September 4th, 2009
07:04 PM ET
6 years ago

Former AG Ashcroft can be sued for terror probe arrest, appeals

Former U.S. Attorney General can be sued by a man who claims he was illegally detained.

Former U.S. Attorney General can be sued by a man who claims he was illegally detained.

(CNN) - Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is not immune from being sued by a man who claims he was illegally detained under Justice Department policies implemented after the September 11 terror attacks, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The man, a native-born U.S. citizen who was once a college football star, was held and interrogated by the FBI for 16 days in 2003 and his travel was limited for another year, court documents said.

A spokesman for Ashcroft, asked for his reaction, told CNN, "We're reviewing the decision and have no further comment."

The court rejected Ashcroft's argument that his involvement was as a prosecutor, which would give him full immunity from lawsuits - not as an investigator, which could leave him liable.

"We disagree," the decision said. "Many tools and tactics available to prosecutors can serve either an investigatory or advocacy-related function."

Abdullah al-Kidd's lawyers claimed Ashcroft developed a policy under which the FBI and Justice Department would use the federal material witness law as a pretext "to arrest and detain terrorism suspects about whom they did not have sufficient evidence to arrest on criminal charges but wished to hold preventatively or to investigate further."

His arrest warrant was based on an FBI affidavit that said he was needed to testify at the trial of a Saudi man who had been indicted on visa fraud.

Al-Kidd was never called as a witness in that case, in which the defendant was acquitted, court documents said.

The decision said that "al-Kidd's arrest functioned as an investigatory arrest or national security-related pre-emptive detention, rather than as one to secure a witness's testimony for trial."

Al-Kidd - an African-American born in Wichita, Kansas - converted to Islam and changed his name from Lavini T. Kidd, according to court documents.

He was taken into custody at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia as he prepared to depart to Saudi Arabia, where he planned to study Arabic and Islamic law, the documents said.

The FBI interrogated him, moving him from Virginia to Oklahoma and then Idaho, court documents said. He was kept in chains while being held in high-security cells that were lit 24 hours a day, his lawyers claim.

A judge ordered his release 16 days later, but he was required to surrender his passport and stay in Nevada for another 15 months.

During that time, he lost his job with a government contractor - because he could not get a required security clearance. The father of two also lost his wife, who divorced him.

The FBI began watching al-Kidd months before detaining him, as part of their anti-terror probe aimed at Muslim men, his lawyers said.

When agents learned of his plans to fly to Saudi Arabia, they obtained the "material witness" warrant based on their contention he would not return.

The agents failed to tell the magistrate who issued the warrant that al-Kidd was an American citizen with family in the United States, or that he
had previously cooperated with the FBI, his lawyers said. They also told the judge he had a one-way ticket, when he actually held a round-trip ticket, they said.

–CNN's Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

Filed under: John Ashcroft
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. CensoredLikeIranByCNN

    Racial profiling was alive back then and now. I hope they put Ashcroft in prison for singing "Let the eagle sore"... I mean for being a corrupt AG.

    September 4, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  2. Cynthia - Arkansas

    I would love to see everyone of these creeps have to pay for what they have done. They are disgraceful!

    September 4, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  3. Donald. Cameron, NC

    As he should.

    With all the so called 'legal minds' and 'experts' in the government this should never have happened, except by the paranoia of the Bush Administration.

    Blind obedience to questionable legal opinions is no defense.

    September 4, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  4. Julie

    Wow. Does this really happen in America??? Resembles the McCarthy era witch hunts for communists. It really is a pathetic indictment of how low our government stooped during the last 8 years. Reminds me of shades of communist Russia, China, and other former dictatorships. I thought our ideals were above that. Guess not.

