For the past year, a 28-year-old Muslim American student, Sayed Fahad Hashmi—the first person extradited to the United States from Britain to face charges of terrorism—has been held at the Manhattan Correctional Center under conditions of confinement that are the very definition of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment."
He has not been charged with being a member of Al Qaeda or for providing any money or resources to any terrorist. He is here—for a trial months away in 2009—for letting a former acquaintance, Junaid Babar, stay for a couple of weeks in his London apartment, where Babar stored several ponchos, raincoats, and waterproof socks in a suitcase.
A week ago, I was having a proud to be an American moment. But there is so much work to be done. The conditions under which he is being held, this American citizen? This is keeping me safe?
On a 23-hour solitary-confinement lockdown, Hashmi, was not allowed family visits for months. Now, he can see one person for an hour and a half, but only every other week. He is permitted to write only one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper per letter. (I would be grateful, Mr. Mukasey, for an explanation of how these restrictions serve our security needs.) Mr. Hashmi is forbidden any contact—directly or through his attorneys—with the news media. He can read newspapers, but only those portions approved by his jailers—and not until 30 days after publication. And he is absolutely forbidden to listen to news radio stations or to watch television news channels.
You will not be surprised to learn that he is under 24-hour electronic monitoring and is forbidden to communicate with any of the other inmates. However, a merciful Justice Department allows him one hour of recreation every day—inside a cage.
There is nothing I can say to comment upon this that the facts themselves don't say.
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