Abdullah al-Kidd, Held After 9/11, Wins Right to Be Tried

I spend a lot of time, it seems, reporting on outrageous, silly or celebrity-driven lawsuits. Righteous or not, they’re entertaining. But this one, in the Times a few days ago and reported by Ethan Bronner, is important. It begins:

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that the United States, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks wrongly imprisoned an American under a law designed to keep trial witnesses from feeling and that since there was evidence that the government may have willfully misused the law against him, his case should go to trial.

To me, as well as to the ACLU which is representing Mr. Kidd, this is a hugely important case, because, as Lee Gelernt, Mr. Kidd’s ACLU lawyer, said, “It will finally put the government on trial for its post-Sept. 11 practices.” And, by the way, the very-Red-State judge who made this decision was appointed to the bench by Bush.

Even in the days immediately following the attacks, even when the small law firm I worked for was permitted to re-enter our offices at 99 Hudson Street, a few blocks from what were the Twin Towers, I saw the hysterical, paranoid reaction of the Bush administration and understood that in its horrible way, the administration used its photo ops from the rubble as an excuse to dismantle our civil liberties.

In many many ways, the hysterical paranoia has not faded. Not much, anyway. Instead, it’s morphed into the rule of law and has fed the excesses of the NRA and other right-wing groups.

This case is important because in open court, the Department of Justice — an entirely different DOJ, but one still, perhaps out of political fear of being perceived as “weak,” clinging to the craziness — will have to defend itself and its actions against Mr. Kidd. And when you read the whole article, you’ll be as angry as I am about how the FBI managed to get a warrant to hold Mr. Kidd. They lied, and left out important facts.

Maybe the DOJ will decide not to defend itself in court. As the Times says, “A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The department could appeal the decision or seek a settlement with Mr. Kidd.”

The final paragraphs make human and personal how rottenly a government can treat its citizens in the name of … well, what should we call this? Oh, yeah, the Bush administration came up with the ever-so-catchy departmental name: “Homeland Security.” I would personally love to take the government to court in an effort to erase that particular Orwellian nomenclature.

Mr. Kidd, who described himself as “anti-Bin Laden, anti-Taliban, antisuicide bombing, anti-terrorism,” said he suffered enormously from his treatment by the government. He lost his scholarship to Saudi Arabia and his marriage fell apart. He is currently living in Saudi Arabia, teaching English and coaching a group of young men in American football, according to Mr. Gelernt, his lawyer.


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