Schiff Writes to Attorney General Gonzales Requesting a Status Update on a Report Regarding the State of U.S. Detainees Suspected of Terrorism

Washington, D.C. – Late yesterday, Representatives Adam Schiff, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), and Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called on United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for an update on the status of a report on American citizens and residents detained on suspicion of terrorism.  The report is required by a measure that Rep. Schiff authored in the 2005 Department of Justice Reauthorization bill. The report was due to Congress on January 5, 2007. 

“It is imperative that the Administration inform Congress on the detention of Americans if we are to fulfill our oversight responsibilities,” Schiff said.  “The Department of Justice was given ample time to compile this report, and it disturbs me that the Administration has not done so as required by law.”

The full text of the letter is below.

March 5, 2007

The Honorable Alberto R. Gonzales       
Attorney General 
U.S. Department of Justice           
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW     
Washington, D.C. 20530     

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

We are disappointed to learn that the Department of Justice has not yet submitted its report to Congress regarding the status of U.S. persons or residents detained on suspicion of terrorism.  As you know, this report was required by the 2005 Department of Justice Reauthorization bill (Sec. 1176 of Public Law 109-162) and was due on January 5, 2007.  

Since September 11, 2001, we know of at least two cases where U.S. persons or residents were detained as “enemy combatants” since these cases rose to the attention of the judicial branch.  Others have been detained on suspicion of terrorism under the material witness statute.  

In order for Congress to engage in our oversight responsibilities over the Executive Branch’s prosecution of the war on terrorism, we must understand the breadth and application of the Executive’s detention procedures covering U.S. persons or residents on suspicion of terrorism.  

In particular, we must understand the standards that were developed by the Department for recommending or determining that a person should be tried as a criminal defendant or should be designated as an “enemy combatant.”   For example, we are eager to learn why foreign national Zacarais Moussaoui, the alleged “20th hijacker,” was afforded due process in our U.S. court system while other U.S. citizens were detained as enemy combatants and initially denied access to counsel and the courts.  Similarly, we seek to understand how the determination was made to provide individuals captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, such as John Walker Lindh, with the right to trial in U.S. court, while U.S. citizens captured on U.S. soil were deprived of that right for some time.    

The Department must also report to Congress on the status of any U.S. persons or residents who are currently detained on suspicion of terrorism.  Recent press reports indicate that many of the government's statistics on successful “terrorism” investigations or prosecutions have used inflated numbers – and swept within such designations many cases having no nexus to any terrorism case.  This only raises our concern that American citizens may be detained on suspicion of terrorism without the knowledge of the Congress.

This is an issue of high priority for us, and we are concerned that the Department has not complied with the statutory reporting requirement.  We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter, and we look forward to the Department furnishing this report in an expeditious manner. 


Member of Congress           

Member of Congress

Member of Congress