NEW YORK -- A federal judge has rejected former attorney general John Ashcroft's attempt to block a lawsuit by claiming that the threat of terrorism exempts the government from following peacetime regulations.
The decision allows a lawsuit by two Muslim men who were detained after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to go forward against Ashcroft and other high-ranking federal officials. The two, who were later deported, are seeking to hold the officials responsible for their confinement and alleged abuse at a federal jail in Brooklyn where Arab and Muslim men were held after the terror attacks.
US District Judge John Gleeson's ruling Wednesday also opens the door for depositions of Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and other officials, who will be questioned under oath about their personal knowledge of detention policies if they are unable to successfully appeal the decision.
The two contend that the government violated their right to appeal their solitary confinement in a special unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Justice Department lawyers wrote on Ashcroft's behalf that the FBI needed detainees isolated as the bureau frantically tried to find Al Qaeda cells in the United States in the months after Sept. 11, making the appeals process and its limits on solitary confinement an unnecessary burden.
A Justice Department spokesman, Charles Miller, said the government was still reviewing the decision.