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Globalizing Homeland Security
Part II: Before and After Tuesday

by Lee Hall
December 30, 2004

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Read Part I: Doing Time for the Towers

Two newspaper vendors flew out of Newark Airport on 11 September 2001. Gul Mohammed Shah and Mohammed Azmath were apprehended the next day on a train, allegedly with box cutters. [1] They reported facing numerous abuses while detained in New York and New Jersey, including being slammed, shackled, into walls. Prompted by the media, a government investigation found videos of guards doing essentially what these detainees recounted. [2] Federal officials would later clear the pair of terrorism ties and charge them with credit card fraud.

Within weeks of the fatal Tuesday, Long Island convenience store clerk Javaid Iqbal (originally of Pakistan) and Times Square restaurateur Ehab Elmaghraby (of Egypt) arrived at New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center. They sued, charging that guards had kicked them, dragged them, slammed them into walls, cursed them as “terrorists” and “Muslim bastards,” and subjected them to needless strip-searches, including one during which guards pushed a flashlight into Elmaghraby’s rectum, then denied him medical help. [3] Elmaghraby was taken from his Queens flat when agents were investigating the building’s owner, who had once applied for flight lessons. Iqbal was arrested by agents apparently following a tip about false identification cards. In his apartment they found a Time magazine showing the trade towers in flames and an immigration receipt indicating that Iqbal was in Manhattan on the 11th of September. Elmaghraby and Iqbal eventually pleaded guilty to minor criminal charges unrelated to terrorism, they maintain, only to escape the torment they endured for the better part of a year. They were then deported.

Hundreds of men in similar circumstances were detained and tried in secret. [4] Beginning in late 2001, the Justice Department interviewed thousands of young non-citizens, based solely on their age, sex, date of arrival, and country of origin. Virtually all were Arabs or Muslims.

Intensified after 2001, the association between terror and Muslims, Arabs, and Arab-Americans is not a new phenomenon. In 1979, after 66 U.S. hostages were taken in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, “all the elements of the United States government were mobilized, due to the intense personal interest and commitment of President Carter.” [5] The stage was set for the “war on terror”: Ronald Reagan suggested that those in the captured embassy could be better considered “prisoners of war” than hostages. Questioning of Arabs and Muslims went on throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The heightened level of scrutiny also appeared in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s application of registration laws to people from 25 listed countries, in a scheme to trace over a hundred thousand visitors. Visitor registration entered the Immigration Act of 1952 as part of the McCarthy era Alien Registration Act, but had gathered dust for fifty years until Ashcroft decided to revive it, instruct local police to check registrants’ names against the National Crime Information Center database, and arrest and detain anyone who failed to register or had apparently overstayed a visa. Some registrants were questioned about their religious and political beliefs and had to provide names and contact information for family members, and other personal details such as video rental cards and bank account information. [6] Between November 2002 and September 2003, 177,260 Asian, North African, and the Middle Eastern boys and men appeared for registration. [7] The Bush Administration put 13,799 in deportation proceedings, detaining nearly 3000 of them. The press had trouble sorting the numbers. The Washington Post would state, “In truth there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of immigrants, mostly Arabs and other Muslims, who would not be in detention but for Sept. 11, and who are now wending their way through a capricious and choked-up immigration system.” [8] The interviews produced “not one shred of evidence.” [9]

The modern history of detentions in New York and New Jersey, holding areas for most of the political detainees on U.S. soil, paints a troubling picture of the culture that awaits those who are ordered detained. In 1993, Esmor Correctional Services Corporation severely underbid Wackenhut Corrections Corporation in order to win a contract to open a detention hall for non-citizens several miles south of New York City, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. [10] In 1995, a rebellion by visa-related detainees and asylum-seekers shut the hall down. A government investigation of Esmor’s performance, initiated before the uprising, would find a “corporate policy” of withholding problems from the government, and “a systematic methodology control the general detainee population and to intimidate and discipline obstreperous detainees through use of corporal punishment.” [11] A police SWAT team quelled the uprising with tear gas. Twenty-five detainees from Albania, India, Ghana, and elsewhere were removed to New Jersey’s Union County Jail, where they were made to crawl naked past guards, and forced to chant “America is Number One.” [12] Guards shoved heads into toilets and broke an inmate’s collarbone. [13] In 1996, Corrections Corporation of America took over the Elizabeth site; yet disturbing stories continued to ooze from this converted New Jersey warehouse. [14]

Wardens to the World

Commercial policing and detention have become international in scope, and in the past decade, private military services have grown into an industry representing about $100 billion in revenue. [15] In 2001, the firms spent millions in political contributions. [16] Leading donors were Halliburton and DynCorp, both with connections in the detentions business. [17] The Blackwater security firm has retained the Alexander Strategy Group -- an influential lobbying corporation chaired by Ed Buckham, former chief of staff to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. The firm has also employed DeLay’s spouse. [18]

