Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Executive Overreach Smacked Down

The Fourth Circuit federal court of appeals has ruled against the military detention of Ali al-Marri. Marri trained at a terrorist camp inside Afghanistan and was arrested in the United States for credit card fraud (he was preparing to eventually disrupt U.S. financial markets). He was held incommunicado for 16 months after his arrest in 2001 and is still incarcerated. The fourth circuit ruled that he could no longer be denied habeas corpus.

According to the NYT

The court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, said a fundamental principle is at stake: military detention of someone who had lawfully entered the United States and established connections here, it said, violates the Constitution.

“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians,” Judge 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.”

I am hopeful that conservatives will embrace this court decision. Although conservatives and courts in general haven't been chummy, it would be a mistake to argue against this decision. If you are reading this thinking something like "Well how are we going to fight terrorism?" or "Why can't we hold terrorist who wish to harm this country?" I would like you to answer these questions.

1) Do you trust a distant federal government to use the title "enemy combatant" for only terrorists who are actually about to attack the United States?

2) Is somebody who attacks a federal building or federal interest (broadly defined) an enemy combatant?

3) Would you trust Hillary Clinton with such broad powers?

1 comment:

BillT said...

I'm not familiar with the facts of the case, but your argument is reasonable.

Not only do we have to watch out for the "distant" federal government, but we also have to watch out for corrupt elements within it.

I'll read up on this one. Good post and great subject.