War on Terror

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case Involving Abuse of 'Material Witness' Statute

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Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the federal government's post-9/11 detention of terrorism suspects as "material witnesses." The case was brought by Abdullah al-Kidd, a former University of Idaho football star who was detained at Dulles International Airport in March 2003 on his way to Saudi Arabia, where he planned to pursue a doctorate in Islamic studies:

Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams of the Federal District Court in Boise, Idaho, authorized the arrest, based on an affidavit from Special Agent Scott Mace of the F.B.I. "Kidd is scheduled to take a one-way, first-class flight (costing approximately $5,000)," the affidavit said.

That statement was false: the ticket was for a round trip, in coach, costing $1,700.

Kidd was held for 16 days in three different states, ostensibly as a material witness. But he was never called to testify, and his treatment did not fit the legal pretext for holding him:

Mr. Kidd said he did not understand why someone held as a mere witness should be subjected to harsh treatment.

"I was made to sit in a small cell for hours and hours and hours, buck naked," he said. "I was treated worse than murderers."

Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Kidd could sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft for authorizing abuse of the material witness statute. In keeping with its policy of defending (and extending) war-on-terror excesses that the president criticized before he was the president, the Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit's decision (PDF).

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  1. I guess I’m a little confused about why somebody who is a witness, and not a suspect, can be imprisoned at all. How exactly do you arrest someone who you are not accusing of a crime?

    And Rule No. 1 of dealing with witnesses is: don’t get them pissed off at you. This seems like a funny way to get somebody to say what you want on the stand.

    1. Re: R C Dean,

      How exactly do you arrest someone who you are not accusing of a crime?

      In the America of the founders, you can’t. In the good ol’ U.S.S.A. you certainly can, that and more.

      1. He wasn’t arrested, he was detained for his own safety the Feds’ convenience. But since they did everything the same except read him his rights, I can see where you’d get confused.

    2. I guess the purpose is so the witness doesn’t flee.

      I strongly agree with rule #1. I would be a lousy witness if I was jailed under that statute.

      1. I’m afraid you’re both wrong. The witness either plays ball, or he gets to live indefinitely near the beach in Cuba.

        1. Sadly, I can’t disagree.

          1. I’m all for countering terrorist or other threats, but I’m not for doing it by crapping all over the Constitution and our liberties. What’s the point in being a superpower if you aren’t powerful enough to play by your own rules?

        2. I think there’s an implicit assumption in RC’s question that we want to behave in something remotely resembling a civilized manner.

    3. And Rule No. 1 of dealing with witnesses is: don’t get them pissed off at you talk about dealing with witnesses.

  2. Eat shit, Tony.

  3. I see Obama is actively maintaing his deep cover as an Islamic terrorist.

  4. Bow down to President Obushma.

  5. Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the federal government’s post-9/11 detention of terrorism suspects as “material witnesses.” […] the Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit’s decision [favorable to the plaintiff.]

    I guess the Tlatoani finds protecting his designs to stomp on the 5th Amendment more important than letting Ashcroft deservedly be in the hot seat…

  6. Sorry to jack this thread, Jacob. But I have an emergency Hipster Doofus Slide Show that needs to be seen.

    Pic #3: I wondered what happened to that dude from House Party.

    Pic #4: You seriously need to see this. This dude should not be let out of his room.

    Pic #10: It’s that guy from Powder! I thought he couldn’t be in the sun.

    1. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading the captions, but I think 8 or 9 of them were in useless humanities majors. Shocking, that.

      1. Art major (who is dating the French law student)
        Drama and French (the subjects of study that employers crave)
        Anthropology (need more of those)
        Interdisciplinary art (not even sure what that means)
        Art History and Business (Seattle needs more art galleries)

        And Cancerous Billy Corgan is majoring in German and Danish.

        1. I do like the shoes the art student in the first slide is wearing. Admittedly, they should be paired with a matching latex outfit instead of what she has on.

    2. You interrupted my other time wasting for that? In the world of the Hipster Doofus, that is nothing.

  7. From CSM:

    “Government lawyers defending Ashcroft say that even if Kidd’s constitutional rights were violated, those rights were not clearly established at the time Kidd was taken into custody. If they weren’t clearly established, Ashcroft is protected by qualified immunity.”

    1. They weren’t established in 1789?

      1. Not very clearly.

  8. Let’s see, I’ve been arrested, don’t have a lawyer; so as I haven’t ‘established’ my rights I don’t have any, ok.

    –Agent Mace– ? can’t make this up

  9. I guess the purpose is so the witness doesn’t flee.

    Yeah, I know why they want to jail them. I just don’t see where they get the legal authority to.

  10. Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams of the Federal District Court in Boise, Idaho, authorized the arrest, based on an affidavit from Special Agent Scott Mace of the F.B.I. “Kidd is scheduled to take a one-way, first-class flight (costing approximately $5,000),” the affidavit said.

    That statement was false: the ticket was for a round trip, in coach, costing $1,700.

    How many years is Special Agent Scott Mace doing for impeding justice and lying under oath?

    Just kidding, I know better.

  11. But we still can’t vote Republican because they want to ban abortion, masturbation, and eating nachos on Pluto.

    1. Also, because they actually committed the wrongs that the Democrats are trying ensure go unpunished.

    2. This occurred in 2003…

  12. Off topic

    Where the fuck is Tim Cavanah?!?!

    Just when he started hitting his peak he is gone.

    you dicks at reason better not have let him go.

    1. Maybe he is annoyed at your misspelling of his name!

    2. Cavanaugh. Maybe he’s spending some extra time with some of the newsladies he’s been filmed with recently.

  13. Not that I would wish bullshit like this on anyone, but I’m always a little bit hopeful when the victim is a sports figure. Depressingly enough, that’s one of the only ways that a large swath of this country can be made to feel bad about something like this.

  14. Doesn’t “Al” basically mean “The” in english? So Al-Kidd is really The Kidd?

  15. Personally I know a guy is gay when we meet and i feel the need to check my fly~hdf54654gyre

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