By Robert Parry
July 21, 2008
A conservative-dominated U.S. Appeals Court has opened the door for President George W. Bush or a successor to throw American citizens – as well as non-citizens – into a legal black hole by designating them “enemy combatants,” even if they have engaged in no violent act and are living on U.S. soil.
The federal Appeals Court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 5-4 on July 15 that Bush had the right, while prosecuting the “war on terror,” to hold Qatari citizen (and Peoria, Illinois, resident) Ali al-Marri indefinitely as an “enemy combatant.”
But some of the court’s more liberal judges expressed alarm, saying the legal reasoning that denied al-Marri meaningful due process – not only trampled on American legal traditions but could be used to lock up U.S. citizens as well.
“For over two centuries of growth and struggle, peace and war, the Constitution has secured our freedom through the guarantee that, in the United States, no one will be deprived of liberty without due process of law,” wrote Judge Diana Motz, a Bill Clinton appointee, who dissented against the court’s approval of sweeping presidential powers.
Motz noted that al-Marri has been imprisoned for more than five years, “without acknowledgement of the protection afforded by the Constitution, solely because the Executive believes that his indefinite military detention – or even the indefinite military detention of a similarly situated American citizen – is proper.”
And, since the “war on terror” will go on indefinitely and since the “battlefield” is everywhere, Bush is asserting the President’s right to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants wherever the person might be, virtually forever.
In effect, Bush’s interpretation of his own powers – allowing him to imprison, torture and kill at his discretion – trumps the Founders’ vision that everyone possesses certain “unalienable rights” that a government can’t take away.