Ashcroft and Material Witness Warrants

John Ashcroft, 50th Governor of Missouri, U.S....

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John Ashcroft was sued by Abdullah al-Kidd because in 2003 Mr. al-Kidd was held on a material witness warrant (authorized by Ashcroft) in a case against Sami Omar al-Hussayen.  Mr. al-Kidd was in jail for 16 days and then supervised release for 14 months until the case against al-Hussayen was resolved (without Mr. al-Kidd being called as a witness).  The complaint alleged that Ashcroft was using the material witness warrant to detain individuals that were suspected of some kind of terrorist activity but that the government did not have enough evidence the individuals to arrest them.  The Supreme Court, without dissent (this will be qualified), overturned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and took Ashcroft off the hook.  There are three concurring opinions authored by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor that are worth reading as is the primary opinion written by Justice Scalia.  This case is insightful into what the government was doing and some of the issues that arose soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, specifically regarding warrants, the Fourth Amendment, and the authority of the Attorney General.  22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S1057 (May 31, 2011).

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