CONDOLEEZZA RICE AND MICHAEL CHERTOFF
They barred a respected foreign academic from the US

On August 1, University of Johannesburg deputy vice-chancellor Adam Habib is scheduled to make a presentation at the American Sociological Association’s annual conference, which this year will be held in Boston. Titled “Racial Redress and Citizenship: South Africa in Comparative Perspective,” Habib’s talk promises to be the sort of dry but substantive discourse befitting a respected academic.

But a whole lot is going to have to happen between now and then if Habib is to appear in Boston.

In October 2006, Habib — a frequent visitor to the United States, with a doctorate from City University of New York — was detained at JFK Airport, questioned about his political views, and sent back to South Africa. He has since learned that he’s been barred from the US for his alleged ties to terrorism. Habib denies the accusations, and whatever evidence against him that may exist has been kept secret.

What we do know is that Habib is a Muslim, and has been an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. That, apparently, is enough for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who have richly earned a Muzzle for their agencies’ despicable treatment of Habib.

“Am I [a] critic of the US government? Absolutely,” Habib wrote for the Huffington Post this past September. “In addition to my active participation in anti-war demonstrations, I have been very critical both in my speeches and in my writing about American foreign policy in Africa and the Middle East. But I have also been equally critical of other governments — including my own. Is that a rationale for excluding me? I would hope not.”

Habib’s case is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and several other organizations. As Melissa Goodman, a staff lawyer for the ACLU’s National Security Project, puts it, “The Bush administration is using immigration law to censor speech at the border and keep scholars and experts whose views the government disfavors from joining the political and academic debate in this country.”

The government should be compelled to reveal its reasons for barring Habib. Otherwise, we must assume that Goodman is right.

STEVEN ROWE
His gambit to circumvent Maine’s Freedom of Access Act was upheld by the state’s high court
Several years ago, Maine attorney general Steven Rowe appointed a three-member commission to look into charges that one Dennis Dechaine had been wrongly convicted in the 1988 murder of a 12-year-old girl named Sarah Cherry. Rowe’s action had been prompted by accusations that law-enforcement officials engaged in serious misconduct, including the destruction of evidence and the failure to follow up leads involving other possible suspects.

The commission subsequently reported that it had found no evidence of misconduct. But when James Moore, a retired agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, who’s written two books about the case, sought access to the evidence and documents the commission had reviewed, he was turned down. Rowe, a Democrat who’s considering a run for governor in 2010, should have ordered that the records be released. Instead, he remained silent while the commission members he had appointed claimed that their independence protected them from public scrutiny. Unfortunately, that position was upheld on June 17 in a three-to-two decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (SJC).

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