- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Of 1,943 complaints to the Justice Department last year regarding suspected civil rights abuses involving the USA Patriot Act, none accused department employees of misconduct because of the anti-terrorism law and only one unrelated case warranted a further criminal investigation, a report said yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which is required by Congress to review suspected Patriot Act abuses, said of the complaints received by the Justice Department between June 22 and Dec. 31, only 195 included accusations involving department employees or components.

It also said 170 of the complaints raised management issues — including the quality of prison food — rather than civil rights or civil liberties abuses.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, in a 16-page report to Congress, said an examination by his office of all 195 cases identified 10 that warranted further review, and only one of those was referred for a criminal investigation.

Mr. Fine said it was “important to note that none of the complaints we processed during this reporting period alleged misconduct by DOJ employees relating to use of a provision in the Patriot Act.”

Most of the accusations involved suspected mistreatment of Muslim inmates at various U.S. Bureau of Prisons correctional facilities. The one criminal referral involved a complaint by a Muslim inmate who said he was abused by correctional officers who also allowed inmates to assault him. Neither the inmate nor the prison facility was identified in the report and the complaint was not a Patriot Act abuse.

Other accusations included complaints that government agents were broadcasting signals that interfered with a person’s thoughts or dreams or that correctional officers had laced the prison food with hallucinogenic drugs.

The Patriot Act, which has come under fire from Democrats, some Republicans and various civil rights groups, was passed by Congress in the wake of the September 11 attacks on America by al Qaeda terrorists. It enhanced the foreign intelligence and law-enforcement surveillance authority of the federal government, particularly the FBI, although some provisions of the new law are due to expire at the end of the year.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales called on Congress earlier this month to renew the act, saying the threat from international terrorism — including al Qaeda — was “still very real” despite U.S. successes in capturing and killing global terrorists. He said while some of the act’s provisions expire this year, “the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.”

Mr. Gonzales described the act as “one of the most important weapons” the Justice Department has in the war against terror.

In yesterday’s report, Mr. Fine said seven of the 10 cases warranting further review were sent to the Bureau of Prisons and involved accusations that Muslim inmates had been humiliated, verbally threatened, improperly confined or subjected to invasive body cavity searches. Others complained they had been given improper bed assignments to facilitate prayer requirements.

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