Lots of blogs are abuzz today with the story of an Egyptian Abdallah Higazy, who confessed to being involved with the 9/11 attacks even though he was completely innocent. You may remember the story, summarized as follows:
The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy’s life is worth garbage at that point, but … well, that’s why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.
So Higazy “confesses” and he’s processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.
Anyway, the appellate court released its decision, and then took it down, but not before some bloggers published it. Then the court asked the bloggers who posted it to take it down. The bloggers refused to do so, and you can still read the uncontested details of how the FBI agent threatened the suspect’s family to coerce his confession. (Those details are redacted from the official published version of the decision.)
I’ll leave it up to you to speculate whether things have gotten better or worse since December, 2001, when an FBI agent locked Higazy in a room and told him that the Egyptian government would make life very hard for his family if he didn’t admit to being a terrorist.