The U.S. Supreme Court next week will hear arguments in a case that may determine how far the government may go in detaining people as material witnesses. The court will hear a government appeal of a lower court decision upholding the right of Abdullah al-Kidd to sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft over Kidd's arrest and detention in early 2003 as a material witness in the prosecution of a terrorism suspect. Kidd was detained for about two weeks as a witness against Sami Omar al-Hussayen, who was accused of using his computer skills to aid terrorists. A jury in Idaho acquitted Hussayen on that charge in 2004, but deadlocked on other minor counts. Hussayen agreed to be deported to avoid retrial on those lesser charges.
President Obama is expected to sign a three-month extension of three provisions of the USA Patriot Act after Congress easily passed the measure, despite spirited opposition from congressional Democrats and a significant portion of the constitutionalist wing of the Tea Party movement.
On February 17, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, seated in Charleston, South Carolina, dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jose Padilla against Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other Bush administration officials for their participation in violating his constitutional rights.
On Tuesday, the quiet subterranean fishing expedition by the government into the WikiLeaks document disclosures last fall came to light for the first time in the courtroom of U. S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan in Alexandria, Virginia. In its search for incriminating evidence, the government demanded that Twitter release information about three suspects linked to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange: Birgitta Jonsdottir (a former WikiLeaks “activist”), and Rop Gonggrijp and Jacob Applebaum, two computer programmers.