Justice Dep't: Limited Patriot Act Complaints Are Credible

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A Justice Department investigation into more than 1,000 recent claims of civil rights and civil liberties violations under the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act (search) concluded that 34 were credible, according to a report released Monday.

Glenn A. Fine (search), the Justice Department inspector general, looked into allegations made between Dec. 16, 2002, and June 15. Many of the complaints were from Muslims or people of Arab descent who claimed they were beaten or verbally abused while being detained.

These include a claim by a Muslim inmate that he was ordered to "remove his shirt so that the officer could use it to shine his shoes" and a complaint from an Egyptian national that he was improperly arrested by the FBI after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The report also substantiated a claim by a federal prison inmate who said he was told by a prison doctor, "If I was in charge, I would execute every one of you ... because of the crimes you all did."

Most of the credible complaints remain under investigation, the report said. The prison doctor received a verbal reprimand after a Bureau of Prisons (search) probe. None of the individuals involved was named in the report.

The Justice Department inspector general is required to monitor and issue reports on allegations of civil rights and civil liberties violations under the USA Patriot Act, a law passed by Congress shortly after the terrorist attacks that broadened government surveillance powers.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said Monday that the agency is "committed to pursuing every allegation of civil liberties violations by federal law enforcement officers." But he added that the relatively small number of credible complaints makes it "pretty clear that this is not a huge problem."

There were 1,073 complaints forwarded to Fine's office during the six-month period. Of those, 431 were found to be outside the inspector general's jurisdiction. They mainly involved other federal agencies.

Another 370 cited no credible improper act by a Justice Department employee, made no direct claim of civil rights or civil liberties violations or were from individuals contending they were under 24-hour CIA surveillance or that their phones and e-mails were being intercepted.

The report identified 272 complaints as within the inspector general's jurisdiction, of which 34 were deemed credible and investigated.