    September 4, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  5. Jane/Seattle

    Could it be that the Obama administration is now willing to consider the prosecution of GWB and his administration? Could all of the various probes into the obvious crimes of this Neo-Conservative Ideology on Steroids make Constitutional scholars stand up and cheer? Is it possible that in the Corporate/Government marriage forbidden by Democracy may come to a halt? Wait a minute! Isn't the oath to uphold this very "quaint" document the foundation of the Presidential oath of office? As a scholar of the Constitution, why has not this government signed, sealed and delivered it already? Oh, I am 60+ years old and have been waiting a lifetime for peace, love and justice so forgive me if I do not swoon at the mention of Obama, Obama, Obama! I did vote for him as the alternative was more terrifying than the IED's that could be imported to America, especially IF we don't halt this killing NOW! Thanks for considering these ideas.

    September 4, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  6. Obama fan...not!

    Can you say......overturn
    The Supreme Court will

    September 4, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  7. Jake

    he SHOULD BE sued!

    September 4, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  8. sgj

    Wow a "two way ticket" instead of a "one way ticket". That's a outright LIE

    BURN HIM. RUIN his excuse for a life along with cheney (yeah ... I refuse to capitalize his name.)

    September 4, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. Leonard

    Oh the precedent that this Can't wait till it starts going further into war crime territory. ^_^

    September 4, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Ernie in LA

    Obama and his crew will have their day to pay for what they have done to the constitution and America.

    September 4, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  11. CNN =

    And then after Obama leaves office, we can start going after all the people in his administration who have broken the law already. Be careful what you wish for liberals. Your party will be the minority again soon.

    September 4, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  12. Keith in Austin

    If Presidents Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson were all alive today, would all you Liberal wimps want to put them in jail for their knowledge of interogation techniques used during WwII and the Viet Nam war? Trust me, much worse action was going on then vs. Waterboarding a handful of dangerous terrorists. Get a clue people. What is going on now is a charade to divert attention away from the Dems imploding poll numbers and to satisfy the insatiable hatred toward the Bush administration! Sick!

    September 4, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  13. Terminus Est

    I'd love to see Ashcroft prosecuted. What a bizarre, creepy character he is. He was the Bush administration's "Heinrich Himmler". Besides, he put Tommy Chong in prison, and should be punished for that if nothing else... 😀

    September 4, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  14. victim of republican greed

    He and Rummy sure beat up Ridge, and made Tom retract his own words about their raising terror threats for political advantage. Ashcroft is smart enough to know he is on a short leash.

    September 4, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  15. Dale

    One small drop of the ocean of injustice dealt out by the Bush Administration.

    September 4, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  16. Farrell in Houston

    When all is uncovered about what this Bush administration has done it will undoubtedly leave people in fear of their lives. That's why there are those among us who are fighting against the Obama administration to keep the truth hidden and make President Obama look like the enemy. Let the truth be told.

    September 4, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  17. T'SAH from Virginia

    Kick them all to the CURB!!! ASH-RUM-CHENEYBUSH!!!!

    September 4, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  18. Joe Brown

    Gov't officials have to pay for their actions? Since when? It's about time.

    September 4, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  19. Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

    Well, we didn't have democracy in the Bush years; we had psychopathocracy, the rule of dangerous madmen.

    September 4, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. S Callahan New York

    I'm sorry this man went through this....I'm sure he is not alone. Where has tolearnce a pot of fear? The craziness of this all is we have to protect our country...yet respect it's 'real' laws at the same a tight walk.

    September 4, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  21. cathyinaz


    September 4, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. Nini

    You all have forgotten what it was right after 911.
    Uninformed people like you are what is wrong with this country and not Ashcroft.

    September 4, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  23. S M R

    Take all the CROOKS down to set an example that "NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW and the American Taxpayers deserve redemption.

    September 4, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  24. William in San Jose

    He ought to be in an orange jumpsuit already.

    September 4, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. Sam I Am

    Let's hope this is only the beginning. We've been avoiding doing anything about what Ashcroft, Cheney, Gonzales, Ridge, Rice, Rumsfeld, and countless others did in the name of "safety". This must not happen again.

    September 4, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
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