Ashcroft May Be Sued for Rights Violation

In a stunning federal court decision with far-reaching ramifications, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco last week ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be sued personally for violating the civil liberties of a Muslim American in the immediate aftermath of the 911 attacks.  The man suing the former attorney general is Abdullah al-Kidd, a former star football player at the University of Idaho.  Al-Kidd was arrested in 2003 at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC, strip-searched and shackled, transported to various detention facilities, and detained for more than two weeks.  Even after his release, his ability to travel was curtailed and he lost his job. 

The government never charged al-Kidd with any crime.  Moreover, even though he was initially arrested and detained as a so-called “material witness,” he never testified in any court proceeding.   Al-Kidd has alleged his detention and mis-treatment was the result of the Department of Justice mis-using the broad, material witness statute as nothing more than a pretext to “take suspected terrorists off the street” even though the government lacked evidence on which to properly charge them.  (At least several dozen other individuals were similarly detained as “material witnesses,” according to civil liberties lawyers.)

While government officials, including the attorney general, normally enjoy broad immunity from being sued for actions undertaken in their official government capacity, the court of appeals concluded the actions by Ashcroft in this case went beyond what could be considered legitimate, official duties as the attorney general. 

Interestingly, of the two appeals court judges who decided against Ashcroft, one was appointed by President George W. Bush and the other by President Ronald Reagan.  The former attorney general will have a hard time arguing the court’s decision was an example of “Bush bashing.”

64 comments Add your comment


September 18th, 2009
3:59 pm

Would you right wing nut jobs also defend Obama for doing the same to the nut who called for for death of Obama, his wife, and children at a rally with a sign. Some of you don’t give a crap about individual rights unless it is the other side who abuses them. Maybe one day you will understand if they take you away. My father served 20 years in the Navy and was a chief in charge targeting nuclear missiles. after leaving the Navy he worked for a company that built the original communication computers for the internet the ARPA network and fixed them. He went to NSA and the CIA all the time . On one occasion he went to the bathroom on his own and was called out by someone who was afraid he might have heard the wrong thing. They told him you do realize we could make you disappear for good. He did nothing wrong. Was this an empty threat I don’t know my Dad has since passed away and did nothing wrong, but was threatened as you may one day be for being in the wrong place at the wrong time Maybe it will be using the same infringement of liberties championed by Bush and Cheney and it will be president Hilliary Clinton doing it to you..


September 18th, 2009
4:04 pm

@algonquin J. Calhoun

We all have a civic responsibility as citizens of this country to be vigilant in our administration of our rights.


What is that truism about “throwing a rock into a group and the one that yells is the one that has been hit” or something along those lines.


September 18th, 2009
4:30 pm


Only 2 countries in the industrialized world allow profits for health care companies, the USA and New Zeland.

Private companies do not have to go out of business, they will be forced to provide a service for those who want it, at a reasonable price.
They have private insurance companies in all the other countries with “socialized medicine.”

As our system dictates, those with money are able to afford what they want. We should allow those with limited or meager resources to have access to health care, food and shelter.


September 18th, 2009
4:33 pm

I just don’t see any way that “wake me up when it’s time to vote” Thomas and “whatever the majority want is fine by me” Scalia along with the other Bushbot Neocons on the USSC will ever let this ruling stand although I totally agree that the jerks from the previous administration should be liable for their illegal actions after 9/11.


September 18th, 2009
4:34 pm

As much as the Bush administration would like for it to be so, the U.S. Constitution didn’t suddenly become void and non-applicable the morning of 9/12/01.

algonquin J. Calhoun

September 18th, 2009
6:43 pm

dw must stand for dimwit.


September 18th, 2009
7:06 pm

Ashcroft being the good fascist he is, took his marching orders dutifully from his “leaders” – Less than Curious George and DickHead.

I still find it utterly amazing that these conned shuck and grin for the most serially impeachable administration in American history.

The ONLY good news is the results these criminals have brought to bear:

In the past two national elections the misnamed “conservatives” have 5 wins and 67 losses.

A jaw dropping 94% failure rate.


Tech man

September 18th, 2009
8:24 pm


As a benefits professional for 25 years I can safely say your democratic talking points on health care are wrong.


September 18th, 2009
8:42 pm

“Benefits professional” = health insurance mouthpiece

Deborah Fetkovich

September 18th, 2009
9:49 pm

The decision isn’t much of a surprise from the 9th Circuit — aka “The Rogue Court” or “The Court That Flagrantly Ignores the Constitution”. The 9th Circuit holds the record for most rulings overturned by the Supreme Court.

Several years back there was much discussion on how to fix this problem, including breaking up the Court into 3 distinct jurisdictions. So far, nothing has been accomplished and the 9th continues to outrage legitimate jurists and the public alike.


September 18th, 2009
10:26 pm

@Tech Man

As a 25 year benefits professional, point out my errors if you can?

Please don’t use rhetoric, give me hard, precise facts that bolsters your point and discredits my point.


September 19th, 2009
6:35 am

M Anthony,
I also read that Al-Kidd had ties to a known terrorist and was detained as he was trying to leave the country for Saudi Arabia.The terrorist was involved in a fraud case and Al-Kidd was detained as a material witness.
There is little doubt that Al-Kidd’s rights were violated.That they were is obvious,but there is probable cause that Al-Kidd isn’t entirely innocent either.This looks like a case of government bungling.Done differently,and that means right,this incident may have had a different outcome for Mr.Al-Kidd.


September 20th, 2009
6:08 pm

clyde September 19th, 2009 6:35 am
“M Anthony,
I also read that Al-Kidd had ties to a known terrorist and was detained as he was trying to leave the country for Saudi Arabia.The terrorist was involved in a fraud case and Al-Kidd was detained as a material witness.”

Clyde – The “known terrorist” you refer to was found not guilty on some charges & other charges were dropped by the government.

There is no law that says booking a flight to Saudia Arabia is a crime.
Thousands do it ever year.


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1:14 am

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