Squawk, squawk, squawk. The nation's leading liberal editorial writers were in full wing-flapping mode over Attorney General John Ashcroft again this week. The latest object of consternation: an internal Justice Department report regarding the post-September 11 detention of 762 aliens -- nearly all of them here illegally -- while they were investigated for possible ties to terrorism.
Yes, the extensive report highlights a few significant civil liberties concerns. But as has been typical of the anti-Ashcroft Chicken Littles, the newspaper editorial attacks are rife with false claims, exaggerations and foolish belittlement of the continuing national security threats posed by lax immigration enforcement.
The Los Angeles Times indignantly claimed that the feds "held most (detainees) for months without charges."
False. If the Times editorial board had actually bothered to read page 30 of the inspector general's report -- rather than rely on the ACLU's talking points -- it would have seen that the inspector general found exactly the opposite.
Almost all of the detainees received written word of their charges within 30 days or less. In fact, the report found only 24 cases out of the 762 where it took more than a month to serve notice of charges. And of those cases, the inspector general acknowledged that there were numerous legitimate reasons for delay, such as logistical disruptions in New York City after Sept. 11, including electrical outages, office shutdowns and mail service cancellation that slowed delivery of charging documents.
As for alleged harassment and abuse of detainees, the inspector general's report stated that "we did not find evidence of a pattern of physical abuse of September 11 detainees" at one of two facilities investigated. At the other, 12 of 19 detainees claimed they were subjected to "some form of physical abuse." It does appear there was at least one brutish guard (since fired) who acted unjustly and that some detainees experienced uncomfortable conditions while in confinement. But none of the allegations of either physical or verbal abuse of detainees was sufficient to press criminal charges.