Not for the first time, the Supreme Court has refused to hold high government officials responsible for outrageous abuses of human rights. Late last month, the court rejected a lawsuit against former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft by a U.S. citizen who was unfairly imprisoned and mistreated under the pretense of securing his appearance as a witness.
Abdullah Kidd, a convert to Islam who was known as Lavoni Kidd when he played football for the University of Idaho, claimed that Ashcroft had authorized a policy of using the material witness statute — designed to ensure the presence of witnesses at trial — as a way of holding suspected terrorists when there was no probable cause to do so.
Kidd was detained at Dulles International Airport in 2003 as he prepared to fly to Saudi Arabia to study. Supposedly the FBI feared that he wouldn't appear at the trial of an acquaintance suspected of visa fraud and terrorism. But in seeking the material witness warrant, FBI agents falsely said that Kidd had purchased a one-way ticket and omitted the fact that he was a U.S. citizen who had cooperated with the bureau in the past.
Kidd was handcuffed and shackled and held for two weeks before being released on the condition that he live with his wife and in-laws and report to a probation officer. Even then, he was deprived of his passport and subjected to limitations on his travel. The restrictions were lifted in 2004, but he was never called to testify at his acquaintance's trial.