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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Dr. Zogby.
ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE
The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11th were a profound and painful tragedy for all Americans. None of us will ever forget the awful day when thousands of innocent lives were lost. The attacks were dual tragedy for my community. As Americans, it was our country that was attacked. Arab Americans died in the attacks. Arab Americans were also firefighters and police officers in New York and in Washington who aided in the rescue efforts. Some lost their lives doing so. Sadly, however, many in my community were torn away from their morning, because we became targets of hate and discrimination. Some assumed our collective guilt. Arab Americans and American Muslims and others perceived to be Arabs and Muslims were victims of hundreds of bias incidents.
Thankfully the American people rallied to our defense. President Bush spoke forcefully against hate crimes. Both the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed resolutions condemning hate crimes. Federal, State and local law enforcement investigated and prosecuted. I received death threats. My family and I did. Two individuals have been prosecuted and convicted for those crimes. My community and I personally will always been grateful that our fellow Americans defended us at a critical time.
Much has been done in the past 342 years to combat the threat of terror. Among other significant accomplishments is we created the Department of Homeland Security. We have taken steps to enhance airport and border security and we have improved information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement. However, as someone who has spent my entire professional life working to bring Arab Americans into the mainstream of American politics and to build a bridge between my country and the Arab world, I am concerned about the direction of some of our efforts to combat the terrorist threats and the impact that some of these efforts have had on my community and my country.
Unfortunately the Administration has devoted too many resources to some measures that threaten civil liberties while doing little to protect our community. I share the concerns of my colleagues with some provisions of the PATRIOT Act that give law enforcement broad authority to monitor the activities of innocent Americans with inadequate judicial oversight.
These concerns, I might add, are shared by Americans across the political spectrum. I am supportive of reasonably reforms like those recommended in the Security and Freedom Enhancement, or SAFE Act. I am concerned as well about a series of high profile initiatives not authorized by the PATRIOT Act, which have explicitly targeted tens of thousands of innocent Arabs and Muslims and have resulted in the detention and deportation of thousands.
Policies and statements that have conflated undocumented Arab and Muslim immigrants with terrorists has cast a cloud of suscrimination. I therefore support passage of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act.
Look, the measures I am talking about are counterproductive. They're counterproductive, and I want to talk about why. What policies am I talking about? For example, I am talking about the initial round up of 1,200. I am talking about the two so-called voluntary call-ins, and especially, I am talking about the national special registration program, NSEERS. That did not result in apprehending terrorists. They did not do anything but waste law enforcement resources. The FBI says that as well. They created fear and broke trust with many in the immigrant communities that law enforcement needs cooperation with in order to do its job, and they resulted in placing thousands in deportation, often for mere technical reasons because the INS simply had a backlog and couldn't get to their forms.
In addition, they were placed based on the mistaken notion that you conflate immigration policy with any terrorism policy. All it did was cast a wide net and alienated communities that law enforcement needs to have cooperation with. They ran counter to the basic principles of policing. And took a toll on my community, a serious toll. They also took a particular toll on Americans abroad and I want to make that point as I close.
As a result it has become more difficult for our allies to cooperate with us, and it has made America less popular abroad. Now that may not mean something to some people. But it means something to me and it ought to mean something to our country because we are engaged in a long-term conflict in that region.
President Bush is right when he links the spread of democracy to the war on terrorism. But civil liberties abuses against Arabs and Muslims in America and the indefinite secret detention and highly coercive interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere have undermined our ability to advocate credibly for democratic reform. In fact, some Arab governments now point to our policies to justify their policies. We have learned anti democratic practices and human rights abuses produce instability and create conditions that breed terrorism. Democratic reformers and human rights activists used to look to America as the city on the hill. We once set a high standard for the world. We have lowered the bar. The damage to our image, to our values, and all that we have sought to project and our ability to deal with the root causes of terror have been profound.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Thank you, Dr. Zogby. [The prepared statement of Mr. Zogby follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DR. JAMES J. ZOGBY Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, Members of the Committee, thank you for convening this important hearing and for inviting me to be with you today.
The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11 were a profound and painful tragedy for all Americans. None of us will ever forget that awful day when thousands of innocent lives were lost.
The attacks were a dual tragedy for Arab Americans. We are Americans and it was our country that was attacked. Arab Americans died in the attacks. Arab Americans were also part of the rescue effort. Dozens of New York City Police and rescue workers who bravely toiled at Ground Zero were Arab Americans.
Sadly, however, many Arab Americans were torn away from mourning with our
Some assumed our collective guilt because the terrorists were Arabs. Arab Americans and Muslims and other perceived to be Arab and Muslim were the victims of hundreds of bias incidents. According to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, “The incidents have consisted of telephone, internet, mail, and face-to-face threats; minor assaults as well as assaults with dangerous weapons and assaults resulting in serious injury and death; and vandalism, shootings, and bombings directed at homes, businesses, and places of worship.” As a result of the post-9/11 backlash, in 2001, the FBI reported a 1600% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes and an almost 500% increase in ethnic-based hate crimes against persons of Arab descent.
