Monday, February 26, 2007

terror haute

when i was in high school, i attended a summer educational program at indiana state university in terre haute. the program was fun and i made some cool friends (none of whom i'm still in contact with), but i absolutely hated the city of terre haute, which was like a ghost town, devoid of culture and seemingly even lacking in animal life. (though perhaps my judgment was clouded by being a minor, and by the highly restrictive policies ISU had regarding us kids.)

so i can only imagine what it must be like to be held in terre haute's new CMU for b-list terror suspects. the washington post explains:

The Justice Department has quietly opened a new prison unit in Indiana that houses a hodgepodge of second-tier terrorism inmates, most of them Arab Muslims, whose ability to communicate with the outside world has been tightly restricted.

At the Communications Management Unit, or CMU, in Terre Haute, Ind., all telephone calls and mail are monitored, the number of phone calls limited and visits are restricted to a total of four hours per month, according to special rules enforced by the Justice Department's U.S. Bureau of Prisons. All inmate conversations must be conducted in English unless otherwise negotiated.

The unit appears to be a less restrictive version of the "supermax" facility in Florence, Colo., which holds some of the United States' most notorious terrorists, including al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui and Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski.

Defense lawyers and prisoner advocates complain that the unit's communication restrictions are unduly harsh for inmates not considered high security risks. They also say that the ethnic makeup of the CMU's population may indicate racial profiling. "If they really believed these people are serious terrorists, they wouldn't be in this unit," said David Fathi, staff counsel for the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. "They'd be in Colorado with [Atlanta Olympics bomber] Eric Rudolph and the Unabomber and the rest of the people that the Bureau of Prisons thinks are serious threats."

According to prison records, current residents at Terre Haute include five members of the so-called Lackawanna Six, a group of Yemeni natives from Upstate New York who attended an al-Qaeda training camp. The unit also houses Randall Royer, a defendant prosecuted as part of the "Virginia jihad" case in Alexandria, and Enaam M. Arnaout, an Islamic charity director who pleaded guilty to diverting money to Islamic military groups in Bosnia and Chechnya.

The only non-Muslim inmates are an unidentified Colombian militant and Zvonko Busic, 61, former leader of a Croatian extremist group that hijacked a jetliner and set off a bomb that killed a police officer in 1976, according to prison records and defense lawyers.

justice officials naturally claim that it's just a coincidence that everyone in the CMU is a terrorist, and all but one are muslims. they say that eventually the CMU will also house "sex offenders who attempt to communicate with victims and others who have abused mail or phone privileges."

officials also claim that being shipped to the CMU is not a "punitive measure", and thus "authorities do not have to provide hearings and other procedures that are required when punishments are to be administered."

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