Hedges: SAMs -- The Creepy, Inhumane Legal Weapon the State Uses to Break Prisoners
Continued from previous page
I spoke Saturday night to Fahad Hashmi’s father, Syed Anwar Hashmi. The elder Hashmi came to the United States from Pakistan when Fahad was 3 and his other son, Faisal, was 4. He worked for more than two decades as an accountant for the city of New York. He came, as most immigrants have, for his children. He believed in America, in its fairness, its chances for opportunity, its freedoms. And then it all crumbled when the state proved as capricious and cruel as the Pakistani dictatorship he had left behind. On the day of his son’s arrest, he says, “my American dream became an American nightmare.”
Three law enforcement officials appeared at his home in Flushing, Queens, on June 6, 2006, to inform him that Fahad, who had been in London completing a master’s degree in international relations, had been arrested at Heathrow Airport on terrorism charges. Fahad, after fighting the order for 11 months, was the first American citizen extradited under the post-9/11 laws. He was taken in May 2007 to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan and placed in solitary confinement.
“I came to this country from Pakistan nearly 30 years ago, in 1982 with my wife and two young boys,” Fahad’s father said. “Coming from a Third World country, we were full of hope and looked towards America for liberty and opportunity. I had an American dream to work hard and give my sons good educations. I worked as an assistant accountant for the city of New York, six days a week, nine hours a day, including overtime, to support my family and to send both my kids through college. We all became U.S. citizens, and my sons fulfilled my dreams by completing their undergraduate and postgraduate education. I was very proud of them.”
“In high school and then as a student at Brooklyn College, Fahad became a political activist, concerned about the plight of Muslims around the world and the civil liberties of Muslims in America,” he went on. “Growing up here in America, Fahad did not fear expressing his views. But I was scared for him and urged him not to speak out. He would remind me that everything he did was under the law. But having grown up in a Third World country, I had seen that it did not always work this way, and so I worried. He was monitored by law enforcement and quoted in Time magazine. But he kept speaking out. And then, with his arrest, my fears came true.”
Judge Loretta Preska denied Fahad bail partly on the grounds that he had no ties to family and community. His family and friends, who sat crowded together in the courtroom, listened in stunned silence. And then, after five months, Hashmi, already isolated in solitary confinement, was suddenly put under “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs. SAMs are the legal weapon of choice used by the state when it seeks to isolate and break prisoners. They were bequeathed to us by the Clinton administration, which justified SAMs as a way to prevent Mafia or other gang leaders from ordering hits from inside prison. The use of SAMs expanded widely after the attacks of 2001. They are frequently used to isolate terrorism case detainees before trial. SAMs, which were renewed by Barack Obama in October, severely restrict a prisoner’s communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Fahad, once in this legal straitjacket, was not permitted to see much of the evidence against him under a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted.