[Vision2020] Former UI Student Cleared to Sue Ashcroft

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Fri Sep 4 15:50:37 PDT 2009

Courtesy of the Spokesman Review.


Former UI student cleared to sue Ashcroft
By Rebecca Boone / Associated Press

A federal appeals court delivered a stinging rebuke Friday to the Bush
administration’s post-Sept. 11 detention policies, ruling that former
Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held liable for people who were
wrongfully detained as material witnesses after 9/11.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the
government’s improper use of material witnesses after Sept. 11 was
“repugnant to the Constitution and a painful reminder of some of the most
ignominious chapters of our national history.”

The court found that a man who was detained as a witness in a federal
terrorism case can sue Ashcroft for allegedly violating his constitutional
rights. Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen and former University of Idaho
student and football player, filed the lawsuit against Ashcroft and other
officials in 2005, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was
detained as a material witness for two weeks in 2003.

Al-Kidd, who played for the Vandals under the name Lavoni Kidd, said the
investigation and detention not only caused him to lose a scholarship to
study in Saudi Arabia, but cost him employment opportunities and caused
his marriage to fall apart.

He argued that his detention exemplified an illegal government policy
created by Ashcroft to arrest and detain people — particularly Muslim men
and those of Arab decent — as material witnesses if the government
suspected them of a crime but had no evidence to charge them.

Ashcroft had asked the judge to dismiss the matter, saying that because
his position at the Department of Justice was prosecutorial he was
entitled to absolute immunity from the lawsuit.

Al-Kidd’s attorney, Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union,
said the ruling by the three-judge panel had implications reaching far
beyond the government’s actions in detaining material witnesses post-Sept.

“The use of the material witness statute as a post-9/11 detention tool is
one of the least understood parts of the post 9/11 landscape, but it has
enormous implications because it was done in secret and the government has
never renounced the policy,” Gelernt said. “Our hope is that we can now
begin the process of uncovering the full contours of this illegal national

The 9th Circuit judges said Al-Kidd’s claims plausibly suggest that
Ashcroft purposely used the material witness statute to detain suspects
whom he wished to investigate and detain preventively.

“Sadly, however, even now, more than 217 years after the ratification of
the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, some confidently assert that the
government has the power to arrest and detain or restrict American
citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because
there is evidence that they have committed a crime, but merely because the
government wishes to investigate them for possible wrongdoing, or to
prevent them from having contact with others in the outside world,” Judge
Milan D. Smith Jr., for the majority. “We find this to be repugnant to the
Constitution and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious
chapters of our national history.”

The Department of Justice may now ask the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals to reconsider the ruling by the three-judge panel, may appeal to
the U.S. Supreme Court, or it could allow the lawsuit to revert back to
Boise’s U.S. District Court.

If the case goes back to the lower court, the government will likely have
to comply with al-Kidd’s discovery requests — releasing documents and
files that it has previously maintained were highly confidential and that
could pose a threat to national security.

The ruling was the latest legal development in a saga dating back to 2003,
when al-Kidd was standing in the Dulles International Airport and
surrounded by federal agents as he prepared to study in Saudi Arabia on a

The Kansas-born husband and father of two was held for two weeks before
being extradited to Idaho and released to the custody of his wife by a
federal court judge. The government thought al-Kidd had crucial testimony
in a computer terrorism case against fellow Idaho student Sami Omar

Al-Kidd and Al-Hussayen both worked on behalf of the Islamic Assembly of
North America, a Michigan-based charitable organization that federal
investigators alleged funneled money to activities supporting terrorism
and published material advocating suicide attacks on the United States.

A jury eventually acquitted Al-Hussayen of using his computer skills to
foster terrorism and of three immigration violations after an eight-week
federal trial. Al-Hussayen was eventually deported to Saudi Arabia.

al-Kidd, who had played football for the University of Idaho under the
name Lavoni Kidd, was never charged with a crime.

In his lawsuit, al-Kidd says he still suffers from the fallout of his
arrest and confinement. He says he was jailed for 16 days in high-security
cells that were lit 24 hours a day, and that he was strip searched several

When a court ordered that he be released, he was required to live with his
wife and in-laws in Nevada, limit his travel to Nevada and three other
states, surrender his passport and other travel documents, report to a
probation officer and submit to home visits. The confinement and
supervision lasted 15 months, and by the time it ended he had separated
from his wife and had been fired from his job as an employee of a
government contractor because the arrest left him unable to get the
necessary security clearance.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that another former Sept.
11 detainee, Javaid Iqbal, couldn’t sue Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert
Mueller for abuse he suffered while detained because Iqbal couldn’t show
there was anything linking the top government officials to the abuses.

The 9th U.S. Circuit judges said al-Kidd’s case was different, however,
because he was able to offer as evidence specific statements that Ashcroft
himself made regarding the post-Sept. 11 use of the material witness


Abdullah al-Kidd (aka Lavoni Kidd)



Seeya at farmers' Market, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
UI '96

Came a tribe from the north brave and bold . . .

"Here We Have Idaho"

"I-D-A-H-O Idaho Idaho Go Go Go"

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