In a standing-room-only crowd that included Salma Al-Rashaid, the wife of detained Global Relief Foundation founder Rabih Haddad, Jeffery Collins, U.S. Attorney for Michigans Eastern District, passionately defended the United States actions in fighting the war on terrorism. Collins, who was speaking at the University as part of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. symposium, said that if Dr. King were alive today, he would be a staunch supporter of the nations actions in fighting this new type of war.
Collins spoke of the need for the United States to go after the sleepers, those terrorists who live in a country for many years while planning an attack, to prevent events like Sept. 11. Because of the search for sleepers, there have been many allegations of civil rights violations as officials search for those with information pertaining to the tragedy and possible future terrorist activity. In addition to ongoing government investigations, recent proposals from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate call for background checks of student-visa applicants from certain countries that the State Department considers to be sponsors of terrorism. If enacted, the legislation will call for university and federal officials to further monitor the movements of foreign students in the United States.
Many present at the MLK event felt that such measures in the fight against terrorism are blatant violations of civil rights. Collins assured his audience that the U.S. Attorneys office is doing everything possible to make sure that the efforts against terrorism are conducted within the realm of civil rights law, but at the same time, he said, the number one goal is to win the war against terrorism. He said certain measures need to be taken to succeed.
Collins enthusiastically supported his boss, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, for singling out certain groups in order to find those guilty of acts related to Sept. 11. Using the analogy that he called section 100, Collins said that if a bomb went off in section 100 of Michigan Stadium, the investigation would begin with an examination of those seated in that particular section. He said that it is relatively similar to the U.S. investigation of Sept. 11 in that the Attorneys office also is starting in section 100 by examining people in this country who may have ties to terrorist nations.
During the question-and-answer session following Collins remarks, the audience criticized the United States actions as being contrary to everything that Dr. King stood for in his fight for civil rights. An unidentified man, who claimed that he had marched with King, said if the civil rights leader were still alive today, he would be sitting right next to Salma Al-Rashaid and fighting for her right to stay in this country. Her husbands charity is accused of contributing money to terrorist networks. Al-Rashaid, along with three of her four children, recently received deportation letters.