The FBI interviewer allegedly gave Abdallah Higazy a choice: Admit to having a special pilot’s radio in a hotel room near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, or the security service in his native Egypt would give his family “hell.” Higazy responded by confessing to a crime he didn’t commit.
“I knew I couldn’t prove my innocence, and I knew my family was in danger,” Higazy said later. “. . . If I say this device is mine, I’m screwed and my family is going to be safe. If I say this device is not mine, I’m screwed and my family’s in danger. And Agent [Michael] Templeton made it quite clear that ‘cooperate’ had to mean saying something else other than this device is not mine.”
The new details about the FBI’s allegedly aggressive tactics in the Higazy case were included in a ruling briefly issued last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit [PDF], which reinstated a civil lawsuit brought by Higazy against the FBI and Templeton. In an unusual move, however, the appeals court withdrew the first opinion within minutes on Thursday and issued a second opinion Friday, with the details of Higazy’s allegations removed.
“This opinion has been redacted because portions of the record are under seal,” the new ruling reads. “For the purposes of the summary judgment motion, Templeton did not contest that Higazy’s statements were coerced.” Such redactions are imperfect in the Web age, and the original document remains accessible through links on sites and blogs devoted to appellate-court and legal issues.
Higazy was jailed for a month as a suspected accomplice to the World Trade Center attack, until a pilot showed up and asked for his radio back. The fresh details about his interrogation in December 2001 illustrate how an innocent man can be persuaded to confess to a crime that he did not commit, and the lengths to which the FBI was willing to go in its terrorism-related investigations after the Sept. 11 attacks. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — As this report says, the ruling was briefly issued, but much as the US government might wish otherwise, once something goes out onto the Web, it’s too late to redact the embarrasing details. They can all be read here: Higazy v. Millenium Hotel [PDF]