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CCR Statement on Ashcroft v. Iqbal: Supreme Court Must Hold High-Level Officials Accountable for Post-9/11 Sweeps

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CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

December 10, 2008, New York  –  Today the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a post-9/11 detainee’s challenge to former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller’s role in his discriminatory confinement and abuse.  Ashcroft v. Iqbal is a companion case to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) class action, Turkmen v. Ashcroft.  Both cases involve allegations that Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men were swept up after 9/11 based solely on race and religion and without any evidence of a connection to terrorism.  Iqbal and the other 9/11 detainees allege they were treated as terrorists – held in supermaximum security confinement and abused – until they were cleared of any connection to terrorism, and deported.    

Mr. Iqbal alleges that Ashcroft and Mueller ordered and oversaw the policy to treat Muslim and Arab men in New York as guilty of terrorism until proven innocent.  Ashcroft and Mueller claim that “high-ranking officials” like themselves should not have to answer Iqbal’s charge because because Iqbal did not provide enough detail regarding their specific illegal actions when the case was filed.  

An amicus brief in the case, filed by CCR for the Turkmen plaintiffs, contains information unavailable at that time which details both defendants’ involvement in the discriminatory program, including evidence they were provided detailed daily briefings and information about who was being arrested, and why.  The brief also provides quotes from interviews of Ashcroft, Mueller, and their subordinates taken in the course of the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation of the 9/11 detentions and uses both to show why it is critical to allow discovery against high-level officials to proceed in cases like these.

“The rule Ashcroft and Mueller seek would effectively bar victims of discrimination from seeking justice against those who order the discrimination,” explained Rachel Meeropol, the Center for Constitutional Rights attorney who represents the Turkmen plaintiffs.  “Plaintiffs will never be able to provide the level of detail Ashcroft and Mueller would demand at the beginning of a lawsuit, because that information is in the exclusive control of the government, and so can only be accessed after a lawsuit has begun. It’s a Catch-22 that would always let high-level officials off the hook.”

Mr. Iqbal is represented by Koob & Magoolaghan and the law firm of Weil Gotshal &Manges LLP.  The Turkmen plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm of Covington & Burling.  
For more case information, visit the Turkmen v. Ashcroft case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights represents other victims of the Bush administration’s unlawful practices, from Canadian rendition victim Maher Arar, to Iraqis tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib prison, to Guantanamo detainees in the recent Supreme Court case

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.