His name is Hussein al-Attas. He is 24 years old. Ten months ago, federal agents arrested him at the mosque where he worshipped and took him away.
July 13, 2002 12:46 PM   Subscribe

His name is Hussein al-Attas. He is 24 years old. Ten months ago, federal agents arrested him at the mosque where he worshipped and took him away. He has been locked in solitary confinement ever since, his only companion a Spanish-speaking prisoner on the other side of the wall, to whom he speaks through the air-conditioning vent."

Deborah Hastings of the Associated Press tells us the story of The man who gave a ride to Zacarias Moussaoui, and his descent into indefinite federal detention.
posted by mr_crash_davis (16 comments total)
You know as much as we'd like to think our government likes to put people away just because they're Arab, it's not the case.

He gets to speak to his lawyers and family, albeit infrequently but he does have contact on the outside to help get him out. I'd suspect to say that this guy is under suspicion for the mere fact that detaining Arab for nothing brings bad PR.

While I wish the feds would tell us everything that's going on, it's not always practical for them to divulge all information, especially sense there is a very real threat of terrorist cells out there who would do who knows what if they though al-Attas was under scrutiny.
posted by geoff. at 1:16 PM on July 13, 2002

I'm the last person to defend this sorta thing, but this guy smells a little off. I dunno. If you hate America, don't come here.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:51 PM on July 13, 2002

Don't give rides to terrorists. What's the problem?
posted by owillis at 2:59 PM on July 13, 2002

Yeah, see, in this particular case this dude definitely had prior knowledge of Massaoui's (sp?) psychosis and just sat on it. Plus he lied about the whole tourist visa thing. Plus it doesn't seem as though he's being mistreated. That story seemed to answer the very questions it raised.
posted by donkeyschlong at 3:03 PM on July 13, 2002

Owillis - the problem is that persnickety "innocent until proven guilty" thing that suggests that even if we all know that Moussaoui is a terrorist _now_ how would this guy know _then?_ Especially considering the particular halo America had of only having one successful terrorist attack and having that have been domestic? Terrorist? Sure, but maybe terrorist on vacation. Maybe not a terrorist yet. Maybe people talk a big game but rarely actually _do_ anything.

Hell, at one point in college a friend of mine and I proposed an independant study on how the 1993 bombings could have been done properly so the towers would have fallen like dominos. Fortunately, a professor talked us out of it. After all, under the current regime, that might be cause for indefinite internment without trial.

Now, Donkeyschlong, your comment is a little bit more dangerous. "Don't like the US, don't come here" translates to a very frightening regime where dissent is utterly stifled and outsiders shunned. Say - our Saudi friends, for example. "If you don't like it, leave" is as simplistic as Bush's middle east solution. Frankly, I don't like a lot of the policies of the US at this point - shall I go? I'm a fourth generation American, gainfully employed, respected, good education and the litany goes on. But I have major issues with the way things are going. Ready to boot me?
posted by swerdloff at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2002

swerdloff -- don't get me wrong, i love political foment and dissent and activism and all that good stuff. what i'm saying in this particular case, and i'm going by the article here: if these (some) people are actually "repulsed" (word used in the article) by American culture, maybe they should avoid antagonizing themselves, each other and us by coming here. i apply the same standard to americans who go to a foreign country only to turn their noses up at everything.
posted by donkeyschlong at 4:02 PM on July 13, 2002

This indefinite detention thing that is going on across America is really disheartening, because the rights to hear the charges against you and have a speedy trial are so very fundamental to the U.S. justice system.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:34 PM on July 13, 2002

Indeed, PlanetKyoto.

