Friday, July 07, 2017

Senators should question Wray about immigrant detentions

The Cheato's replacement FBI director, Christopher Wray, will get a Senate hearing on July 12. Wray has been called a "safe, mainstream pick" by the mainstream media.

But there's a piece of his career that many of us concerned about the administration's cavalier attitude toward due process rights for immigrants ought to be aware of -- and to push our Senators to explore in the hearing.

An article in the Daily Beast explained:

On September 11, 2001, Wray was working in the Deputy Attorney General’s office in downtown Washington D.C. After the attacks, government lawyers rushed to find what steps they could take to try to forestall any other potential attacks. One of the most controversial moves was by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (a now-defunct agency whose responsibilities were passed on to the Department of Homeland Security). The INS detained more than 700 people who the FBI suspected could have been linked to the 9/11 attacks. According to the watchdog report, issued by the Justice Department’s inspector general in April 2003, almost all were men, mostly from Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, India, and Yemen. They had all committed some sort of immigration violation, either staying longer than their visas allowed or entering the U.S. illegally.

That report noted that if those men had been arrested just because of the immigration violations, they either wouldn’t have been detained at all or would have been put in immigrant detention centers with access to visitors and attorneys. Instead, though, they were put in maximum security prisons and, at first, couldn’t communicate with their family or lawyers. It was a “communications blackout,” according to the report. The detainees’ families and lawyers didn’t know where they were or why they had been locked up.

And that’s how Wray wanted it.

The director of the Bureau of Prisons, Kathy Hawk Sawyer, told investigators that Wray and his colleagues directed her to restrict the detainees’ communication as much as was legal. ... Officials with the Bureau of Prisons told the inspector general that they did let detainees send mail so their families could know where they were being held. But the investigators wrote in the report that they had reason to believe that wasn’t true.

Some of the detainees were held in such secure conditions that prison officials didn’t even know they were there. Three attorneys went to the prisons where their clients were held, only to be told by staff that their clients weren’t there––because the staff truly believed they weren’t, as a result of blackout that Wray backed.

Post-911 incommunicado detentions of immigrants who might ordinarily have been only briefly arrested both reflected and enhanced the atmosphere of unreasoning terror that the Bush government fostered in that sad moment. The government's own report describes cruel, lawless, and sloppy procedure throughout he episode.

The federal detentions Wray supervised were not as bad as the literally tortuous detentions of hundreds of mostly Pakistani men (none of whom were ever connected to the 9/11 attacks) carried out by New York authorities. But Wray's work was not blameless either; should we ever choose to let go of unreasoning fear, this episode will be something to apologize for.

The ACLU is asking Senators to question Wray about his involvement to Bush-era legal shenanigans that led to their engaging in torture. Senators should also inquire about how Wray might faithfully carry out the law toward immigrants and Muslims in his proposed postion.


Hattie said...

The worst of this is the needless suffering that these imprisoned people endure. Also of grave concern is the impact of government lawlessness on the rights of all of us.

janinsanfran said...

Terrorism is never going to damage this country as much as fear-induced scorn for a hard-won rule of law, civilized procedure, and due process. Sure, lots of people don't get the level of due process that white citizens expect and sometimes recieve, but that just means we need to work to extend the rule of law to all, not to further constrain it.

Wray needs scrutiny. I don't know if he'll get it, beyond Senators seeking assurances that he'll defend the Mueller investigation. There are many other matters ...

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