source: New York Times
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft may face personal liability for the decisions that led to the detention of an American citizen as a material witness after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday.
In the decision, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, was sharply critical of the Bush administration’s practice of holding people it suspected of terrorism without charges, as material witnesses.
“We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history,” said the opinion, written by Judge Milan D. Smith Jr.
The lawsuit was brought in 2005 by Abdullah al-Kidd, who was born Lavoni T. Kidd in Kansas and converted to Islam in college. He was arrested in 2003 at Dulles Airport as he prepared to fly to Saudi Arabia for graduate work in Islamic studies, and was held for weeks under a law that allows the indefinite detention of material witnesses to a crime. After his detention, he was ordered to stay with his in-laws in Las Vegas; his travel was restricted over the next year.