WASHINGTON – A Palestinian man with a kit to make box cutters and a Pakistani man interested in hunting near a nuclear facility are among 603 people detained by U.S. terrorism investigators, government documents show.
Others were held for alleged violations with no obvious connection to past or future attacks, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed Tuesday the government was detaining 603 people, most of them on immigration charges. He insisted the actions removed suspected terrorists from the streets and nabbed members of Usama bin Laden's network.
``We will use every constitutional tool to keep suspected terrorists locked up,'' Ashcroft told a news conference. He went beyond previous statements that some 1,100 people had been detained since Sept. 11 and that a majority remained in custody. He said 104 people have been charged with federal crimes in the probe.
In his most detailed public accounting yet, Ashcroft released the names of those facing federal charges, but he refused to provide names for the hundreds held on immigration violations.
``I am not interested in providing, when we are at war, a list to Usama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network of the people we have detained that would make any easier their effort to kill Americans,'' the attorney general said.
One lawmaker pressing for more disclosures wasn't satisfied.
``I continue to be deeply troubled by (the Justice Department's) refusal to provide a full accounting of everyone who has been detained and why,'' Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said.
Several former high-ranking FBI officials interviewed by The Washington Post suggested the Justice Department was resurrecting tactics the government rejected in the late 1970s because they did not prevent terrorism and led to abuses of civil liberties.
One of the officials, former FBI Director William H. Webster, said Ashcroft's policy of pre-emptive arrests and detentions ``carries a lot of risk with it. You may interrupt something, but you may not be able to bring it down. You may not be able to stop what is going on.''
One of those detained, Mohdar Mohamed Abdoulah, a 23-year-old San Diego college student from Yemen, originally was held as a material witness, meaning he may have information important to the investigation. He was arrested and taken to New York City for grand jury testimony about his acquaintance with a Sept. 11 hijacker.