He came to authorities' attention, presumably, because he is a
Lebanese who worked at Washington's Dulles International - the same
airport where a team of Arab hijackers boarded a Boeing 757 that
later crashed into the Pentagon.
He was working for a security company there under a work visa,
although it showed him as being employed by a different firm.
That irregularity - and the full court press to round up possible
terrorist colleagues in the wake of Sept. 11 - was enough for
officials to take him into custody on Sept. 15. With that, the man,
who does not want to be named, joined the ranks of 655 people the
US government has detained in the course of its post-attack
Although little is known about the individuals held in detention
cells across the country, concern is rising in some quarters -
including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) itself - that
the sweep may have been overly broad.
Investigators' willingness to "go out there and take in every
single person that may have done something wrong" is troubling,
says a former senior FBI official. Civil rights violations are not
his only concern: Several FBI agents working on the case have told
him in the past week that the investigation may lack focus. "They
are saying it is much more of a blanket approach than a laser
approach," he says.
The tactics in the United States contrast sharply with those
abroad. In Europe, only 23 people have been arrested and charged
with crimes ranging from being a member of a terrorist organization
to document forgery, and there have been no mass detentions. Here,
more than 650 have been detained, but little is known about the
number of arrests or the reasons for them.
US authorities are, no doubt, under much higher pressure from the
media and the public to apprehend would-be terrorists, says Kai
Hirschmann, a terrorism expert at the Federal College for Security
Studies in Bonn, Germany. "Probably, the US authorities are
grabbing anybody they can and then making sure how far they were
involved in the events of Sept. 11," he says. "The approach in
Europe has been to observe Islamic communities, but not to arrest
people unless it's sure they are involved in terrorist activity."
The Department of Justice, meanwhile, is revealing little about
its probe. It has declined to say in which cities it has picked up
people, why specifically they were detained, or how many have been