Supreme Court says that the US Government can arrest and detain people who have commited no crime, treat them inhumanely, and then release them after 2 weeks and suffer no repercussions

US Supreme Court rules Ashcroft can’t be held responsible in case of detention and abuse of innocent Muslim-American
[Via Boing Boing]

The Supreme Court ruled today that former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft cannot be personally sued over his role in the arrest of an innocent American citizen, a Muslim man who was never charged with a crime. From the Associated Press:

By a 5-3 vote, the court said Ashcroft did not violate the constitutional rights of Abdullah al-Kidd, who was arrested in 2003 under a federal law intended to make sure witnesses testify in criminal proceedings. Al-Kidd claimed in a federal lawsuit that the arrest and detention violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

He was held for 16 days, during which he was strip-searched repeatedly, left naked in a jail cell and shower for more than 90 minutes in view of other men and women, routinely transported in handcuffs and leg irons, and kept with people who had been convicted of violent crimes.

The ACLU’s response to the ruling is here.


We already know that the government can arrest American citizens and detain them in horrible conditions for months before charging them with a crime.

But this man was never guilty of any crime and was released without testifying – which was supposedly the reason for holding him.  Now the Supreme Court says no constitutional rights were violated.

Yet the Fourth is the least of the things violated here. The Fifth says that no person will be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law. Sixteen days without liberty and no due process.

The Sixth says that the accused has a right to  a speedy and public trial. Yet our government has the blessing of the Supreme Court to hold people for as long as it wants to. Where is the speedy trial here?

And the Eighth discusses cruel and unusual punishment. Putting an innocent man naked in a jail cell would arguably violate that. Putting a man in solitary for several months without charging him would definitely violate that. Yet our government does this with impunity.

I used to think that the Constitution would protect us but in an era where the President can target American citizens for assassination, can hold people indefinitely without charges and can torture anyone in custody – all with no ramifications in the slightest – it seems to me that the Constitution provides little protection at all.