Breaking Down an Innocent Man

The FBI’s Right to Threaten Torture

Linked with FRONTLINE.

Published on Counterpunch.org, by JAMES BOVARD, October 27/28, 2007.

A federal appeals court has concluded that an FBI agent must go to trial on charges he coerced a false confession out of a prime suspect in the 9/11 attacks. But the FBI still insists that its agent did nothing wrong. And the feds swayed the court to suppress that portion of a recent decision detailing how the FBI agent used the threat of torture to break an innocent man.

Abdallah Higazy, a 30-year-old Egyptian student, arrived in New York City to study engineering at the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn on August 27, 2001. A U.S. foreign-aid program reserved and paid for his room at the Millennium Hilton Hotel, next to the World Trade Center. After the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, Higazy hot-footed it out of the hotel. After the terrorist attack, the hotel was sealed.

Three months later, guests were allowed to retrieve their belongings. When Higazy went to the hotel on December 17, he was arrested and accused of possessing an aviation radio. (A hotel security guard reported finding the radio in a safe in his room.) Higazy denied owning the radio. He was arrested as a material witness and locked up in solitary confinement …


… The FBI has long taught its agents that subjects of their investigation have ‘forfeited their right to the truth’, according to the ethics study guide at the FBI Academy. Perhaps, according to federal lawmen, it is a small step from lying to suspects to threatening to have their kinfolk tortured. The agency has done nothing in the nearly six years since this case began to indicate that the methods used in the Higazy case did not receive the full approval of FBI headquarters.

The initial Higazy arrest and release were landmarks showing how far feds would go to gin up evidence and headlines for the war on terror. The fact that the FBI approved of its agent’s methods – and the fact that a federal judge saw no problem with the interrogation – are further warning signs of constitutional decay. Keep your eyes on this case, because it could help determine how far feds can go to destroy innocent people. (full text).

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