Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said yesterday on CBS’s “The Early Show” that the Bush administration’s heightening of national security was “the most significant” warning issued since Sept. 11.

Shabina Khatri

Responding to suggestions of an increased threat from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network, the administration raised the level from yellow to orange on the five-step alert scale. Red is the highest warning and has never been issued in response to terrorist actions.

But heightened security has had some upsetting consequences for a local international detainee and his family.

When Salma Al-Rushaid went to visit her husband Rabih Haddad last weekend at the Monroe County Jail, she was turned away. The guards cited heightened levels of security as the reason she was denied visitation rights.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Monroe County Jail were not available for comment.

“They gave her some spiel about the national security being raised to code orange during the pilgrimage,” said Ashraf Nubani, Haddad’s attorney, referring to the Hajj, a trip Muslims must make at least once in their lifetime. “It would have been nice if they had called her before, but even then I’m not sure it would have been justified. What does the rise in national security have to do with their family?”

He added that he felt it was very inappropriate to suggest that religion would have anything to do with that type of violence.

Haddad, a local Muslim community leader, was arrested in December 2001 on charges of a visa violation and interrogated by the federal government about his charity, the Global Relief Foundation, and its possible ties to terrorism. He has been held in the Monroe County Jail for the last year.

“When we raise the level of alert, when we raise the national consciousness about the level of attack, that in itself, is a deterrence,” Ridge said. “Just being more ready, being more prepared, is a deterrent in and of itself.”

Nubani said that Haddad’s wife was very upset when he spoke to her over the weekend.

“He’s been in jail for 14 months with no criminal charges pending,” Nubani said. “I feel so sorry for her because no matter how you look at it, she’s innocent and is being punished.”

Nubani added that he could not verify that this was a national policy and would affect all INS detainees, but said he felt that in Haddad’s case, it was being used selectively. He said that Haddad has been a model inmate, despite the fact that he has no criminal charges and his family made weekly visits and were always model visitors.

Haddad’s attorney said he had no idea how long visitations would be denied.

“This is just one thing in a series of actions used to justify the federal government’s unjust incarceration of Haddad,” Nubani said. “They could say code orange until doomsday – but time will tell and I believe Haddad will be vindicated.”

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