Government urges secrecy for man's deportation hearings
By The Associated Press
CINCINNATI Federal officials say the fight against terrorism could be compromised if deportation hearings are held in public for the co-founder of an Islamic charity the government claims has funneled money to terrorists.
Rabih Haddad, 41, has been detained in Michigan since his Dec. 14 arrest on a visa violation. The same day, the Treasury Department froze the bank accounts of his Global Relief Foundation and agents raided its suburban Chicago office.
Opening the deportation hearings to the public and news media "would assist terrorists in getting a blueprint of the government's strategy to fight the war on terrorism," Justice Department lawyer Gregory Katsas told the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday.
Katsas said the hearings are administrative and should be kept private.
"The Department of Justice is committed to taking the steps necessary to protect American lives while ensuring that the rights of our citizens are protected," Katsas said, reading from a statement by Assistant Attorney General Robert D. McCallum.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, several newspapers and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., urged the three-judge panel to uphold a lower court's ruling that the deportation proceedings against Haddad should remain open.
Lawyers for the ACLU and the newspapers argued that the hearings are conducted exactly like criminal court cases and should be open.
"Secrecy can cover up incompetence," said Herschel Fink, a lawyer for the newspapers. "Government incompetence flourishes in secrecy. We take no position on whether Haddad should be deported. Our concern is getting information and giving it to the public."
Closing the hearings would give the government a basis for arguing that other deportation proceedings should be private, ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt argued.
Haddad, who had been living in Ann Arbor, Mich., is being held in a county jail. He is seeking political asylum in the United States because he says he fears he will be persecuted if he returns to Lebanon.
The judges did not say when they would rule.
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