John Ashcroft is off the hook. The Supreme Court tossed out a lawsuit against the former attorney general in an 8-0 vote today, finding that he did not misuse his power or violate the 4th Amendment. American Muslim Abdullah al-Kidd sued after being arrested at Dulles Airport and held for two weeks, ostensibly as a “material witness” in a terrorism case, without ever being called to testify or charged with a crime. Supporters of the former University of Idaho football player accused Ashcroft of misusing his authority by seizing al-Kidd with no reason to believe he committed any crime.
But the high court found Ashcroft’s use of the law did not clearly violate the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, in a decision that continues a trend of shielding top officials in the Bush administration when lawsuits are brought over their conduct during the “war on terror,” the Los Angeles Times notes. But, the AP adds, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the case does raise questions about how the government can use the material witness statute and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said al-Kidd’s “ordeal is a grim reminder of the need to install safeguards against disrespect for human dignity, constraints that will control officialdom even in perilous times.” (Read more Abdullah al-Kidd stories.)