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The Department of Justice has no plans to release at any time soon a comprehensive list that would identify and locate people detained in Florida and elsewhere in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Viet Dinh, assistant attorney general for the office of policy and legislation, said in an interview that making public such a list would play into the hands of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. “We are reticent to provide a road map to al-Qaida as to the progress and direction of our investigative activity,” Dinh said. “We don’t want to taint people as being of interest to the investigation simply because of our attention.” Dinh’s remarks followed his appearance Friday in a panel discussion at a conference on the government’s anti-terrorism program at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Naples, Fla. The conference was sponsored by the American Bar Association. Besides Dinh, panelists included former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, Harvard University law school professor Charles Ogletree and George Washington University law school professor Stephen Saltzburg. The ABA is currently examining law-related policy issues and existing ABA policy with an eye toward recommending changes. Justice Department officials have said about 725 people, mostly Arabs and Muslims, have been detained on immigration charges — mostly visa violations — in the post-Sept. 11 probe. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said 460 of those people are still in custody. The Washington Post has reported that about 370 of those detainees are suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. In the interview, Dinh declined to say how many people now in custody will ultimately be found to have been involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has reported that 52 detainees are being held at the Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade. The Post reported a week ago that documents filed in federal court in Washington early this month show that most of the 725 people who have been detained so far were charged within several days of arrest, but that a “significant number” languished in jail for a week or more before being formally charged. Dinh said the longest time, for two suspects, was 15 days. The Post, citing unnamed U.S. officials and immigration experts, said that “even the longest of those delays do not appear to violate INS regulations, which allow officials an undefined ‘reasonable time period’ ” to formally charge detainees with an immigration violation. Dinh, responding to prior concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union and others about whether detainees have been afforded their full civil rights, told an audience of about 200 lawyers in Naples that every person detained thus far had been “held on valid immigration charges, crimes charged, or as material witnesses.” Dinh didn’t comment directly on whether any suspected terrorists have been among those who have been freed because of a lack of probable cause to charge them, but issued a clear warning to any who are. “We will let them go if there is not enough of a predicate to hold them. But we will follow them closely, and if they so much as spit on the sidewalk we’ll arrest them. The message is that if you are a suspected terrorist you better be squeaky clean. … If we can, we will keep you in jail.” PERCEPTION VS. REALTY At the same time, Dinh sought to ease widespread concerns among criminal defense lawyers regarding the government’s announced intention to monitor conversations between some lawyers and their clients. “The perception is much worse than the reality,” Dinh told the audience. “Only 16 prisoners out of 158,000 federal prisoners are subject to special administrative measures that cut off their contact with the outside, and not all of them actually have it done. This is reserved for the Hanssens and Moussaouis of the world.” He was referring to Robert Hanssen, the FBI counterintelligence agent who pleaded guilty to spying for the Russians, and to Zacarias Moussaoui, a flight school student identified as part of bin Laden’s network. He was indicted last month on conspiracy charges. Dinh said the Justice Department’s decision to assert such a right followed intelligence discoveries made after Sept. 11. “It’s an operational need, which is still highly classified,” Dinh said. Dinh likewise defended the way Justice has proceeded in drawing up a list identifying 5,000 people across the nation to be interviewed by state and local police seeking information about terrorists. “How did we select those names? By the criteria al-Qaida itself uses: 18- to-35-year-old males who entered the country after the start of 2000 using passports from countries where al-Qaida has a strong presence,” said Dinh. SOME PANELISTS DISAGREE Dinh’s fellow panelists disagreed, sometimes sharply, about the direction America should take in meeting the terrorist challenge. “I don’t mind a loss of liberty as long as it applies to everyone,” said Ogletree, who focused on what he said was the need to eliminate racial profiling as a tool in the hunt for terrorists. “I’m not worried about the government. I’m fearful of the public rather than President Bush or Congress. I fear private citizens who will deny opportunities, deny benefits, and murder and kill.” Starr said that the test for employing racial profiling should be its “reasonableness under the circumstances.” “Turning us into an armed camp troubles me dearly,” said Starr. “Is this really a tool of mass oppression by the government?” Now, Dinh said, the U.S. does use racial profiling, “not for identification, but for investigation.” While Starr said he was concerned about whether the United States was increasing its intelligence-gathering capability, Saltzburg raised the issue of what should ultimately be done with the raw information the government has collected from detainees in the United States and elsewhere. “I haven’t heard anyone ask, ‘What happens to the information that’s gathered?’ I haven’t heard anyone say, ‘Let’s get rid of it at some point.’ That’s what worries me.”

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