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Justice Department details abuse of 9/11 detainees

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

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Bureau of Prisons
Justice Department
September 11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Justice Department investigation into the treatment of 9/11 detainees at a federal prison in New York reveals physical and verbal abuse by as many as 20 prison guards.

A report issued Thursday from the department's inspector general cited systemic problems in the way detainees were treated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Among the problems detailed were "unnecessary and inappropriate use of strip searches and banging on detainees' cell doors excessively while they were trying to sleep."

"We did not find evidence that the detainees were brutally beaten, but we found evidence some officers slammed and bounced detainees against the wall, twisted their arms and hands in painful ways, stepped on their leg restraint chains and punished them by keeping them restrained for long periods of time," the report said.

Inspector General Glenn Fine calls for the federal Bureau of Prisons to take disciplinary action against 10 employees, counsel two other employees and inform employers of four former employees about the findings.

The investigation is a follow-up to a review in June of detainees' treatment in which Fine sharply criticized prison bureau employees and other Justice Department staff for their handling of prisoners after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In the earlier review, Fine noted that while federal prosecutors had declined criminal prosecution in the mishandling of detainees, he would submit a supplemental report with detailed findings for possible administrative action.

The new report said videotapes show that staff members slammed one detainee against the wall and pressed others against the wall by their heads or necks despite officers' denials that such things occurred.

According to the investigation, the videotapes also confirmed that officers placed detainees against a T-shirt bearing an American flag and the phrase "These colors don't run" printed on the shirt.

The T-shirt was taped to a wall in an area of the Brooklyn facility where detainees first arrived, the report said, and it remained in place for many months despite official denials it had been removed quickly.

"The videotapes showed that some MDC [Metropolitan Detention Center] staff members misused strip searches and restraints to punish detainees, and that officers improperly recorded detainees' meetings with their attorneys," the report said.

It calls for the Bureau of Prisons to take steps to prevent these types of abuse from occurring in the future. The bureau is an arm of the Justice Department.

When the initial findings were released, Justice Department officials said they had put into place processes to make sure no abuse took place.

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