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War on Terror

Most detained after 9/11 have been freed

December 12, 2002

BY CURT ANDERSON

WASHINGTON--The vast majority of the more than 900 people the federal government acknowledges detaining after the Sept. 11 attacks have been deported, released or convicted of relatively minor crimes not directly related to terrorism, government documents show.

An undisclosed number--most likely in the dozens--are or were held as material witnesses, people the government asked a court to detain because they may have direct knowledge or connection to terrorism.

At the request of the Associated Press, the Justice Department provided its most thorough public accounting of the people arrested in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Only six of the 765 people arrested by the federal government on immigration violations still are held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The rest have been deported or are free in the United States awaiting a final decision on whether they can stay. Some will be permitted to remain in this country because they cooperated in the investigation, Justice Department officials say.

An additional 134 people were charged with criminal offenses, with 99 found guilty through pleas or trials. Many of the crimes bear no direct connection to terrorism. The Justice Department said lesser charges often are used to get a dangerous person off the streets before more serious crimes are committed.

Public interest groups have been critical of the Justice Department and are battling the government in court to obtain disclosure of the names and circumstances of those arrested--many of whom spent weeks or months in custody for relatively minor offenses.

Justice officials say the detentions and legal processes were fair and met constitutional obligations.

AP

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 












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