Al-Marri and the power to imprison U.S. citizens without charges

Dandelion Salad

By Glenn Greenwald
ICH
07/17/08 “Salon”

Of all the constitutionally threatening and extremist powers the Bush administration has asserted over the last seven years, the most radical — and the most dangerous — has been its claim that the President has the power to arrest U.S. citizens and legal residents inside the U.S., and imprison them indefinitely in a military prison, without charging them with any crime, based on his assertion that the imprisoned individual is an “enemy combatant.” Beginning with U.S. citizen Yasser Esam Hamdi (detained in Afghanistan), followed by U.S. citizen Jose Padilla (detained at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport), followed by Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (in the U.S. on a student visa and detained at his home in Peoria, Illinois), the Bush administration has not only claimed that power in theory but has aggressively exercised and defended it in practice.

The Bush administration’s strategy of imprisoning these “enemy combatants” in a South Carolina military brig has (by design) ensured that subsequent legal challenges are heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most right-wing judicial circuit in the country. In September, 2005, a three-judge panel from that circuit issued a ruling in the Jose Padilla case (.pdf) that actually upheld the President’s power to arrest and indefinitely detain even U.S. citizens arrested on U.S. soil without charging them with any crime — a decision which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review (because the Bush administration, after 3 1/2 years of lawless imprisonment, avoided that review by finally charging Padilla with a crime), thus leaving that Padilla decision as still-valid law in this country.

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