Gray Watson Personal Thoughts 2003.04.17
Unconstitutional Detainment

[ On August 6, 2003, Mike pled guilty to one count of his three-count indictment. He admitted attempting to enter Afghanistan with members of the "Portland 6" terrorists. Regardless of his supposed crimes, I am still very worried about the federal governments' ability to hold "material witnesses" indefinitely. ]

I am writing to my representatives and donating money to support Mike Hawash. If you've not heard his story, Mike has been a US citizen and resident for 15 years since he attended college in Texas. He is married and has 3 children and lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. On the morning of March 20th, Mike was arrested by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the same time that agents with bulletproof vests and assault rifles awoke Mike's wife Lisa and their three children so search his home.

Since then he has not been charged but has been held as a material witness which the federal government can do indefinitely. He is now spending his second week in prison without a trial, without being able to face his accusers, and according to the latest word from his friends, without even being questioned. The only thing that his wife and friends can think of that might make the FBI suspicious is that long before September 11, 2001, Mike and his wife donated to Global Relief, a once-respected international aid organization that since October 2002 has fallen into disrepute.

We live in a tenuous time. Pressures on our law enforcement because of the war on terror have shown that many of the rights that we take for granted are far from universal. This reminds me of one of my favorite political quotes from Justice William Douglas:

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

To treat a US citizen this way is a travesty regardless of what law enforcement thinks they has done. Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal serial killer, got a public trial like anyone else. Why should Mike Hawash, who seems to be a decent guy with a lot of close friends, get treated this way -- has he truly done something worse? I understand the needs of security at trials so that terrorists cannot share knowledge with their compatriots, but I don't see how this applies here. This seems like punishment before a verdict by the powers-that-be. In the future, if the terrorists are able do more damage on US soil, I worry that many more "offenses" against the state will elicit such punishment.

It is almost as if the prosecutors are afraid of public trials in cases such as Mike's because they know they will lose. So the only way they can hurt these people, who they see as terrorists regardless of their innocence, is by holding them in prison without charges or threatening "enemy combatant" status so they are brought before a military tribunal. So much for innocent before proven guilty. So much for the land of the free.

My Letter to My Representatives

Senator Ted Kennedy
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2101

Senator John Kerry
304 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2102

Representative Edward Markey
2108 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-2107

Dear Congressman:

The anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War is this weekend and as I write this to you from Lexington MA I find it ironic and very depressing that I must ask my representatives to safeguard what I feel is a basic Constitutional right.

I implore you to seek a public explanation from the FBI about the Mike (Maher) Hawash case and I urge you to call for regulations which make it harder for citizens to be detained indefinitely without charges.

On Thursday morning, March 20, Mike (Maher) Hawash, was arrested outside Intel's Hillsboro, OR offices and taken into custody by the FBI and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Since then he has been "detained" as a material witness -- held incommunicado from his wife and attorneys for several days. When the FBI did contact him, neither he, his attorneys, nor anyone else knows why he is being detained.

Mike has been a U.S. citizen and resident for 14 years. He is originally of Palestinian birth and previously of Jordanian nationality. He lives in Hillsboro with his wife and 3 children and has worked for Intel on and off for 10 years. The only thing that his wife and friends can think of that might make the FBI suspicious is that long before September 11, 2001, Mike and his wife donated to Global Relief, a once-respected international aid organization that since October 2002 has fallen into disrepute.

I do not understand how a U.S. citizen can be arrested and held in a maximum security federal prison in solitary confinement for an indefinite period without public charges. I do not understand how an American with a house, a job, and a family could be considered such a "flight risk" to be treated so. I am especially worried that all of this can be kept secret from his family, friends, the press, and the public.

I am concerned about terrorism and wish to support legitimate efforts to fight it, but Mike is a U.S. citizen, and his middle-eastern origins should not deprive him of the basic civil liberties or Constitution guarantees.

Please let me know what you are your office are going to do about this. I feel strongly that US Citizens should not be held indefinitely without charges in any circumstance.

Gray Watson

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