If yesterday was any indication, a federal appeals court will soon hand the Bush administration a major defeat on their policy of indefinitely detaining "enemy combatants."
Ali al-Marri might be an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. Or at least, the Bush administration said so and detained him five years ago, but has never charged him. Instead, al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar living as a legal resident in Illinois, has been detained for all that time in a Navy brig in Charleston, SC. The administration's stance is that, thanks to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force
passed by Congress on September 18, 2001, it can hold al-Marri as long as it sees fit. It got a boost last year from the Military Commissions Act, which revoked due process from anyone detained as an enemy combatant.
Yesterday, lawyers for al-Marri challenged his detention before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Some of the judges appeared disinclined
to accept the administration's arguments, according to The New York Times
âWhat would prevent you from plucking up anyone and saying, âYou are an enemy combatant?â â Judge Roger L. Gregory of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit asked the administrationâs lawyer, David B. Salmons.
If the court rules as it seems inclined to, it would represent a serious curtailment of the legal -- some would say extra-legal -- architecture the Bush administration has relied on to pursue the war on terrorism for the past five years.