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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Friday, January 03, 2003
1:25 PM

This sounds fishy.... N.J. Secrecy Rule Keeps Arab American in Jail and in the Dark

The guy's an American citizen.

PATERSON, N.J. -- Five months have passed since a flamboyant county sheriff led a squadron of assault weapon-wielding deputies and television news crews on a raid of a hole-in-the-wall travel services business here, declaring he was hot on the trail of an Arab American businessman who had sold fake IDs to two of the Sept. 11 terrorists.

The raid made international headlines, but not for long. As it turned out, the FBI already had interrogated Mohamed Atriss and had concluded he knew nothing more about the hijackers than he did about thousands of other mostly illegal immigrants who bought official-looking identification documents at his office, located directly across the street from City Hall.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of producing false IDs.

Five months later, the alleged proprietor of a small-time document mill is at the center of what appears to be the only criminal case of its kind in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- one in which secret evidence has been presented against the defendant. Atriss remains in jail, now on $500,000 bond -- an amount consistent with a murder charge -- but prosecutors will not say why he poses such a serious risk or give him a chance to respond.

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