The September 11 Detainees:
A Review of the Treatment of Aliens Held on Immigration Charges in Connection with the Investigation of the September 11 Attacks

June 2003
Office of the Inspector General

For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul K. Martin (202) 514-3435

Department of Justice Inspector General
Issues Report on Treatment of Aliens
Held on Immigration Charges in Connection with
the Investigation of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

June 2, 2003 (Washington, D.C.) - Glenn A. Fine, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice, today issued a report examining the treatment of aliens held on immigration charges in connection with the investigation of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Justice (Department) used federal immigration laws to detain aliens in the United States who were suspected of having ties to the attacks or connections to terrorism, or who were encountered during the course of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) investigation into the attacks. In the 11 months after the attacks, 762 aliens were detained in connection with the FBI terrorism investigation for various immigration offenses, including overstaying their visas and entering the country illegally.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) examined the treatment of these detainees, including their processing, bond decisions related to them, the timing of their removal from the United States or their release from custody, their access to counsel, and their conditions of confinement. The OIG's 198-page report focuses, in particular, on detainees held at the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York, and at the Passaic County Jail (Passaic) in Paterson, New Jersey, a county facility under contract with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to house federal immigration detainees. We chose these two facilities because they held the majority of September 11 detainees and also were the focus of many complaints of detainee mistreatment.

"While our review recognized the enormous challenges and difficult circumstances confronting the Department in responding to the terrorist attacks, we found significant problems in the way the detainees were handled," said Inspector General Fine.

Among the specific findings in the OIG's report:

Arrest, Charging & Assignment to a Detention Facility:

Bond and Removal Issues

The FBI's initial assessment of the September 11 detainees' possible connections to terrorism and the slow pace of the clearance process had significant ramifications on the detainees' conditions of confinement. Our review found that 84 September 11 detainees were housed at the MDC in Brooklyn under highly restrictive conditions. These conditions included "lock down" for at least 23 hours per day; escort procedures that included a "4-man hold" with handcuffs, leg irons, and heavy chains any time the detainees were moved outside their cells; and a limit of one legal telephone call per week and one social call per month.

Among the OIG review's findings regarding the treatment of detainees held at the MDC and Passaic are:

Conditions of Confinement

"The Justice Department faced enormous challenges as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and its employees worked with dedication to meet these challenges," Fine said. "The findings of our review should in no way diminish their work. However, while the chaotic situation and the uncertainties surrounding the detainees' connections to terrorism explain some of the problems we found in our review, they do not explain them all," Fine said.

In Chapter 9 of the report, the OIG offers 21 recommendations dealing with issues such as the need to develop uniform arrest and detainee classification policies, methods to improve information sharing among federal agencies on detainee issues, improving the FBI clearance process, clarifying procedures for processing detainee cases, revising BOP procedures for confining aliens arrested on immigration charges who are suspected of having ties to terrorism, and improving oversight of detainees housed in contract facilities.

The OIG completed its report on April 29, 2003, after which time it underwent an extensive review process within the Department, the FBI, and other Department components prior to its public release. Today, the Inspector General is releasing the OIG's full report with only a few words or phrases that contain specific identifying information "redacted" (blacked out) because they are considered Law Enforcement Sensitive by the Department and the FBI.

Source: Justice Department