Supreme Court Rules Ashcroft Can't Be Sued In 'Material Witness' Case The court ruled the former attorney general cannot be sued for his role in the post-Sept. 11 arrest of an American Muslim. Abdullah al-Kidd was detained as a material witness two years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, even though he had cooperated with the FBI and was never charged with a crime.
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Supreme Court Throws Out Suit Against Ashcroft

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Supreme Court Throws Out Suit Against Ashcroft

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Supreme Court Throws Out Suit Against Ashcroft

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has the story.

NINA TOTENBERG: Al-Kidd answered all the FBI's questions and, by 2003, had not been contacted for some time. He was about to board a plane to study in Saudi Arabia when he was arrested, shackled and taken to jail under a material witness warrant.

ABDULLAH AL: It was probably one of the most humiliating, degrading moments of my life. I could only imagine what people were thinking about me.

TOTENBERG: The affidavit, for instance, stated that al-Kidd had purchased a one-way first-class ticket to Saudi Arabia for $5,000, when in fact the ticket was roundtrip, coach and cost one-third that amount.

TOTENBERG: Constitutional law scholar Tom Goldstein.

TOM GOLDSTEIN: The reason that this decision is unanimous is everybody wins. The conservatives protect the attorney general, but the more liberal justices and Justice Kennedy hold the door open for a later decision that says you can't use the material witness statute just to hold anybody you like. And if you lie to the magistrate, you can get sued for that too.

TOTENBERG: Richard Samp, who wrote a-friend-of-the-court brief for several former attorneys general, says today's ruling will likely put an end to hundreds of lawsuits still pending against former government officials.

RICHARD SAMP: Based on today's decision, they are going to be breathing a good deal more easily because their cases are likely to be thrown out of court.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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