A bill abolishing the use of secret evidence in U.S. courts
Please Support H. R. 2121, Bill Abolishing Secret Evidence Proposed Law Gains Momentum
A bill abolishing the use of secret evidence in U.S. courts, including in INS deportation proceedings has been introduced by Congressmen Tom Campbell (R-CA) and David Bonior (D-MI), and is quickly gaining support in the House of Representatives. H. R. 2121, the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 1999” also enjoys the support of a broad and growing coalition of civil rights, lawyers’ and immigrants’ rights organizations, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). The latest addition to groups endorsing the Act is the National Organization of Women (NOW).
Sponsors of H. R. 2121, the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 1999,” in the House now include:
David Bonior (D-MI)
Tom Campbell (R-CA)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Bob Barr (R-GA)
Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX)
Ray Lahood (R-IL)
Dale Kildee (D-MI)
Please contact your representative in the House. Let him or her know how secret evidence is a gross violation of human and constitutional rights and why it is vital that they support H.R. 2121. Also please contact your senators and ask them to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
Also, please write to your local press and let them know that secret evidence cases are a national scandal, not just isolated cases or local issues. Letters to the editor, op/ed pieces and other communications to the media are a vital part of laying the ground work for legislation abolishing this outrageously abusive practice. Please, make your views known as widely as possible. This issue is still largely unknown and many Americans are shocked to learn that people legally in this country are arrested without charge and held for years on the basis of secret evidence and, in many cases, deported.
The basis for our strong opposition to the use of secret evidence is that neither the accused nor their attorneys have the opportunity to evaluate or challenge secret evidence currently being used in deportation cases. The detainees are thus denied their right to confront the government’s information in court. The use of secret evidence is contrary to the principles that are essential under our system of due process and fundamental fairness.
ADC has been monitoring these cases and our findings are disturbing. The secret evidence cases currently in progress are primarily ones targeting Arab Muslims. Attorneys have reported disconcerting due process violations by the INS in many of these cases. Individuals are needlessly denied bond based on secret evidence, and immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals in some cases have taken over a year to decide the Bond issue alone.
Over 20 Arab immigrants are currently being held in jail without charge, on the basis of secret evidence. Some are entering their third year of incarceration with no end in sight. The dangers of using secret evidence were clearly demonstrated in the case of six Iraqis. Some of the secret evidence used in their case was declassified, and it included rumors, innuendo, racist stereotyping and faulty translations. FBI agents even misidentified the Dutch airline, KLM, as a “terrorist organization.” ADC has every reason to believe that secret evidence is often secret not because it is sensitive information, but that it would not withstand the scrutiny of challenge in open court.
In any event, the use of secret evidence is clearly a violation of constitutional guarantees and basic principles of justice. It has no place in any American court, including INS deportation proceedings. A more detailed analysis of secret evidence and some of the other human and civil rights abuses facing Arab-Americans is available on ADC’s website at https://www.adc.org/legal/fightback.html.