March 22, 2006
Courts, Congress, DOJ Scrutinize Witness Detention Law
After reports that it has been abused in terrorism investigations, a 22-year-old federal law that allows people to be held without charges if they have information about others' crimes is coming under fresh scrutiny in the courts, in Congress, and within the Justice Department. The law allows so-called material witnesses to be held long enough to secure their testimony if there is reason to think they will flee. But lawyers for material-witness-detainees say the law has been used to hold people who the government fears will commit terrorist acts in the future, but whom it lacks probable cause to charge with a crime.
Concerns about how the law has been used have prompted calls from across the political spectrum for a reassessment. That debate has also ignited a broader one: whether the United States should join the several Western nations that have straightforward preventive detention laws. More from NYTimes. . . [Mark Godsey]
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