In the days immediately following September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice convened an interagency group at FBI headquarters to coordinate an aggressive investigation aimed at finding any remaining 9/11 conspirators and forestalling any follow-up attacks. The group, which met several times a day, got the personal attention of high officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service James Ziglar.
For many, the terror and disorientation of those post-attack days are mercifully fading memories. But on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case brought by some who will almost certainly never forget—a group of non-citizens who were arrested on flimsy pretexts, confined without recourse, and brutalized by their jailers.
The plaintiffs in Hasty v. Turkmen have been seeking their day in court for 13 years; last week’s grant of review by the high court is probably a sign that they will never get it.
The FBI received nearly 100,000 tips from the public in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As recounted by the Second Circuit in a recent opinion, if agents investigating one of the tips encountered a “Muslim or Arab man” who was in the United States after unlawful entry or on an expired visa, they arrested him for the immigration violation, no matter how small. The policy was called “hold-until-cleared”—meaning these men would be detained until the FBI “cleared” them of connections to terrorism. Eventually, 762 people were placed on the “custody list,” 60 percent of them in the New York area.