Justice Department and Homeland Security officials have improved their treatment of illegal aliens detained in the September 11 terrorist investigation, but “significant work” is needed to eliminate the harsh treatment of many detainees, a report said yesterday.
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which was critical in a June report of the government’s treatment of the detainees, said that while progress has been reported, it is not sufficient.
“We are pleased that both agencies are taking the recommendations seriously and are taking steps to address many concerns raised by the … report,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. “However, a number of the recommendations are not addressed with sufficient specificity, and significant work remains before the recommendations are fully implemented.”
In its June report, the Inspector General’s Office called cell conditions “unduly harsh,” found a pattern of physical and verbal abuse against some detainees, and criticized the length of confinement and lack of efforts to clear detainees of any connections to the attacks. Nearly all detainees were found to be in violation of immigration laws.
The latest report, released Friday to the House Judiciary Committee but made public yesterday, said many of the 762 detainees did not know why they were being held, were prevented from getting legal counsel and were denied bond.
The report examined the detainees’ treatment, including the length of confinement, the process undertaken by the FBI to clear them, bond-determination decisions, and policies governing their deportation.
After the September 11 attacks, the FBI was directed to use “every available law enforcement tool” to arrest those who participated in or supported the attacks.
The FBI initiated an investigation known as “Penttbom (Pentagon Twin Towers Bombing).” Within two months, agents had detained about 1,200 people for questioning. The inspector general’s report called the decision to detain and classify illegal aliens as persons “of interest” to the investigation “indiscriminate and haphazard.”
Although detainees were held at numerous facilities across the country, the inspector general’s investigation also looked at conditions at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Passaic County Jail in Paterson, N.J.
In New York, suspects were held under the most restrictive conditions allowed by law and prison officials were told to “not be in a hurry” to allow visitors and give federal investigators time to “do their job.” Detainees were kept in lockdown 23 hours a day for the first few weeks.
Cells were monitored by cameras and detainees’ movements were recorded.