Abdullah al Kidd detained for 18 months as material witness & never called to testify or charged with crime (credit: John Locher/NYT)
Abdullah al Kidd was on his way to Saudi Arabia to puruse a doctorate in Islamic Studies when Ashcroft’s boys stopped him (see For Post-9/11 Material Witness, It is Terror of Different Kind). So began an 18-month odyssey of terror for an Arab-American citizen that took him to federal prisons across the country. Here is how he describes his initial treatment:
“I was made to sit in a small cell for hours and hours and hours buck naked,” he said. “I was treated worse than murderers.”
It turns out that the government was after information that al Kidd might have about another would be terrorist (at least in the eyes of the Justice Department), Sami Omar al-Hussayen, the University of Idaho graduate student who helped set up a supposed “terror” website and was accused of aiding and abetting terror (see my post Ashcroft & His Boys Don’t Like A-rabs). A federal jury refused to convict al-Hussayen on any of the charges brought by federal prosecutors. Likewise, al Kidd was neither charged with a crime nor called as a witness. Why? Well, listen to this bunch of lunacy from the FBI:
Prosecutors decided not to call Mr. Kidd to testify, Norm Brown said, because they considered him an angry man who was likely to be a hostile witness.
“We fully intended to put Mr. Kidd on the stand in Boise,” Mr. Brown said. “For strategic reasons, near the end of the trial, it was decided it would not be beneficial.”
Gee, let’s get this straight–the Feds treat the guy like a common criminal (or worse) and then they’re bummed when he doesn’t turn out to be a happy witness?! They’ve got to be kidding. Try treating a man humanely if you think you may need his assistance in a prosecution.
Why did al Kidd catch the interest of the feds in the first place?
Brown of the F.B.I. defended the decision to detain Mr. Kidd, citing what he called three red flags. Mr. Kidd had listed “jihad” among his interests on a Web site, which the F.B.I. interpreted, Mr. Brown said, as a reference not to “a personal struggle so much as a holy war.”
Second, Mr. Brown said, Mr. Kidd “sold tapes and books containing the teachings of radical sheiks” when he lived in Idaho. Third, Mr. Kidd’s possessions when he was arrested included a video of concern, Mr. Brown said. “It had to do with the hijacking and terrorist events on Sept. 11, 2001. At this point, I’ll leave it at that.”
This is what happens when idiots try to interpret the beliefs of other religions and cultures. Any high school student (well, OK, maybe any college student) could tell you that “jihad” has many meanings in Islam and that most of them have to do with the struggle for personal enlightenment. The Al Qaeda use of the term is only one among many meanings. As for selling incendiary radical Islamic tracts, I didn’t know that was against the law (it isn’t). Finally, what the hell is a “video of concern?” Al Kidd maintains that the video documented terror rather than espousing it. That’s a refined distinction those blockheads at the FBI would never understand.
So if any of you needed any convincing about the Bush Administration’s trampling on the rights of American citizens (let alone foreign aliens) in the rush to fight terror, you need look no farther than this odious case.