members of the U.S. military, airline pilots, baggage handlers, flight attendants, cargo loaders, mechanics, guards or airplane cleaners.
The ACLU sued the U.S. Treasury Department on behalf of two Somali shop owners in Seattle, whose assets were seized in a raid. Abdinasir Ali Nur and Abdinasir Khalif Farah suffered more than $300,000 in losses when agents investi- gating a completely separate money-transfer business stormed in and emptied their shops, taking even the toilet paper. Their shops occupied the same building as the busi- ness under scrutiny, but had no connection to it, according to Kathleen Taylor, who heads the ACLU of Washington state. The government did not have “any reason to believe they had engaged in wrongdo- ing,” she argued. On May 8, 2002, the U.S. Treasury reimbursed Nur in the amount of $40,500 for checks it had seized in the raid. The ACLU continued to pursue on Nur’s behalf his claims for more than $250,000 in lost merchandise, including specially prepared halal meats — central to the religious practices of the Somali immi- grants — that were destroyed in the raid. MOST AMERICANS DO NOT EVEN RECOGNIZE THAT THE USA-PATRIOT ACT, CONCEIVED BY ASHCROFT AND RAMMED THROUGH CONGRESS AFTER THE ATTACKS UNDER PRESSURE FROM PRESIDENT BUSH, GAVE THE GOVERNMENT EXPANDED POWER TO INVADE THEIR PRIVACY, IMPRISON THEM WITHOUT DUE PROCESS AND PUNISH DISSENT.
The ACLU joined other groups filing federal and state lawsuits asserting that the Freedom of Information Act requires the government to divulge the names of those arrested in its terrorism investiga- tion, and to say where they are being held.
While the ACLU recognized that some aspects of the investigation should remain confidential, it was troubled by reports that some detainees had not been accorded the constitutional protections guaranteed to all people in America by the Bill of Rights, including access to lawyers and families. After trying and failing repeatedly to obtain information that would have reassured the American public, the ACLU joined with a coalition of civil-liberties, human rights and electronic privacy organizations to file a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 29, 2001, followed by a federal lawsuit on Dec. 5, 2001. Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, pointed out: “The more questions arose about the government’s treatment of these individuals, the tighter the veil of secrecy was drawn. This has to offend us as Americans.”
A second suit was brought by the ACLU of New Jersey, which invoked New Jersey law and sought the names of Immigration and Naturalization Service detainees held in Hudson and Passaic County, N.J., jails. In both cases, the Justice Department fought the ACLU every step of the way–essentially arguing that blind trust in the government was all that was needed.
Making the defense of immigrants whose rights had been violated a top priority, the ACLU tried to locate those who had contacted foreign consulates or embassies after being placed in secret detention. Fearful that the historical record of civil liberties abuses would be lost with the deportation and departure of secret detainees, Romero sent letters and copies of the ACLU “Know Your Rights” brochure to the