Of approximately $4 billion in monthly costs for the occupation of Iraq, as much as a third goes to these and other private contractors. [19] Key services include prison construction. And there is no dearth of detainees to store. In April 2004, 200 U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers, after refusing to fight in Fallujah, were stripped of their badges and confined under military supervision. [20] The U.S.-led coalition holds thousands in Abu Ghraib alone, where children as young as 11 are locked in dark rooms. [21] In May of 2004, the Guardian reported a figure of “40,000 people in U.S. custody since last year’s invasion.” [22] As early as March of 2003, the U.S. was detaining U.S. military police officers themselves in connection with a prisoner-abuse case that included allegations of “indecent acts” and cruelty during a period encompassing a riot which ended with the death of three detainees. [23]

Lane McCotter was one of a group of officials selected by John Ashcroft to restyle Iraq’s criminal justice system. In 1997, McCotter had resigned under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections after a schizophrenic inmate died while shackled naked to a restraining chair for 16 hours. [24] McCotter subsequently became director of business development for Management & Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company, one of whose jails was being criticized by state and federal officials for unsafe conditions and lack of medical care when McCotter was sent to Iraq as part of a team that oversaw the re-opening of Abu Ghraib prison.

A report completed by Major General Antonio M. Taguba in early 2004 would describe numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib, including rapes, beatings, and the use of attack dogs. The report urged disciplinary action against two interrogators employed by Virginia-based CACI International. [25] Also cited is Titan of San Diego, whose board once boasted former CIA Director James Woolsey, and whose employees occupy a jurisdictional grey area that raises questions about the U.S. government’s ability to out-source prisoner abuse on foreign soil. [26]

The demand for private services is poised to grow as the U.S. establishes areas of concentrated control. The assault on Fallujah by 10,000 soldiers began six days after the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, and it turned the city’s residents into refugees. [27] In December, the Boston Globe reported U.S. military plans to funnel Fallujans back in via “citizen processing centers” on the outskirts of town where files of their identities would be constructed, using DNA testing and retina scans. Residents will reportedly receive badges to wear at all times, displaying their addresses. Civilian vehicles will be banned. One idea floated by the U.S. would require all men to work, for pay, in military-style battalions of construction, waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons. Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, complained that previous attempts to win Iraqis’ trust had “telegraphed weakness by asking, ‘What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?’” Comparing such attitudes to “Oprah,” Bellon asserted, “They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, ‘I’m with you.’ We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.” [28]

Processing the Data

The biometrics industry devises methods of distinguishing individuals bodies, using such identifiers as fingerprints, voice analyses, retina and iris patterns, hand geometry, and facial recognition. Most of the global biometrics revenue is generated in the U.S. market, and U.S. companies are poised to benefit substantially from the proliferation of related technology. The United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (“US-VISIT”) now collects biometric information from people entering and leaving the U.S.; this system alone, according to, could represent $20 billion over the next five to ten years. [29] Needs include merging the myriad technologies and filing systems used by the government to track non-citizens, criminal suspects and others, as well as implementing the technology at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad. The new Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, passed in December of 2004, authorizes funding for a series of technology enhancements to the database run by the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The hunger for data seems insatiable. The U.S. government obtained personal information, such as voting and driving records, of millions of foreigners under an agreement signed in September 2001 with ChoicePoint, the information company involved in the Florida voter list purge prior to the 2000 presidential election. [30] Preliminary findings by Mexican investigators show that ChoicePoint bought voting lists from a Mexican database for $250,000, then leased access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Quick Response Team. Thereafter, ChoicePoint signed agreements that would total $78 million to give John Ashcroft details of over 300 million people in Argentina, Brasil, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala -- all, presumably, potential terror suspects. As the matter involves violations of privacy and political rights, National Autonomous University law professor Jorge Camil suggested a class action by sixty-five million affected Mexicans, but added that “U.S. courts do not listen to Mexico.” [31]

Intelligence priorities are, in some cases, steering university research in the U.S. Recent research supported by the U.S. intelligence community has included a project at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York that involves the monitoring of chat rooms, beginning in January 2005, in order to develop automated eavesdropping techniques. [32] The university site introduces the work as prompted by university researchers:

In the wake of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, it became clear to experts worldwide that international terrorist organizations -- Al-Qaeda in particular -- rely heavily on cybercommunications for their planning. This prompted a group of Rensselaer researchers in the departments of computer science and decision sciences and engineering systems to start developing techniques for modeling the evolution of social groups in Web chat rooms, newsgroups, and bulletin boards, with the specific goal of detecting potentially harmful groups. [33]

Just days after the international press reported a call from U.S. Central Command chief General John Abizaid for controls to prevent electronic media from being used by groups such as al-Qaeda, [34] the Central Intelligence Agency’s former director, George Tenet, argued for new Internet security controls. [35] At a recent information-technology security conference, Tenet stated, “I know that these actions will be controversial in this age when we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability, but ultimately the Wild West must give way to governance and control.” Asserting that the Internet “represents a potential Achilles’ heel for our financial stability and physical security,” Tenet said, “The Internet’s open architecture allows Web surfing, but that openness makes the system vulnerable,” and called for industry to deliver products to government and private customers “with a new level of security and risk management already built in.”

