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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

October 22, 2007

We Can Only Keep America Safe By Coercing Tons Of False Confessions And Then Lying About It

Steve Bergstein has the amazing end to the story of Egyptian citizen Abdallah Higazy:

Higazy was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession.

But that's not the end of the story. The end of the story is that all this came out in the decision in Higazy's case, which was posted online last week. But the court apparently realized they'd made a mistake in allowing Americans to read about the threats the FBI made against Higazy's family–so the court took down the decision, then replaced it with a version that redacted those parts, and actually called a blurg which had published that section and asked them to TAKE IT DOWN. The blurg said no.

See Bergstein for all the details. How I love our little websites.

And what's the best part, beyond the cruelty to Higazy and unknown others? The best part is the FBI has unlimited money, time and trained agents, so there's no possible way they'd miss a real threat to our lives while dicking around with all their coerced confessions.

(Via Jim Henley, who's been on the Higazy story since the beginning.)

AND: Remember this was no idle threat. A story about the Egyptian government's extraordinary brutality–including their willingness to drug and rape thirteen year-olds, videotaping it all the while–is here.

Posted at October 22, 2007 01:08 PM | TrackBack

sure warms the heart to see a couple of murderous thugs holding hands. get a room you two.

Posted by: ran at October 22, 2007 01:55 PM

Why do you hate America?

Posted by: Bob Weber at October 22, 2007 02:46 PM

I've always wondered what recourses we have to getting around redacting. Frequently "That's classified!" actually means "That's embarassing!" I understand that there might be some actual secrets that need to be protected for the immediate future, but 50 years after the fact? When do we get to see what's behind the black tape? The public does have a right to know what its government is doing, right?

Posted by: saurabh at October 22, 2007 03:31 PM

saurabh: Well, YOU'RE PAYING FOR IT. Me to, and I want to see the documents.(I promise Not to run tell Osama)
Ain't love grand, sigh? (don't believe that old sage of "politics makes strange bedfellows"---that's "two birds of a feather" if there EVER was any.)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 22, 2007 03:44 PM

Seems like only a month ago that the wingnuts were falling on the floor laughing about that Osama and his obscene vanity for dying his beard...

Posted by: darrelplant at October 22, 2007 03:47 PM

OK, the picture isn't funny, it's not even good black humour. You're obviously being too angry, which stops you from being funny, Jon. Next time don't do this when you're angry.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at October 22, 2007 08:51 PM

Actually, 89% of Egyptians do not vote for Mubarak. Of the 24% or so of eligible voters who actually bother to register to vote, a good 50% of them are only registering because they work for a government agency and are bussed in to vote for incumbents. Many others are bussed in from factories, government owned or owned by party bosses, to vote for the ruling party. The fact that out of this small minority of the Egyptian people, 11% actually vote against mubarak, is pretty brave on their part.

Posted by: Anna in PDX was Cairo at October 22, 2007 11:13 PM

Anna: It was tongue in cheek, actually (you'll see if you follow the link).

Posted by: John Caruso at October 23, 2007 01:25 AM