Michael Chertoff, Georgie’s lastest bestest nominee as head of Fatherland Security, lied to congress on November 28, 2001. Shouldn’t he be charged with that crime instead of sitting before the same committee as a cabinet nominee?
On Nov. 28, 2001, then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff took a seat before a Senate committee and offered reassurance on two fronts: The Justice Department was unrelenting in pursuit of terrorists. And none of its tactics had trampled the Constitution or federal law.
Every detainee has been charged, Chertoff told the senators. Every detainee has a lawyer. No one is held incommunicado.
“Are we being aggressive and hard-nosed? You bet.” Chertoff leaned into the microphone. “But let me emphasize that every step that we have taken satisfies the Constitution and federal law as it existed both before and after September 11th.”
Few questioned Chertoff’s urgency, but his critics contend that he was not candid with the senators, and was perhaps misleading about the nature of the tactics he pursued. The Justice Department ordered the detention of more than 700 Arab and South Asian men for immigration violations, holding them without charges or access to lawyers for an average of three months. Many remained in prison much longer, according to a 2003 report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.
Some officials questioned the legality of the detentions, noting that immigration rules entitle detainees to call a lawyer. But the Justice Department ignored such warnings, according to the inspector general.
“Muslim men were rounded up and blocked from getting lawyers, and essentially Chertoff’s testimony to the Senate was a coverup,” said Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has challenged the government’s detention policies.