The Future

Today’s administration pushes for still broader law enforcement authority. The Department of Homeland Security has included the pursuit of a “fugitive population of 400,000 illegal aliens ordered removed” in its plan for Fiscal Year 2005. [36] So far, more than 7,000 people have been detained through this ten-year plan, called Endgame. [37] The new Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act augments its border patrol force and its immigration detention capacity for each fiscal year from 2006 to 2010. It also tightens restrictions on bail, increasing the possibility of indefinite detention in alleged terrorism cases, [38] while broadening the definitions of terrorist crimes and expanding the list of predicate crimes for the crimes of money laundering and providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.

At the same time the U.S. repels prominent Muslims such as Tariq Ramadan from teaching U.S. residents about Muslim society, the U.S. insists on teaching the Muslim and Arab world its own dominant economic and political views. Title VII of the 2004 terrorism law, named the “911 Commission Implementation Act of 2004,” includes “findings regarding the importance of economic development in combating the breeding grounds for terrorism,” thus approving funding for the Middle East Partnership Initiative; and it “expresses the Sense of Congress that a significant portion of those fund should be made available to promote the rule of law in the Middle East.”

Promotion of the rule of law in the Middle East will be inextricably woven with the promotion of business opportunities in the United States, which include the warehousing of large swaths of targeted non-criminal communities by exploiting and perpetuating the idea that many of those caught had posed a threat to Western communities. Control over such people has become a global phenomenon, as the U.S. government builds an ever more labyrinthine system of obstacles between freedom and the people it deems fit to be caged.

Lee Hall teaches immigration law as a member of the Adjunct Faculty of Law at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, and can be reached at:

Other Articles by Lee Hall


* Globalizing Homeland Security (Part One): Doing Time for the Towers
* Blood on the Campaign Trail
* Bringing Social Justice to the Table
* People for the Exploitative Treatment of Arabs?
* Fit To Be Tamed


[1] Azmath disputed the official version of the arrest, stating: “They were not catching anyone -- they were catching people making sandwiches. I was arrested because I am a Muslim.” Brian Donohue, “From a Terrorist Suspect to an Illegal…To India,” New Jersey Star-Ledger (21 Jan. 2003).

[2] Visible on a wall of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, which is run by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was a U.S. flag T-shirt stained with blood, evidently from detainees who were slammed into the wall. “Supplemental Report on September 11 Detainees' Allegations of Abuse at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York” (Dec. 2003), Office of the Inspector General:

[3] Nina Bernstein, “Two Men Charge Abuse in Arrests After 9/11 Terror Attack,” New York Times (3 May 2004).

[4] Tamara Audi, “U.S. held 600 Detainees for Secret Rulings,” Detroit Free Press (18 Jul. 2002).

[5] Don Oberdorfer, “Why the Hostage Crisis Held Us All Hostage,” Washington Post (1 Feb. 1981).

[6] Testimony of Carol F. Khawly, Legal Advisor to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Before the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (4 Nov. 2003).

[7] “Changes to National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS),” Department of Homeland Security Fact Sheet (1 Dec. 2003).

[8] “Forgotten Detainees,” Washington Post (17 Sep. 2003).

[9] “Press Release: Conyers: DOJ Immigrant Interviews Produce ‘Not One Shred of Evidence’” (9 May 2003):

[10] John Sullivan and Matthew Purdy, “A Prison Empire: How It Grew; Parlaying the Detentions Business Into Profit,” New York Times (23 Jul.1995). Esmor Senior VP Richard P. Staley was once Acting Director of the central Immigration and Naturalization Service office. Stuart M. Gerson, who was the Acting Attorney General under George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, became an Esmor board member. Esmor would change its name to Correctional Services Corporation (CSC) in 1994; Gerson replaced James Slattery as the company’s chair in 1995. The company stated that Gerson’s lengthy experience with government contracts “will enable him to assist in the monitoring of the company’s relationships with the agencies that are its clients.” In February 2003, CSC agreed to pay a record $300,000 fine by the New York Lobbying Commission for failure to disclose gifts to politicians who helped the company obtain millions of dollars worth of business. Prison Privatisation Report Int’l Nos. 44, 55, and 58, Public Services International Research Unit, University of Greenwich, London:

[11] “Locked Away, Immigration Detainees in Jails in the United States,” Human Rights Watch (Sep. 1998):

[12] Ibid.

