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Is Fear Crushing Freedom?

Within hours of the Sept. 11 attacks, 7,000 federal agents began sweeping across America, rounding up hundreds of suspects in a huge national dragnet. CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports more than 1,000 people have been held -- many to this day -- on minor charges or sometimes no charges at all.

After the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history, authorities now say fewer than 10 people being detained are suspected of having any direct link to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Most of the detainees are like Ali Al-Maqtari. A citizen of Yemen, he was arrested when he and his American wife Tiffany arrived at the gates of Fort Campbell Army Base in Kentucky. Tiffany was in the army and in uniform at the time. She was reporting for active duty.

"When they started searching us they separated us," said Tiffany. "And I've not been alone with him since."

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Legal Lockdown
Analysis by Legal Consultant Andrew Cohen:

What I'm hearing from the legal community -- from defense attorneys who normally would be squarely in the loop on this -- is that not only do they not know the identities of the detainees themselves but that they aren't even hearing who may be representing those people. It's a sort of information lockdown in the system which none of the attorneys I talked to had ever seen before.

It's not just the detainees themselves whose identities remain a mystery; their lawyers, too, aren't exactly coming forward to proclaim their client's innocence, as you would normally expect. Some defense attorneys have told me that they believe that judges and prosecutors both are putting tremendous pressure on those representing the detainees not to go public with their cases.

Even though we clearly are in uncharted territory when it comes to domestic law enforcement work, sooner or later, the feds are going to have to let some sunshine in on these people, if not literally than figuratively. Thousands of people simply cannot be held for an indefinite period of time without any public scrutiny or court intervention.

The silence surrounding these hundreds and hundreds of people is almost deafening. And it's not even like the attorneys are visible but not talking; it is virtually impossible to even find out who they are, much less whom they are representing and what they are saying.

Tiffany was also taken ino custody and interrogated for more than 14 hours. "They asked me bluntly they said, 'do you think your husband is a terrorist' and I said no, even to the point that I was laughing because this is ridiculous," she said.

Tiffany was released. But she was so angry she asked for and received an honorable discharge from the army. But her husband remains in detention. Even his lawyer has trouble finding out any more than that.

Some Middle Eastern men jailed in the terror investigation are complaining that they have been held in solitary confinement, stripped, blindfolded, roughed up and deprived of sleep.

"I was treated worse than an animal," Yazeed Al-Salmi, a former housemate of one of the hijackers, said after he was released this month from the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Al-Salmi, a Saudi living in California, said he and others were stripped and videotaped.

Federal authorities disputed some of the specific allegations and have denied any pattern of abuse against the hundreds of people being held.

Like Al-Salmi, the men are being held - sometimes in solitary - on material-witness warrants, immigration violations or other charges while authorities determine whether they have links to terrorism or any information that can advance the investigation.

If any do have terrorist ties, they may be under orders to manipulate the U.S. judicial system. A manual circulated among members of the al-Qaida terrorist organization offers this instruction: Once in custody, a person should complain loudly and repeatedly that he is being abused.

Civil liberties groups are increasingly alarmed by the unprecedented level of secrecy surrounding the investigation. Some of the detainees have been moved around the country, kept from communicating with their lawyers and their families.

The American Civil Liberties Union has demanded the Justice Department reveal more about who the prisoners are and why they are being held.

The information should be released "to assure the American public that the government's investigation is both thorough and fair," ACLU official Anthony Romero wrote in a recent letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Several immigrant groups, along with the Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America and the Center for Constitutional Rights, called on the government to provide more information about the detainees and greater assurances of safe treatment.

Security experts know the Justice Department roundup is unprecedented. But so were the September attacks. Retired FBI agent Skip Brandon believes extraordinary measures are justified by extraordinary times.

"If you don't cast a net like this do you let someone slip through, said Brandon. "Do you let the next suicide bomber slip through? That's the dilemma."

And there is another dilemma. The government now has to decide where to draw the line between guaranteeing American security and guaranteeing American civil liberties.

The identities of many f those detained are not being released by the government. The only glimpse of life behind bars has come from a few prisoners who have either been released or made appearances in open court.

Osama Awadallah, a Jordanian college student from San Diego, was held as a material witness for a month before he was charged Oct. 19 with lying to a grand jury about whether he knew one of the hijackers. Guards at the federal lockup in Manhattan have kept him from sleeping and "roughed him up," said his attorney, Jesse Berman.

©MMI CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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