The Name Game

In Battle Over 9-11 Detentions, Feds May Be Hiding More Than Identities

Attorney Ling says of her several dozen Muslim and Middle Eastern cases, most involving minor visa violations, "Not a single person was cleared and allowed to stay in the country. Nowadays, what I count as success is getting them out on bond."

Kessler's order also requires the government to provide the names of lawyers representing the detainees. Another question that arose during the information proceedings was whether detainees were receiving adequate counsel or any at all. Ling and several other New York attorneys report that the legal community in general has been reluctant to take up the Muslim immigrants' cause. Besides politics, they say, money is an obstacle. Many of the detained are cab drivers or retail workers who are unable to pay, and INS cases do not involve monetary damages.

The groups that sued for the detainees' names clearly imagine the list as only a starting point. The Justice Department says revealing the roster would provide "a blueprint for terrorists"—a contention reasoned well to rest by Kessler—but the feds are also loath to supply a road map for rights watchers checking for racial profiling, excessive punishment, and legal representation. Indeed, since few believe the government will provide the list, and many doubt that the list, if provided, would accurately reflect the true numbers of the detained, it seems civil liberties organizations might consider a more arduous route.

Guided by the community-based groups that have been visiting jails and defending detainees around the country since last September, organizations might compile and review a list of their own. Even with the challenges of manpower and time, success might be more certain than banking on the Justice Department.

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