Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Tyranny of Fear

Bob Herbert today, "The Tyranny of Fear," has a chilling tale of law enforcement that also has been subsumed within the politics of fear following 9/11:
"On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Higazy, the son of a former Egyptian diplomat, was in a room on the 51st floor of the Millenium Hilton Hotel, directly across the street from the World Trade Center. He was a student at the time, having won a scholarship to study computer engineering at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. The Institute of International Education had arranged for him to stay at the hotel while he looked for permanent housing.

Like everyone else, Mr. Higazy fled the hotel after the planes hit the towers. He left behind his passport and other personal items. When he returned to collect his belongings three months later, he was arrested by the F.B.I. A hotel security guard claimed to have found an aviation radio, which could be used to communicate with airborne pilots, in the safe in Mr. Higazy’s room."
Higazy was held for a month, until an airline pilot showed up at the hotel looking for his radio. The same radio that was thought to be the Egyptian student's had been mistakenly attributed to Higazy by the security guard.
Mr. Higazy filed a lawsuit against Mr. Templeton, claiming he had illegally coerced his confession. But an in-house investigation by the F.B.I. found there was no evidence of wrongdoing, and a federal judge — while acknowledging that the confession had been coerced — threw out the suit.

All the authorities have to do nowadays is claim that a case is linked to terror and they can get away with just about anything. The rule of law is succumbing to the tyranny of fear. (There’s no telling how many Abdallah Higazys have been swept up in the so-called war on terror and imprisoned, or worse.)