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The September 11 Detainees:
A Review of the Treatment of Aliens Held on Immigration Charges in Connection with the Investigation of the September 11 Attacks

June 2003
Office of the Inspector General



April 4, 2003

FROM: [original signed]
SUBJECT: OIG Review of September 11 Detainees

I am writing in response to your request that I review and comment on the OIG's Draft Report concerning the September 11 detainees.

In considering the issues raised about the detention and removal of the September 11 detainees, in Chapter Six, it is important to take into account the circumstances and atmosphere within the Department of Justice during that period. On September 11,2001, terrorists murdered 3,000 innocent people on American soil. The period thereafter was one of tremendous intensity as the Department was required immediately to alter its central mission to the prevention of further acts of terrorism.

The circumstances required the Department to respond, in a crisis atmosphere, to hundreds of novel issues. The members of my staff who tried to coordinate these issues had to shoulder a monumental task and workload. They had a great number of other responsibilities during this period as part of our comprehensive effort to protect the American people from further acts of terrorism.

The detention of those illegal aliens suspected of involvement with terrorism was paramount to that mission. My staff understood that the immigration authorities of the Department should be used to keep such people in custody until we could satisfy ourselves -by the FBI clearance process -that they did not mean to do us harm.

Given those circumstances, I respectfully submit that it is unfair to criticize the conduct of members of my staff during this period. In light of the imperative placed on these detentions by the Department, I would not have expected them to reconsider the detention policy in the absence of a clear warning that the law was being violated. It is clear from the Draft Report that that did not occur until January 2002. When the issue was squarely presented, it is apparent that they promptly did the right thing: they changed the policy.

To the extent that OIG still believes that criticism is warranted, I ask that it be directed at my Office as a whole rather than at the individual members of my staff who, as indicated above, acted in accordance with my expectations.

I ask that you include the text of this letter in the section of your report analyzing the removal of the September 11 detainees.

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