US court reads constitution, rejects military detention

What’s Ronnie’s phrase, again, “It’s morning in America”?
A year and a half earlier than expected, and still, long overdue. :America:

[quote=“NYT: Court Says Military Cannot Hold ‘Enemy Combatant’”]
In a stinging rejection of one of the Bush administration’s central assertions about the scope of executive authority to combat terrorism, a federal appeals court ordered the Pentagon to release a man being held as an enemy combatant.

[b]“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote, “even if the President calls them ‘enemy combatants,’ would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution — and the country.”

“We refuse to recognize a claim to power,” Judge Motz added, “that would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic.”[/b]

The ruling was handed down by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., in the case of Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar and the only person on the American mainland known to be held as an enemy combatant.

Mr. Marri, whom the government calls a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, was arrested on Dec. 12, 2001, in Peoria, Ill., where he was living with his family and studying computer science at Bradley University.

He has been held for the last four years at the Navy Brig in Charleston, S.C.

Judge Motz wrote that Mr. Marri may well be guilty of serious crimes. But she said that the government cannot circumvent the civilian criminal justice system through military detention.

Mr. Marri was charged with credit-card fraud and lying to federal agents after his arrest in 2001, and he was on the verge of a trial on those charges when he was moved into military detention in 2003.
A dissenting judge in today’s decision, Henry E. Hudson, visiting from the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, wrote that President Bush “had the authority to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant or belligerent” because “he is the type of stealth warrior used by Al Qaeda to perpetrate terrorist acts against the United States.”

Jonathan Hafetz, the litigation director of the Liberty and National Security Project of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and one of Mr. Marri’s lawyers, said of the court’s decision: “This is landmark victory for the rule of law and a defeat for unchecked executive power. It affirms the basic constitutional rights of all individuals — citizens and immigrants - in the United States.”

[b]Writing for the majority, Judge Motz ordered the trial judge in the case to issue a writ of habeas corpus directing the Pentagon “within a reasonable period of time” to do one of several things with Mr. Marri. He may be charged in the civilian court system; he may be deported; or he may be held as a material witness; or he may be released.

“But military detention of al-Marri,” Judge Motz wrote, “must cease.”[/b][/quote]

Not to rain on the parade but I don’t think this decision has much bearing on the other Guantanimo cases. I suspect one of the key points of the case is that the individual was a lawful resident of the United States, and is thus entitled to greater procedural rights than some guy we found on the road in Afghanistan with an AK-47. I guess this case may stand for the proposition that at least in the case of a lawful resident, the “enemy combatant” designation is subject to review, and I suppose that’s something.