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Context of 'November 5, 2001: More Than 1,000 People Reportedly in Secret Custody'

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Mohammed Azmath, left, and Syed Gul Mohammad Shah/ Ayub Ali  Khan, right.Mohammed Azmath, left, and Syed Gul Mohammad Shah/ Ayub Ali Khan, right. [Source: Associated Press]The New York Times reports that, although 830 people have been arrested in the 9/11 terrorism investigation (a number that eventually exceeds between 1,200 and 2,000 (see November 5, 2001), there is no evidence that anyone now in custody was a conspirator in the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, “none of the nearly 100 people still being sought by the [FBI] is seen as a major suspect.” Of all the people arrested, only four, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ayub Ali Khan, Mohammed Azmath, and Nabil al-Marabh, are likely connected to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 10/21/2001] Three of those are later cleared of ties to al-Qaeda. After being kept in solitary confinement for more than eight months without seeing a judge or being assigned a lawyer, al-Marabh pleads guilty to the minor charge of entering the United States illegally (see September 3, 2002) and is deported to Syria (see January 2004). There is considerable evidence al-Marabh did have ties to al-Qaeda and even the 9/11 plot (see September 2000; January 2001-Summer 2001; January 2001-Summer 2001; Spring 2001; Early September 2001). [Washington Post, 6/12/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/27/2002] On September 12, 2002, after a year in solitary confinement and four months before he was able to contact a lawyer, Mohammed Azmath pleads guilty to one count of credit card fraud, and is released with time served. Ayub Ali Khan, whose real name is apparently Syed Gul Mohammad Shah, is given a longer sentence for credit card fraud, but is released and deported by the end of 2002. [Village Voice, 9/25/2002; New York Times, 12/31/2002] By December 2002, only 6 are known to still be in custody, and none have been charged with any terrorist acts (see December 11, 2002). On September 24, 2001, Newsweek reported that “the FBI has privately estimated that more than 1,000 individuals—most of them foreign nationals—with suspected terrorist ties are currently living in the United States.” [Newsweek, 10/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Nabil al-Marabh, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Azmath, Syed Gul Mohammad Shah, Zacarias Moussaoui, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

The Justice Department announces that it has put 1,182 people into secret custody since 9/11. Most all of them are from the Middle East or South Asia. [New York Times, 8/3/2002] After this it stops releasing new numbers, but human rights groups believe the total number could be as high as 2,000. [Independent, 2/26/2002] Apparently this is roughly the peak for secret arrests, and eventually most of the prisoners are released, and none are charged with any terrorist acts (see July 3, 2002; December 11, 2002). Their names will still not have been revealed (see August 2, 2002).

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Former FBI director William Webster and eight former FBI officials publicly criticize Attorney General John Ashcroft’s post-9/11 policies (see Spring 2001, September 12, 2001, October 9, 2001, October 11, 2001, and November 9, 2001). The criticisms come less over Ashcroft’s civil liberties abrogations and more because Ashcroft’s policies violate law-enforcement common sense. By capturing suspected low-level terrorists in public sweeps, the Justice Department and the FBI lose the ability to track those suspects to their superiors in their organizations and groups. (None of the 900 or so suspects rounded up in the Ashcroft sweeps will be charged with any 9/11-related crimes—see October 20, 2001 and November 5, 2001.) [Rich, 2006, pp. 35-36] Webster says that long-term surveillance and undercover operations are much more effective than mass arrests. [Harper's, 12/4/2001] The former FBI officials also ridicule Ashcroft’s idea of interviewing 5,000 Middle Eastern men (none of whom will ever be convicted of a terrorism-related crime). Kenneth Walton, who founded the FBI’s first Joint Terrorism Task Force, says: “It’s the Perry Mason school of law enforcement, where you put them in there and they confess. Well, it just doesn’t work that way. You say, ‘Tell me everything you know,’ and they give you the recipe to Mom’s chicken soup.… It is ridiculous.” Most of those “invited” to interview never showed up, the officials note, and those who did merely answered “yes” or “no” to rote questions. [Time, 11/29/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 35-36] Many local police officers are reluctant to participate in Ashcroft’s public sweeps. Eugene, Oregon police spokeswoman Pam Alejandere tells reporters, “Give us some legitimate reason to talk to the people—other than that they’re from the Middle East—and we’ll be glad to.” [Time, 11/29/2001]

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, John Ashcroft, Pam Alejandere, Kenneth Walton, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Justice Department announces that only 74 of the 752 people detained on immigration charges after 9/11 are still in US custody. By December, only six of them will remain in custody (see December 11, 2002). Hundreds more were detained on other charges or as material witnesses, but no numbers pertaining to them have been released. 611 were subject to secret hearings. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who had requested the figures, says, “It took the Justice Department more than three months to produce a partial response to my letter.” But the answers raise “a number of additional questions, including why closed hearings were necessary for so many people.” Though many were held for months, “the vast majority were never charged with anything other than overstaying a visa.” [New York Times, 7/11/2002] All the deportation hearings for these people have been held in secret as well. Some say the government is cloaking its activities out of embarrassment, because none of these people have turned out to have any ties to terrorism. [New York Times, 7/11/2002; Detroit Free Press, 7/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Carl Levin, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

A federal judge rules that the Bush administration must reveal the identities of the hundreds of people secretly arrested after the 9/11 attacks within 15 days. [Washington Post, 8/3/2002] The judge calls the secret arrests “odious to a democratic society.” The New York Times applauds the decision and notes that the government’s argument that terrorist groups could exploit the release of the names makes no sense, because the detainees were allowed a phone call to notify anyone that they were being held. [New York Times, 8/6/2002] Two weeks later, the same judge agrees to postpone the release of the names until an appeals court can rule on the matter. [New York Times, 8/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

The vast majority of the more than 900 people the federal government acknowledges detaining after the 9/11 attacks have been deported, released or convicted of minor crimes unrelated to terrorism. The Justice Department announces that of the 765 people detained on immigration charges after 9/11, only six are still in US custody (see November 5, 2001; July 3, 2002). Almost 500 of them were released to their home countries; the remainder are still in the US. 134 others were arrested on criminal charges and 99 were convicted. Another group of more than 300 were taken into custody by state and local law enforcement and so statistics are unknown about them. Additionally, more were arrested on material witness warrants, but the government won’t say how many. The Washington Post has determined there are at least 44 in this category (see November 24, 2002). [Washington Post, 12/12/2002; Associated Press, 12/12/2002] Newsweek reports that of the “more than 800 people” rounded up since 9/11, “only 10 have been linked in any way to the hijackings” and “probably will turn out to be innocent.” [Newsweek, 10/29/2001] The names of all those secretly arrested still have not been released (see August 2, 2002). None in any of the categories have been charged with any terrorist acts.

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, United States

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

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