Most post-Sept. 11 detainees released, government says

By Wayne Parry, The Associated Press
Friday July 12, 2002

74 of 1,100 remain in U.S. custody 


NEWARK, N.J. — The government said Thursday that it has released most of the detainees it picked up as part of its investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Of the more than 1,100 detainees, only 74 remain in custody, Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said. Most have been deported, though some were released after being cleared of criminal involvement in the attacks. 

Russ Bergeron, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said 38 of the remaining detainees are on the verge of being deported. That would leave 36 people being held by the government. 

“These numbers speak for themselves,” said Sohail Mohammed, an immigration lawyer who has represented dozens of detainees held in jails in northern New Jersey. “Ninety-five percent have been released, and not a single one has been charged in the World Trade Center attacks. Not one. 

“Right from the start, I said racial profiling is not an effective law enforcement tool,” he said. “Are we more secure now than we were before? No.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the government and two New Jersey counties over the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the identities and treatment of detainees. 

“Obviously they’re not terrorists because you don’t deport terrorists,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the Newark branch of the ACLU. 

On June 26, the government deported 131 Pakistanis, most of whom were arrested in a sweep of immigrants who had ignored deportation orders. The sweep targeted about 1,000 people who came from countries where the al-Qaida terrorist group is known to operate. 

Among the Pakistanis were people who had been arrested in the United States on felony charges, including sexual assault, drug trafficking and burglary, INS spokeswoman Karen Kraushaar. But others were detainees being held in New Jersey on nothing more serious than immigration violations.