Update on Secret Evidence

Since last May's hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the Secret Evidence Repeal Act (HR 2121/S 3139), the bill, which establishes a procedure for using secret evidence that guards the rights of the non-citizen, was amended to adopt in immigration cases the same procedures used in criminal cases to protect classified information. On October 17, it was reported out of the Committee and now moves towards a vote in the full of House of Representatives. Whether Congress will find time to take it up in this session is doubtful, however.

Vice-president Al Gore spoke out on October 14, not only supporting a bill to ban racial profiling but saying: “I strongly support the step in the right direction that's been made by John Conyers and David Bonior in the current version of a bill that bans the use of Secret Evidence. We have got to stop that practice in the United States.” Governor Bush, without having seen the legislation, appears to be following Republican Senator Spencer Abraham and Congressman Henry Hyde who are both on record as supporting the current bill.

In the meantime, the trials of Mazen al-Najjar, held for three and a half years without bail on the basis of secret evidence, continued with his appearance at court in Bradenton, Florida, in mid-October. After five days of testimony at a new bail hearing, attorneys for the Immigration and Naturalization Service had yet to produce proof of fundraising or any terrorist activity. Finally they revealed that he had once received $100,000 from the United Arab Emirates that he had later transferred to a bank in Beirut. Al-Najjar's lawyers noted that this information had been discussed long before and had to do with handling the funds of a brother-in-law who was in the process of relocating from the Gulf to Lebanon.

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