A crack in the Attorney General nominee Michael-Mukasey-as-straight-shooter media myth appears in this morning’s New York Times:
It was Oct. 2, 2001, and the prisoner, Osama Awadallah, then a college student in San Diego with no criminal record, was one of dozens of Arab men detained around the country in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks as potential witnesses in the terrorism investigation.
Before the hearing, Mr. Awadallah told his lawyer that he had been beaten in the federal detention center in Manhattan, producing bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit. But when his lawyer told this to Judge Mukasey, the judge seemed little concerned.
“As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,” said Judge Mukasey, who was nominated by President Bush last week to be his third attorney general and is now facing Senate confirmation hearings. “You want to have him examined, you can make an application. If you want to file a lawsuit, you can file a civil lawsuit.”
Even though Mr. Awadallah was not charged at the time with any crime and had friends and family in San Diego who would vouch that he had no terrorist ties, Judge Mukasey ordered that he be held indefinitely, a ruling he made in the cases of several other so-called material witnesses in the Sept. 11 investigations. A prison medical examination later identified the bruises across his body.
Judge Mukasey’s comments at the 2001 hearing were revealed in a once-secret 16-page transcript provided to The New York Times by a lawyer for Mr. Awadallah.
Hmmm… sounds like a Bush Administration kind of guy. Although…
[Mukasey] appeared to defend himself in an opinion article that was published in The Wall Street Journal last month in which he rebuffed criticism of the treatment of material witnesses after Sept. 11, saying their due process was protected.
“Each individual so arrested was brought immediately before a federal judge where he was assigned counsel, had a bail hearing and was permitted to challenge the basis for his detention, just as a criminal defendant would be,” he wrote. The article made no reference to Mr. Awadallah’s detention.
On the other hand,
Critics say a 1984 material witness law was abused by the Justice Department, and by Judge Mukasey and his judicial colleagues, to hold terrorist suspects indefinitely after Sept. 11 without having to accuse them of a crime and afford them the rights of a criminal defendant.
The roundup of men like Mr. Awadallah under the material witness law in September and October 2001 was an early effort by the Bush administration to rewrite or reinterpret laws on the detention, interrogation and surveillance of people suspected of terrorist ties after the Sept. 11 attacks — a campaign that is now the subject of furious debate between the White House and the Democratic leaders of Congress.
Critics say the material witness cases before Judge Mukasey after Sept. 11 offer insight into his performance and temperament at a time of duress. The cases came before him at a time when New York was still in turmoil, with the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, only blocks from the rubble of the World Trade Center, partly shut down and operating under extraordinarily tight security.
Oh, I see. That’s different. Not.