House members call for ent to use of Secret Evidence
Members of the House of Representatives today introduced the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 2001,” a bill that would ban the use of secret evidence in INS deportation-related proceedings.
The proposed legislation was introduced at a Capitol Hill news conference attended by House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI), Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), along with representatives from number of religious and civil liberties organizations.
One of the news conference attendees, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), issued the following statement:
“American Muslims oppose the use of secret evidence because we support freedom and justice. As it says in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text: ‘O you who believe. Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God”¦’ (Quran, 4:135)”
“Secret evidence threatens more than a few individuals or families. For more than six million American Muslims, the government’s use of secret evidence leads many to question whether the due process rights enshrined in the Constitution really apply to all within our country”¦Perceived as singling out Muslim activists in the United States, secret evidence threatens to chill everyone’s right to free speech. (The majority of those who have been detained using secret evidence have been Muslims.) For American Muslims, this issue is not a theoretical question of constitutional interpretation. It is
an issue touching on our basic sense of security in America.”
“As the American Bar Association Stated in a recent report: ‘No person should be deprived of liberty on the basis of evidence kept secret from them. This simple statement is a fundamental prerequisite of any fair legal system. ‘Star Chamber’ secret proceedings may be a feature of some totalitarian governments, but not ours.'”
“Several federal courts trying secret evidence cases have already concluded that immigrants have a constitutional right to challenge a deportation order in court. In certain cases, federal courts have ruled that continuing to detain individuals on the basis of secret evidence violated their due process rights. In cases where secret evidence was revealed, it often turned out to be nothing more than rumors, press clippings, and other forms of evidence that would not stand up in a court of law.”
“During the last congressional session, the House Judiciary Committee passed a compromise version of the Secret Evidence Repeal Act that would give alien detainees the same rights as defendants in criminal cases. Under the compromise legislation, the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) would be applied to immigration cases that involve classified information.”
“That compromise, in which a detained person would be given an unclassified summary of the classified information, is reflected in the legislation being introduced today. The summary would be the only part of the classified information given to the immigration judge. Therefore, no judge would be prejudiced by information not shared with the detainee. There would be no ‘secret evidence’ because the immigration judge would base his or her decision on the same information that is shared with the alien.”
“Passage of this legislation would be a significant advance in civil liberties for the American Muslim community, and for all Americans.”