Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Questions on Detainees Loom as al-Marri's Case Nears the Supreme Court

Jane Mayer was on NPR today and on Rachel Maddow's show yesterday discussing her latest piece in The New Yorker. Mayer writes about Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a native of Qatar who entered the United States on September 10, 2001 on a student visa. In December, 2001, al-Marri was arrested as a material witness in the September 11 attacks. Just as his trial was scheduled to begin in June, 2003, President Bush ordered the military to seize al-Marri and transport him to a military brig in South Carolina where he has been held, without charge, ever since.

Al-Marri's case is due to come before the Supreme Court sometime in April will more than likely put a host of questions before the Obama Administration on how they intend to not only handle this case, but other cases in which detainees have been designated "enemy combatants". Other issues that are likely to be addressed are the limits of executive power regarding the President's authority to label individuals enemy combatants and the scope of the so-called battlefield. After all, al-Marri was arrested in Illinois.

Marri recently released a statement saying:

“I am not asking to be taken at my word and to be released, although I very much want to go home to my family. All I am asking for is to be treated like every other person in the United States who is accused of a crime, including terrorism, and to be given a fair trial in an American court.”

Whether this happens remains to be seen, but due to this case rapidly approaching the Supreme Court, these various issues may be forced upon the Obama Administration. Obama has already indicated that his Administration is looking at various options for what to do with the detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay. There are some who believe that Obama may push for the creation of a separate National Security Court that will be separate from criminal trials and will allow for preventive detention for a certain period of time without charge. Others, like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, believe that Obama will handle detainees much like President Bush did. Ashcroft recently said:

“How will he be different? The main difference is going to be that he spells his name ‘O-b-a-m-a,’ not ‘B-u-s-h.’ ”

Regardless, this case is going to be very interesting to follow within the coming weeks to see how the Obama Administration is going to react in their first test on handling a so-called enemy combatant.

Here is a video clip of Jane Mayer discussing this issue on The Rachel Maddow Show:

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