September 4th, 2009
07:04 PM ET
2 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. Laura

    I think that the more the entire Bush Administration is probed, the more we will see them exposed for the evil, rotten, Un-American group that they were. I hold them responsible for the near single handed destruction of the Republican Party as it was under R. Reagan. I would be ashamed to have voted for him (Thank heavens I never did) and only feel pity and embarrassment for those who were stupid enough to do it even once. I really believe that those who deliberately voted for him twice need electric shock treatment followed by a lobotomy and lifetime confinement in a metal institution. That would be the kindest thing to do for such mentally diseased (or deficient) human beings. Then they can live out their lives in a happy fantasy land where it is the 1930's again, women are bare foot and pregnant, minorities are just that and suppressed, and white men rule everything. Their idea of "Happy Land".

    September 4, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  2. Hugo

    I would love to see all of the American people rise up and crush this leftist liberal movement in our country, oh wait, I think we are! Profiling is based on the obvious, it wasn't white Americans flying planes into buildings, it was middle eastern Islamics. Blind obedience, right, go drink some more kool-aide Obama slaves!

    September 4, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  3. eolufemi

    Good job. If they refuse to get him in criminal court, the least they could do is bankrupt the guy.

    September 4, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  4. Louise in CA

    I hope the Supreme Court lets this stand, and doesn't overturn this decision. Finally, some justice that is ethnically and politically fair. "National Security" has become the cloak that liars, cheats, and political junkies hide behind when they want to get away with dirty tricks, illegal acts, and personal gain at the taxpayers' expense. I'm sick of "National Security." Truth in the full light of day will make us more safe and secure than anything else.

    September 4, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  5. Marc

    add Cheney, Rice, Rummie, Wolfiwitz to the list....with Bush at the top.

    September 4, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  6. bozo the obama

    obama-rahm-eric-van jones....prepare for gitmo.

    September 4, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  7. Susan

    Let the accountability begin...

    September 4, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  8. lil

    Some or most Republican are hateful liars and will do or say any thing to make a name for themselves. I have never seen so many grown men and women tell lies as good as these people. Oh by the way they even use their children to get what they want.

    September 4, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  9. frank563

    Finally.. accountability wins and the 'immunity defense' loses.

    September 4, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  10. Always Remember...Republican Zealots got us here

    National Health Care begins with bringing Cheney/Bush to Trial.

    Sensible Americans know this.

    September 4, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  11. Wise Latina

    Take a page from your slave masters and "MoveOn", you bunch of loony lib whiners...

    September 4, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  12. james

    The best defense is a good offense. Barack should go after every offense aggressively and keep the republicans on their heels. If they recover a majority at mid-term, they will make what they did to Clinton look like a practice run.

    September 4, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  13. Scott

    Good, I hope he sues him into the poor house.

    September 4, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  14. mk

    John Ashcroft is a scary man. He held too much power and clearly hates freedom. I say we should all sue him.

    September 4, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  15. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    If the current administration gets its way, Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda will probably get the right to sue the U.S. military for damages to their terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

    September 4, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  16. Jerrassy

    God help us all if that is called justice!!
    Thousands of dead people... very lethal terror attacks just took place...
    there could be more on their way... and this Federal Judge thinks
    he's in Walt Disney World ...

    September 4, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  17. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Power corrupts, and it seems to have corrupted the Bush administration thoroughly.

    September 4, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  18. Ivan

    Why only this guy? He is small fry compared to the big ones ripe for the catching. Why are the kingpins in this game being treated with kid gloves, when they should have been locked up a long time ago.

    September 4, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. bri fla

    Not only should Ashcroft be sued, Cheney and the rest of the crazies should be tried for similar abuses. Of course Obama wants to look forward, doing something meaningful for transparency and accountability is not on the list of alot of politicians to do list. Alot of credit to E. Holder for his efforts bipartisan or not. Checks and balances in the judicial sense could help keep future offenses in check. I have my doubts about the teeth of the whole investigation, but at least there is someone looking to right wrongs for those that consider their actions beyond reproach as the whole rep administration obviously did. Now with the threat of judicial action they all scramble to defend themselves publicly funny they never seemed so concerned when the law was theirs to interpret or minipulate for their own.

    September 4, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. bri fla

    kudos I would pay to see a huge investigation of the whole Bush administration, in place of american idol in primetime. Rights aren't rights if they can just be sidestepped by any cowboy lookin to get tough with muslims or any other American who doesn't share a narrow minded world view. How did they get Nixon in all, I think someone should follow that path. The rising independant voter registration numbers second that, and give me hope for some Americans waking up to the two party dictatorship.

    September 4, 2009 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  21. Jesus Christ the Son of God Against StOoPiD Dumb Ass Republicans

    Every felon who served with and for Jarge DUH-Bya Bahooosh deserves the full force of the law hammered down on them. AssCraft is and was a neo-con wanna be singing lunatic from the depths of retardation to the 10th power. He and Kaching$$$ Ka-Chain Gang Cheney are sweating in their running boots trying to hide from the truth and persecution but they will be hunted down like a tur-er-ist and we will smoke 'em outta their holes.

    My name is the boss of god and I approve this message.

    September 4, 2009 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  22. Dianne

    Racial profiling is running rampant in the USA. Look how so many Americans and the media treat President Obama. All past presidents (white) have made back to school speeches. Everything about this President is critiqued to the smallest detail. No president has had so much negative in office only two months. CNN, you know better, we did not get to this financial mess in eight months. Instead of calming people, you seek to rile them. We have never in the past recessions recovered in eight months. You should be more responsible in creating less havoc instead of promoting semi hysteria among the American people than to keep your ratings and sponsors high. You have more negative polls than most. However, we never know the way you asked the questions to get answers to support a so call scientific research of Americans. Also, what area in you polling did you call? Polls can read as you like to keep the pot stirred. Think about it and stop stirring the pot about our President. You the media seem to be afraid of change. Let the President do his job and
    CNN do your job by reporting news and not creating news. I'll watch to see if you print this letter.

    September 4, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  23. GuyInVA

    This decision was made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I believe it is the court of appeals most often reversed by the Supreme Court. All of you Ashcroft haters shouldn't get your hopes up.

    September 4, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  24. No Hillary = No Obama

    Good – what takes karma so long to come around?

    September 4, 2009 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  25. Bayousara

    President Obama, the people who elected you are still standing behind you.

    Don't worry about all this flack about kids watching you speak. In those states where there are great schools, those kids will be able to hear you.

    I am going to picket if my school district doesn't allow our kids to see your presentation.

    September 4, 2009 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
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