Court Upholds Ashcroft Suit

A federal appeals court in California has roundly rejected a bid for absolute legal immunity for former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which will allow a Muslim man to sue Ashcroft for his detention in 2003. Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen who was detained and then transported in shackles across three states for 16 days in 2003 as a material witness, will be allowed to continue his suit against Ashcroft, who said that, after the 9/11 attacks, authorities could use "aggressive detention of lawbreakers and material witnesses" to track down terrorists. The three-judge court called the material-witness abuse after 9/11 "repugnant to the Constitution and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.” Al-Kidd argues Ashcroft should have known that the material-witness statute was being abused, as in his case. Ashcroft argued he had protection from lawsuits, which the three appellate judges, all appointed by conservative presidents, overturned. (One of the judges wrote a partial dissent.) Al-Kidd, a Muslim convert and former football player at the University of Idaho, was forced to live with his parents-in-law in Nevada and report to a probation officer for 15 months after his release.