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."
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.
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