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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report Says Patriot Act Has Generated Brutality

WASHINGTON -- A report by internal investigators at the Justice Department has identified dozens of recent cases in which department employees have been accused of serious civil rights and civil liberties violations involving enforcement of the federal antiterrorism law known as the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

The inspector general's report, which was presented to Congress last week and is awaiting public release, is likely to raise new concern among lawmakers about whether the Justice Department can police itself when its employees are accused of violating the rights of those swept up in terrorism investigations under the 2001 law.

The report said that between Dec. 16 and June 15, the inspector general's office received 34 complaints of civil rights and civil liberties violations by department employees that it considered credible, including accusations that Muslim and Arab immigrants in federal detention centers had been beaten.

The accused workers are employed in several of the agencies that make up the Justice Department, with most of them assigned to the Bureau of Prisons, which oversees federal penitentiaries and detention centers.

The report said that credible accusations were also made against employees of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock noted that the department was continuing to review accusations made last month in a separate report by the inspector general, Glenn Fine, that found broader problems in the department's treatment of hundreds of illegal immigrants rounded up after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

While most of the accusations in the report are still under investigation, the report said a handful had been substantiated, including those against a federal prison doctor who reportedly told an inmate during a physical examination that "if I was in charge, I would execute every one of you" because of "the crimes you all did."

The report said that the inspector general's office was continuing to investigate a separate case in which about 20 inmates at an unidentified federal detention center had recently accused a corrections officer of abusive behavior, including ordering a Muslim inmate to remove his shirt "so the officer could use it to shine his shoes."

The report is the second in recent weeks from the inspector general to focus on the way the Justice Department is carrying out the broad new surveillance and detention powers it gained under the Patriot Act.

In the first report, which was made public on June 2, Fine found that hundreds of illegal immigrants had been mistreated after they were detained following the attacks.

The first report brought widespread, bipartisan criticism of the Justice Department, which defended its conduct at the time, saying that it "made no apologies for finding every legal way possible to protect the American public from further attacks."

Comstock said Sunday that the department had been sensitive to concerns about civil rights and civil liberties after the Sept. 11 attacks, and that the department had investigated more that 500 complaints of ethnic "hate crimes" linked to backlash from the attacks.

The second report draws no broad conclusions about the extent of abuses by Justice Department employees, although it suggests that the relatively small staff of the inspector general's office has been overwhelmed by accusations of abuse, many filed by Muslims or Arabs held in federal detention centers.

The inspector general said that from Dec. 16 to June 15, he received 1,073 complaints suggesting Patriot Act-related civil rights or civil liberties abuses.