Thankfully, the American people rallied to our defense. President Bush spoke out forcefully against hate crimes, as did countless others across the nation. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously passed resolutions condemning hate crimes against Arab Americans and Muslims. Federal, state and local law enforcement investigated and prosecuted hate crimes, and ordinary citizens defended and protected us, refusing to allow bigots to define America. My family and I received death threats and two individuals have been prosecuted by the FBI and convicted for these hate crimes. My community and I, personally, will always be grateful that our fellow Americans defended us at that crucial time.
Much has been done in the past three and one-half years to combat the threat of terrorism. Among other significant accomplishments, we have created the Department of Homeland Security, taken steps to enhance airport and border security, and improved information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement.
Arab Americans are proud to have played crucial role in these efforts, serving on the front lines of the war on terrorism as police, firefighters, soldiers, FBI agents, and translators. The Arab American Institute has worked with federal, state and local law enforcement to assist efforts to protect the homeland. We helped to recruit Arab Americans with needed language skills and we have served as a bridge to connect law enforcement with our community. Unfortunately, our best efforts have been somewhat frustrated by the difficulties that many Arab Americans who possess the requisite language skills and a strong desire to serve our nation have experienced with obtaining security clearances.
Working with the Washington Field Office of the FBI, the Arab American Institute helped to create the first Arab American Advisory Committee, which works to facilitate communication between the Arab-American community and the FBI. I served as a member of that FBI Advisory Committee, which we still hope will be a model to be copied across the United States.
As someone who has spent my entire professional life working to bring Arab Americans into the mainstream of American political life and to build a bridge between my country and the Arab world, I am very concerned about the direction of some of our efforts to combat the terrorist threat and the impact these initiatives have on our country and my community. Unfortunately, the administration has devoted too many
to counterterrorism measures that threaten our civil liberties and do little to improve our security. I share the concerns of my colleagues with some provisions of the Patriot Act that give law enforcement broad authority to monitor the activities of innocent Americans with inadequate judicial oversight. These concerns, I might add, are shared by Americans across the political spectrum. I am supportive of reasonable reforms like those recommended in the Security and Freedom Enhancement, or SAFE, Act.
I am as concerned, if not more, about a series of high-profile initiatives, not authorized by the Patriot Act, which have explicitly targeted tens of thousands of innocent Arabs and Muslims and have resulted in the detention and deportation of thousands. Policies and statements that conflate undocumented Arab and Muslim immigrants with terrorists cast a cloud of suspicion over the Arab American community that contributed to additional discrimination. I support passage of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act, which would help to end such counterproductive policies.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Justice Department rounded up at least 1200 immigrants, the vast majority of whom were Arab or Muslim. The DOJ refused to release any information about the detainees, and charged that the detentions were related to the 9/11 investigation. At the time, the Arab American Institute and others in the Arab-American community expressed concern about the broad dragnet that the Justice Department had cast in Arab immigrant communities. We fully supported the government's efforts to vigorously investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but we questioned the efficacy of this dragnet approach. Based on reports from family members of the detainees, we also were very concerned about the conditions in which the detainees were confined, and their ability to contact counsel and
Pursuant to Section 1001 of the Patriot Act, in 2002, the Justice Department's Inspector General issued a report which vindicated our concerns. The IG found that the Justice Department classified 762 of the detainees as “September 11 detainees.” The IG concluded that none of these detainees were charged with terrorist-related offenses, and that the decision to detain them was “extremely attenuated” from the 9/11 investigation. The IG concluded that the Justice Department's designation of detainees of interest to the 9/11 investigation was “indiscriminate and haphazard.” and did not adequately distinguish between terrorism suspects and other immigration detainees.
The IG also found detainees were subjected to harsh conditions of confinement, including cells that were illuminated 24 hours per day, and confinement to their cells for all but one hour per day. Disturbingly, the IG also found, “a pattern of physical and verbal abuse by some correctional officers at the MDC [Metropolitian Detention Center) against some September 11 detainees, particularly during the first months after the attacks.” In testimony before this committee exactly one month ago, Inspector General Glenn Fine raised concerns that, with regard to abuse allegations at MDC, “The BOP [Bureau of Prisons] initiated its own investigation based on the OIG's findings to determine whether discipline is warranted. Yet, more than a year later, the BOP review still is ongoing. We believe that this delay is too long and that appropriate discipline should have been imposed in a more timely fashion.”
I'm not suggesting that the government should never use immigration charges to detain a suspected terrorist, but the broad brush of terrorism should not be applied to every out-of-status immigrant who happens to be Arab or Muslim. Moreover, if detained, they should most certainly not be subjected to abusive and degrading treatment. Our immigration system is fundamentally broken. Comprehensive immigration reform is required to address this problem. We should not confuse the problems with our immigration system with our efforts to combat terrorism. Detaining large numbers of undocumented Arab and Muslim immigrants will not aid our efforts to combat terrorism, and might actually harm them.
Another example of conflating immigration enforcement against Arab and Muslims with counterterrorism was the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) "call-in” program (also known as Special Registration), which required male visitors from 24 Arab and Muslim countries and North Korea, to register with local INS offices. By singling out a large group of mostly Arabs and Muslims, Special Registration involved a massive investment of law enforcement resources with negligible return. It also created fear of law enforcement in our immigrant communities, whose cooperation law enforcement needs. At the same time, these discriminatory practices validated and even fed the suspicion that some have of Arabs and Muslims.