[13] Michael Welch, Detained: Immigration Laws and the Expanding I.N.S. Jail Complex 104 (Temple University Press; 2002).

[14] Mark Dow, “Common Sense and Fantasy in a Private Immigration Prison” (Jan. 2004):

[15] Peter W. Singer, “Beyond the Law: The Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners by U.S. Personnel Shows that Outsourcing Military Jobs has Gone Too Far,” The Guardian (3 May 2004):,2763,1208259,00.html.

[16] Peter W. Singer, “Warriors for Hire in Iraq,” Salon.Com (Apr. 15, 2004).

[17] International police information site advertises DynCorp jobs to experienced prison guards and provides the electronic address for the convenience of applicants.

[18] Peter W. Singer, “Warriors for Hire in Iraq” (note 16 above).

[19] Jonathan Weisman and Anitha Reddy, “Spending On Iraq Sets Off Gold Rush,” Washington Post (9 Oct. 2003) (citing Deborah D. Avant, a political scientist at George Washington University).

[20] “U.S. Holding 200 Iraqi ‘Mutineers’”(Reuters; 18 Apr. 2004)

[21] The U.S. does not release statistics, but Baghdad human rights groups estimate 6,000 to 8,000 so-called “security detainees” were held at Abu Ghraib in early 2004. Dan Murphy, “At Prison Gate, Iraqi Families Vent,” Christian Science Monitor (26 Mar. 2004). Also see Neil Mackay, “Revealed: Coalition Forces Imprison Iraqi Children,” Sunday Herald (Aug. 1, 2004)

[22] Luke Harding, “The Other Prisoners,” The Guardian (20 May 2004).

[23] Dan Murphy, “At Prison Gate, Iraqi Families Vent” (note 21 above).

[24] Fox Butterfield, “The Struggle for Iraq: Mistreatment of Prisoners Is Called Routine in U.S.,” New York Times (8 May 2004).

[25] CACI’s Web site proclaims: “Today, even in a period of economic uncertainty, CACI’s fiscal performance remains outstanding. Our stock value continues to rise and for fiscal year 2004 we announced record revenues of $1.146B.”

[26] Peter W. Singer, “Beyond the Law: The Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners by U.S. Personnel Shows that Outsourcing Military Jobs has Gone Too Far” (note 15 above). For a related commentary, see David Phinney, “Iraq Contractor Accused of Offshore Shell Game”: (discussing the legal question of whether or not Custer Battles, an upstart security company accused of fraud, was paid by the United States government or whether the oil revenues used to pay the company would be deemed Iraqi funds).

[27] Patrick Cockburn and Kim Sengupta, “Fallujah: The Homecoming and the Homeless,” Independent (11 Dec. 2004):

[28] Anne Barnard, “Returning Fallujans Will Face Clampdown,” Boston Globe (5 Dec. 2004):

[29] Penelope Patsuris, “Bidding For Biometric Riches,” (13 Jan. 2004)

[30] John Ross, “A Mexican Data Grab: U.S. Government Access to Records for 300m Latin Americans,” The Progressive (Aug. 2003; citing as a source the Mexican newspaper Reforma).

[31] The Mexican voting card, whose legitimacy has been undermined by the information transfer, contains a digital photo and thumb print. Pursuant to Article 135 of Mexico’s Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures:, the information submitted by citizens to the Federal Elections Register are “strictly confidential.”

[32] Declan McCullagh, “Security Officials to Spy on Chat Rooms,” ZDNet India News (25 Nov. 2004):,113081.html.

[33] Computer Science Department, “News: Rensselaer Researchers Developing Program to Root Out Terrorists Online (15 Apr. 2004):

[34] “Curb Extremist Media Use: Abizaid” (AFP; 27 Nov. 2004):,5478,11514849%255E1702,00.html

[35] Shaun Waterman, “Tenet Calls for Internet Security” (UPI; 2 Dec. 2004)

[36] “Department of Homeland Security Budget for Fiscal Year 2005”

[37] Alfonso Chardy, U.S. Agents Trying to Find 400,000 for Deportation,” Miami Herald (14 Mar. 2004); Nina Bernstein, “Old Deportation Orders Leading To Many Injustices, Critics Say,” New York Times (19 Feb. 2004).

[38] Already, the “USA-PATRIOT Act” of 2001, at § 412(a)(3), requires that non-citizens whom the Attorney General certifies as threats be detained -- possibly indefinitely, as long as the case is reviewed at least once every six months. The Act does not require that those who are detained indefinitely actually be deemed terrorists.