Provide U.S. justice to alleged 'enemy combatants'
A federal appeals court ruled that civilians who are alleged "enemy combatants" in the United States cannot be held indefinitely by the military.
THE Bush administration is taking severe and valid hits for its detainment of alleged terrorists for years under the rationale that they can be held until the end of the war. Such a policy has resulted in the United States being held in worldwide disrepute and needs to be shelved so suspects can be tried in court.
Jose Padilla, an American citizen originally accused of plotting to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb," was transferred from a military brig to federal court last year after an appeals courts ruled that he was entitled as a U.S. citizen to a trial on lesser charges. A federal appeals court ruled this week that Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who has been in military detention since his arrest in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001, has a right to be tried in the U.S. judicial system.
The usual reason for detaining enemy combatants indefinitely in time of war is to keep them from returning to the battlefield. Once the war is over, prisoners are released. That cannot reasonably apply to the war against terrorism, which might never end; detainment takes on the form of life imprisonment without trial.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., properly held that military detention of an alien who legally entered and established connections in the United States violates the Constitution. The three-judge panel ruled that the administration must charge al-Marri with a crime, deport him or hold him as a material witness for a grand jury investigation.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1950 that enemy aliens detained overseas by the U.S. military have no standing in American civilian courts, and the administration is holding about 380 suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. The naval base is leased from Cuba and is under American control, so may technically qualify as an overseas facility.
Colin Powell, President Bush's former secretary of state, now says that he favors closing Guantanamo Bay to restore "the belief that the world had in America's justice system.
"And I would not let any of those people go," he said on Sunday's "Meet the Press" on NBC. "I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well, then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system is all about?"
The 2006 Military Commissions Act says the federal courts have no jurisdiction over challenges from any noncitizen "who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant." The appeals court ruled that the military panel does not apply to aliens like al-Marri, but that should not keep the Guantanamo detainees from being judged by the military tribunal on U.S. soil.