The issue isn't whether or not he has done something wrong. The issue is whether people should be de facto imprisoned without trial.
posted by cx at 6:53 PM on July 13, 2002

For comparison's sake: "Whatever else you can say about US government policy on the legal status of American al Qaedaites it certainly doesn't lack for variety." The fourteenth amendment thanks you.
posted by riviera at 7:30 PM on July 13, 2002

I have not problem with charges being filed or deporting the bastard, but detaining him indefinitely is simply wrong and for that matter actually illegal. If there is evidence to criminally charge him then do so. Otherwise find some immigratioin clause to eject him.
posted by shagoth at 8:47 PM on July 13, 2002

He isn't being detained "indefinitely", though. He's being detained until he can testify in Moussaoui's trial, after which he'll face deportation. As a non-citizen and potentially hostile witness he would be a flight risk in almost any case; this is one of the other purposes of the material witness clause -- i.e. being an actual material witness {as acknowledged by this journalists' site arguing for access} -- and AP's writer is disingenuous to overlook it. It would be nice if they would charitably believe that his most exculpatory answers to their questions are the truth, but having lied to investigators already and changed his story, they're not likely to do so.

It sucks to be him, but he was, as donk said, off -- a stamp and envelope away from formal plans to join up and play Johnny Jihad. If he were a Russian immigrant that close to becoming a spy, he'd be on the next plane to Moscow in shackles, no questions asked.
posted by dhartung at 11:16 PM on July 13, 2002

it's going to suck even more to be him once they block off that air-conditioning vent. :-)
posted by quonsar at 1:31 AM on July 14, 2002

Owillis - the problem is that persnickety "innocent until proven guilty" thing
swerdloff, "innocent until proven guilty", indictments and trials and lawyers are things of past. there's a war going on. if you feel nostalgic about that stuff, you're aiding the enemy. a democratic legal process is a luxury democracies cannot afford right now, and the war will be long. or so mr. Ashcroft says

...a stamp and envelope away from formal plans to join up and play Johnny Jihad.
it's a very Minority Report statement, dhartung

"Don't like the US, don't come here"
If we apply that statement to American tourists who don't like Europe, owillis will be arrested as soon as he lands in a European airport. Dissent should be legal in a democracy. You know, there's no "Do you love America?" question on US Visa applications.
posted by matteo at 7:32 AM on July 14, 2002

matteo -- i wasn't even remotely suggesting that that sentiment be codified into law. i was merely stating my opinion that the world would be a nicer place if people didn't go out of their way to wallow in what they profess to despise. just a vague brain runoff sort of rumination.

in any case, whether or not you like a place is up to you. no one else can really corroborate that ... unless we start polygraph incoming aliens (don't put it past ashcroft).

(also, sidenote: this weird warbloggerish tendency to nickname everyone and everything -- "johnny jihad" -- offends me for some reason. i'm absolutely not sure why, but it just does. i certainly don't mean this to sound like some sort of slam against dhartung, whom i hold in the utmost esteem ... just a thought.)
posted by donkeyschlong at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2002

Donkeyschlong: I was merely stating my opinion that the world would be a nicer place if people didn't go out of their way to wallow in what they profess to despise.
True, but wallowing in the despised is a natural and common human behavior pattern. The louder they despise, the more they wallow. Hey, it's even justifiable: unless you're engaged in a process, you can't change it. There's a spectrum between 'wallowing in the despised' and 'trying to change things for the better'. Clearly terrorism is at one end, and debate on public web forums is at another, but there's a lot of space in between.

'Love it or leave' denies the right to attempt to change the thing in question. This is one of the things that first turned me off religion: anything that has to be surrounded with an atmosphere of being beyond question, and shored up with the disapproval and shaming of any questioner, is certain to be crap.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:03 PM on July 15, 2002

Wouldn't it be cool if they got the guy who gave Moussaoui a ride and tied him to some sort of rack, and then programmed a machine holding an X-Acto knife to carve the indictment onto the guy's body? That would be so cool. Let's tell Ashcroft to read the works of Kafka for more excellent ideas. I hope he doesn't think I'm being sarcastic or anything. Wouldn't want to be accused of being un-American or of wallowing or something...
posted by Holden at 7:23 PM on July 15, 2002

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