Federal court: Bush can indefinitely detain civilians
Published: Tuesday July 15, 2008

Print This  Email This

A federal court has issued two rulings, the New York Times reports: One favoring President Bush's indefinite detentions of "enemy combatants," and another granting one of said "enemy combatants" the opportunity to challenge his detention in court.

The court effectively ruled that President Bush has the same right to indefinitely detain a civilian on American soil as he does an enemy soldier on a battlefield.

Ali al-Marri, the only "enemy combatant" to be held in the continental United States, is in military custody in Charleston, South Carolina. He was arrested in Peoria, Illinois on December 12, 2001 on charges of credit card fraud and lying to federal agents before being sent to Charleston in 2003. A 5-4 majority of the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, said that a sworn statement from an intelligence official as the government's sole testimony in an earlier proceeding was "inadequate." The official, Jeffrey N. Rapp, said that al-Marri was an al-Qaeda sleeper agent whose objective in the United States was to "commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system."

The other ruling effectively reverses an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel with the same court that ordered that al-Marri be either charged with a crime or released.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse, saying that al-Marri had "already received all the process he was due," added that the decision recognize the president's authority to "capture and detain [al-Qaeda] agents who, like the 9/11 hijackers, come to this country to commit or facilitate warlike acts against American civilians."

"This decision," countered Jonathan L. Hafetz, counsel for al-Marri, means the president can pick up any person in the country--citizen or legal resident--and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial."

More can be read at the New York Times.