The horse is out of the barn
October 23, 2007 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Most have forgotten Abdallah Higazy, but he's proceeded with his lawsuit against the FBI. In an interesting twist, the details of the threats made against his family by FBI Agent Michael Templeton have been classified. Sadly for the Second Circuit, they released the unredacted version briefly before withdrawing and replacing it with the classified decision. Good on How Appealing for keeping the opinion online.

Here's what they cut:

Higazy alleges that during the polygraph, Templeton told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” Templeton later admitted that he knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country where they don’t advise people of their rights, they don’t – yeah, probably about torture, sure.”

Higazy later said, "I knew that I couldn't prove my innocence, and I knew that my family was in danger." He explained that "[t]he only thing that went through my head was oh, my God, I am screwed and my family's in danger. If I say this device is mine, I'm screwed and my family is going to be safe. If I say this device is not mine, I’m screwed and my family’s in danger. And Agent Templeton made it quite clear that cooperate had to mean saying something else other than this device is not mine.”

Higazy explained why he feared for his family:

The Egyptian government has very little tolerance for anybody who is —they’re suspicious of being a terrorist. To give you an idea, Saddam’s security force—as they later on were called his henchmen—a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape, some stuff would be even too sick to . . . . My father is 67. My mother is 61. I have a brother who developed arthritis at 19. He still has it today. When the word ‘torture’ comes at least for my brother, I mean, all they have to do is really just press on one of these knuckles. I couldn’t imagine them doing anything to my sister.

And Higazy added:

[L]et’s just say a lot of people in Egypt would stay away from a family that they know or they believe or even rumored to have anything to do with terrorists and by the same token, some people who actually could be —might try to get to them and somebody might actually make a connection. I wasn’t going to risk that. I wasn’t going to risk that, so I thought to myself what could I say that he would believe. What could I say that’s convincing? And I said okay.
posted by anotherpanacea (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Three days later, on January 14, 2002, an airline pilot, who had been staying on the 50th floor of the Millenium Hotel returned to the hotel to reclaim his property. After inspecting his items, the pilot informed the hotel staff that his transceiver was missing. Millenium immediately contacted the FBI, which then verified that what was thought to be Higazy’s transceiver was in fact the pilot’s and that the pilot had not had any interaction with Higazy. The FBI reinterviewed Ferry, who revised his original account, this time explaining that the radio was found on a table in Higazy’s room and not in the safe. The government withdrew its complaint against Higazy, who was released on January 16, 2002, after thirty-four days in custody.
posted by delmoi at 9:09 AM on October 23, 2007

It says something about what our country is becoming that I was initially afraid to click on the redacted link.
posted by craniac at 9:34 AM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

If this is what the threat of tourture gets us (i.e.: a bogus confession), how effective is actual torture? Not that it should make a difference, as torture is immoral and illegal, right?

Our country has gone down a long, dark alley, and the longer we stay there the harder it will be to get out. How many others are still being held and treated to "enhanced" interrogation who are just victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? What a sad time to be an American.
posted by birdhaus at 10:10 AM on October 23, 2007

I saw it here, so I'll post it again: Res ipsa loquitur. Redacted for national security my ass. Fuckers.
posted by anthill at 10:18 AM on October 23, 2007

birdhaus, keep in mind the really nasty part. This wasn't torture, or threatened torture, against the victim (aside from whatever fake polygraph they used that inflicts pain). Maybe he could have resisted, maybe not. They threatened his family with torture, people who no one has ever even alleged had any part of any plot. Why haven't these agents already been fired?
posted by vsync at 10:54 AM on October 23, 2007

Why haven't these agents already been fired?

Because they are true patriots willing to do what is necessary to prevent another 9/11.
posted by caddis at 11:03 AM on October 23, 2007

Including, apparently, focusing on the wrong guy and therefore giving anyone they should be chasing a longer head start. For some reason terrorism and rape cases seem particularly susceptible to this sort of insanity. I wonder why the scapegoating urge is so strong then, but not in, say, burglary.
posted by vsync at 11:21 AM on October 23, 2007

I think it would be great if Higazy had a cameo on 24. Just as "egyptian #3" or something.

24 could use the ratings boost, and it would be a nice way for Fox Entertainment to partially redeem torture as entertainment.
posted by tkolar at 12:04 PM on October 23, 2007

My country,' twas of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims' pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!
posted by moonbiter at 12:09 PM on October 23, 2007

I wonder why the scapegoating urge is so strong then, but not in, say, burglary.

Why do you assume it doesn't happen in burglary? My guess is that this happens for every crime but there just isn't big return for justice crusaders in overturning short sentences.
posted by srboisvert at 12:14 PM on October 23, 2007

From today's Washington Post chat with Thomas E. Ricks (author of Fiasco):
I never thought I would live in a country where our government quibbled about defining torture. As one colonel who was a PoW in the 1991 Gulf War recently commented in an e-mail, when he was being beaten, he bolstered his spirit by telling himself, 'I'm from the good guys, we don't do this.'
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever." -- Thomas Jefferson
posted by kirkaracha at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2007

And what, exactly, does Principessa Pelosi have to say about all this? Or did they threaten her family, too?
posted by Goofyy at 11:57 PM on October 23, 2007

She's too busy disciplining Pete Stark to notice.
posted by homunculus at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2007

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