Mirza learned of his uncle's death from the Pakistani consulate, which had been notified by the INS. He also heard from the lawyer he had contacted after Butt's detention. Mirza recalls, "I tell him, 'What kind of help you bring him now?'" At the ceremony of remembrance, he joined irate friends circulating a petition to protest Butt's long internment. This petition was presented to the Pakistani ambassador, in the hope that it could be sent to the State Department and would lead to changes in INS policy. Butt's body was shipped back to Pakistan, and according to Mirza, Butt's wife said she wanted nothing to do with the United States ever again.
Restricting freedom in the name of freedom, our intelligence community risks forgetting why our society chose to call itself free in the first place. Hundreds of people like Butt have been rounded up because of someone's suspicions and remain in prison awaiting deportation. Not charged with a real crime or provided access to lawyers, these people must be deported promptly or freed, or many will languish, and more will die. Our agencies must not terrorize innocent people in their search for terrorists.
Mirza, a US citizen for fifteen years, still says he's proud to be an American: "American people have a wonderful heart. All Americans suffer now and pray for the people who have died." Mirza halts in his speech, listening, wanting to be believed, afraid that because of his uncle he will be lumped into a group that is automatically mistrusted. Mirza says sadly that he has been burning vigil candles since September 11 and volunteering at the Family Assistance Center in Manhattan. "All who died," he says, "are innocent."