the end of a nation of law

We've lost the "war against terrorism."

An American citizen, a 38-year-old software engineer and author, has been held in solitary confinement in a federal prison in Portland, Oregon, for the last two weeks. He has not been charged with a crime, he has not been interrogated and he has not been brought before a judge. The government will not tell anyone why he is being held in prison. His file has been sealed by a federal court at the request of the Department of Justice.

Mike Hawash was arrested in a parking lot by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force when he arrived for work at the Intel Corporation's suburban Portland offices. Simultaneously, FBI agents in bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles awoke his wife Lisa and their three young children in their home, which they proceeded to search.

Federal officials will not comment on Mr. Hawash, though they have been pressed by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and by a group of supporters led by a former Intel vice president, for basic information about why he is being detained.

In a statement after his arrest, the F.B.I. said he was being held as a material witness in an "ongoing investigation" by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Federal search warrants in the case are sealed.

The case has drawn the attention of civil liberties groups nationwide, who say Mr. Hawash's case is an example of how the Bush administration is holding a handful of American citizens without offering them normal legal protection.

Although at least two American citizens are being held without normal legal rights as "enemy combatants," Mr. Hawash has not been categorized as such. As a material witness, he is being held to compel testimony. But supporters say he has not been told anything about what the government may want from him.

The facts are sufficiently eloquent and do not need much embellishment here. It suffices to say that we are no longer a nation of laws.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the courts have made conflicting rulings on the legality of holding material witnesses without charging them. A federal judge in Manhattan, Shira A. Scheindlin, said such detentions were "an illegitimate use of the statute," but another ruling in the same court, by Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey, said detaining witnesses to compel testimony was a legitimate investigative tool.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has defended the tactic, saying it is "vital to preventing, disrupting or delaying new attacks."

The Justice Department has not said how many Americans have been held without charges in terrorism investigations since Sept. 11. Civil liberties groups say they believe the number is about 20, though most are not American citizens.

There is of course tons of stuff on this story on the internet. One site is

When they went after people who were not citizens, sadly we hardly raised a collective eyebrow. They have now been putting away "certified" Americans as well, and we cannot claim ignorance of their disappearances.

Are we interested yet?