- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

An independent office of the Justice Department determined in a report to Congress that there are just 34 credible cases among the more than 1,000 complaints of civil-rights and civil-liberty violations under the Patriot Act.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the numbers show the “majority of claims were found to be unsubstantiated.”

“I would say that when you look at the number of complaints versus the number of credible allegations, it shows the system is actually working,” Mr. Corallo said.

“There were no credible allegations of misconduct by federal law-enforcement officials regarding the use of the Patriot Act, and of the credible allegations investigated, only a handful were substantiated.”

The report released yesterday is the third by the inspector general since the law was enacted, and focuses on civil-liberty complaints, not boundaries of legal authority. The complaints under investigation came mostly from Muslims and Arabs and were received between Dec. 16 and June 15.

“These allegations ranged in seriousness from alleged beatings of immigration detainees to BOP [Bureau of Prisons] correctional officers allegedly verbally abusing inmates,” said a report by inspector general Glenn A. Fine.

The inspector general opened six new cases including one in which 20 inmates accused a correctional officer of verbally abusing a Muslim inmate and “ordering him to remove his shirt so that the officer could use it to shine his shoes.”

One Egyptian national asserts he was forced to undergo “multiple and duplicative invasive body-cavity searches, [was] denied access to counsel, denied the right to practice his religion,” and forced to consume food prohibited by his religion.

The IG is still investigating another incident at a federal prison where a prisoner being held for overstaying his visa says he was beaten, denied medical treatment and forced to eat pork. The last claim was dismissed after it was learned the jail had a “100 percent non-pork diet.”

An Arab-American charged that FBI agents illegally searched and vandalized his apartment, stole items and called him a terrorist. The Arab-American claims the FBI recruited a friend to plant drugs in his home, which the FBI again raided four months later, arresting him.

Tim Edgar, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the search and vandalism complaint is consistent with numerous others received by his organization.

“These complaints are serious and they need to be investigated at higher levels,” Mr. Edgar said.

“Instead, we see from the Justice Department they minimize and downplay the seriousness of the problems they have, and are still viewing this as a PR problem rather than the individual civil liberties and civil rights every American is guaranteed,” Mr. Edgar said.

Of the 34 complaints, 28 possible Patriot Act violations were forwarded to different internal-affairs offices of the Justice Department. Two complaints were forwarded to the FBI, including charges by a naturalized U.S. citizen of Lebanese descent who said agents “invaded his home based on false information and wrongly accused him of possessing an AK-47 firearm.”

Numerous complaints were also forwarded to federal immigration officials, including one in which a family says they were detained for three hours at an airport, questioned, fingerprinted and not given food or water.

Another complaint says an immigration employee “treated an individual rudely in front of others and asked if he ‘wanted to kill Christians and Jews.’”

Nearly 400 complaints determined to be “unrelated” were set aside. Those include “individuals who claim they are under 24-hour surveillance by the CIA or other governmental agencies; individuals who allege their e-mails and phone calls are being intercepted; and non-detained individuals who claim they are being tortured by the government.”

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