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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Justice Denied

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri has been locked up for more than four years without being charged. Yes, amazing but it is true. Al-Marri — a student at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. — had faced federal charges of credit card fraud, identity theft, and lying to the FBI in a post-9/11 investigation. But those charges were dismissed after Bush signed a one-page executive order in 2003 that declared al-Marri was an “enemy combatant” who must be imprisoned “to prevent him from aiding al Qaeda in its efforts to attack the United States.” The Justice Department has alleged that al-Marri attended an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in the 1990s, received funding from al-Qaida operatives, and had a laptop computer at his Illinois home that contained technical information about cyanide and other poisonous chemicals.

This week, Al-Marri's lawyers challenged the Bush Administration's terroism policy in court in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the most conservative of the Courts of Appeals, which has upheld the Bush Administration's postion in prior matters. Al-Marri's arguments likely fell on deaf ears as Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III said he didn’t understand “all of the hoopla” surrounding al-Marri’s case, given that only a handful of people in the United States have been declared enemy combatants, unlike the roundup of German citizens during World War I and the large-scale internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. “We’re not talking about a dragnet,” he said. “We’re not talking about a sweep.”

Gregory Garre, principal deputy solicitor general for the Justice Department, told the court that both legal U.S. residents and U.S. citizens could be declared “enemy combatants” by the president and that there was no definite time period required for their release. That statement triggered a skeptical response from Judge M. Blane Michael. “You’re going to keep this man in custody for a lifetime. That’s what it looks like,” Michael said. “You don’t have a traditional war [with a definite ending]. You’re in uncharted territory.”

The Bush Adminstration relies on the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress shortly after 9/11, which permits indefinite detentions of enemy combatants because the law gave the president the power to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the [9/11] attacks.” The Act would allow the U.S. to detain "enemy combatants" until the cessation of hostilities. Given the nature of the "war on terrorism, Judge Michael may be right that Al-Marri will be detained for the rest of his life!!

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