From the outset, NSEERS was plagued by implementation problems. Due to inadequate publicity and INS dissemination of inaccurate and mistranslated information, many individuals who were required to register did not do so. Many who were required to register in the call-in program were technically out of status due to long INS backlogs in processing applications for permanent residency. Many such individuals have been placed in deportation proceedings.
Across the country, many were detained in harsh conditions due to the government's inability to process registrants in a timely fashion. For example, in December 2002, the INS in Los Angeles detained hundreds of men and boys who report they were denied access to legal counsel and their families, held in handcuffs and leg shackles, and forced to sleep standing up due to overcrowding.
In response to criticism that the "call-in" program discriminated against Arabs and Muslims, Justice Department officials originally said that it would be expanded to include visitors from all countries. When the program was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security, the administration announced that the program was being terminated. However, those who were already required to register, including male visitors from every Arab country, are still subject to the program's requirements and penalties for noncompliance, including deportation. “Call-in” registration is over, but its consequences are still with us.
The Department of Homeland Security reported that more than 80,000 people registered in the call-in. Of these, more than 13,000 have been placed in deportation proceedings. If a goal of Special Registration was to track possible terrorists, deporting those who complied with the program undermined this aim, especially since it may reduce future compliance. The Special Registration “call-in” program did not result in the apprehension of any terrorists. This clearly raises questions about the efficacy of the program.
In a similar vein, the Justice Department also launched the “Interview Project,”
round of FBI interviews, the so-called “October Plan," coincided with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiative which apparently used the NSEERScompiled database to prioritize leads. Given the pre-election nature of this initiative, the Arab American Institute expressed concern, at the time, that these tactics may have had a chilling effect on the participation of some segments of the Arab American and American Muslim communities in the election. We have found that these interviews created fear and suspicion in the community, especially among recent immigrants, and damaged our efforts to build bridges between the community and law enforcement.
Like other DOJ programs that cast a wide net, the interviews created a public impression that federal law enforcement viewed our entire recent immigrant community with suspicion, which, in some cases,
fostered discrimination. For example, we received reports of instances where the FBI visited individuals at their workplace, and then these individuals were subsequently demoted or terminated by their employers.
FBI officials with whom I have spoken also questioned the project's usefulness as a law enforcement and counter-terrorism program. They told me it involved a sig. nificant investment of manpower, produced little useful information, and damaged their community outreach efforts. The General Accounting Office reviewed the Interview Project and concluded:
How and to what extent the interview project—including investigative leads and increased presence of law enforcement in communities/helped the government combat terrorism is hard to measure . . . More than half of the law enforcement officers that [the GAO) interviewed raised concerns about the quality
of the questions or the value of the responses. According to the GAO, “Attorneys and advocates told us that interviewed aliens told them that they felt they were being singled out and investigated because of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.” The GAO also concluded that many of those interviewed “did not feel the interviews were truly voluntary," and feared “repercussions” if they declined to be interviewed.
I am concerned about these and other government efforts that infringed upon civil liberties for several reasons. First, it is wrong to single out innocent people based on their ethnicity or religion. This runs contrary to the uniquely American ideal of equal protection under the law.
By casting such a wide net, these efforts squandered precious law enforcement resources and alienated communities whose cooperation law enforcement needs. They ran counter to basic principles of community policing, which rejects the use of racial and ethnic profiles and focuses on building trust and respect by working cooperatively with community members.
According to polls conducted by the Arab American Institute and Zogby International, the Justice Department's efforts took a toll in the Arab American community. Immediately after 9/11 Arab Americans were heartened by President Bush's strong display of support for the community. In October 2001, 90% said that they were reassured by the President's support, while only six percent were not reassured. By May 2002, those who felt reassured dropped to 54% as opposed to 35% who were not. In a July 2003 poll, the ratio dropped even further, with only 49% now saying that they feel assured by Bush's support for the community while 38% say that they are not assured. By 2004 this number dropped to the 20% range. In addition, we found that thirty percent of Arab Americans reported having experienced some form of discrimination, and 60% said they were concerned about the long-term impact of discrimination against Arab Americans.
Civil liberties abuses against Arabs and Muslims have been well-publicized in the Arab world, and there is a growing perception that Arab immigrants and visitors are not welcome in the United States. As a result, America is less popular, and it is more politically difficult for our Arab allies to cooperate with our counter-terrorism efforts.
According to polls conducted by the Arab American Institute and Zogby International, Arab public opinion attitudes toward the United States had dropped to dangerously low levels even before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. We found that Arabs had strong favorable attitudes toward American values, and also had largely favorable attitudes toward the American people. However, they had extremely negative attitudes toward U.S. policy, which shaped their views of America. To be sure, U.Ş. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq contributed to these attitudes, but perceptions of civil liberties abuses against Arab and Muslims Americans are also a contributing factor. In fact, in a 2004 poll of Arab attitude toward the