Civil Liberties

Obama Re-Examines the President's Power to Disappear Enemies

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In addition to issuing executive orders that restrict the interrogation techniques used by U.S. personnel, call for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, and in the meantime require reviews of the cases against the detainees held there, President Obama today ordered a review of the government's policy concerning the detention of legal residents designated as enemy combatants because of alleged ties to terrorism. Specifically, he signed a memorandum instructing "the attorney general, the secretaries of defense, state and homeland security, and the director of national intelligence to conduct a review of the status of the detainee Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who is currently held at the Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C."

Al-Marri, whose case is before the Supreme Court, was arrested by the FBI in 2001 and transferred to military custody in 2003, just before he was scheduled to be tried on charges of credit card fraud and lying to the government. Obama said Al-Marri, whom President Bush identified as an Al Qaeda operative, "is clearly a dangerous individual." But that does not mean Obama agrees with the policy of indefinitely imprisoning accused terrorists without trial. Al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident from Qatar who was studying computer science in Peoria at the time of his arrest, is the last remaining "enemy combatant" imprisoned in the United States. In defending its treatment of him and similarly situated detainees, the Bush administration argued that the president has the unreviewable authority to seize and imprison anyone he unilaterally identifies as an enemy, including legal residents and citizens arrested on U.S. soil. That's the sort of power routinely exercised by kings, dictators, and strongmen throughout history, but it has no place in a constitutional republic.

Previous reason coverage of Al-Marri's case here.

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  1. Obama said Al-Marri, whom President Bush identified as an Al Qaeda operative, “is clearly a dangerous individual.”

    I dont have a lot of background on this case other than the enemy combatant/detention of legal resident angle —
    what makes this person “clearly a dangerous individual”?

    One would think that if he was so clearly dangerous the would have charged him with something more than CC fraud and lying to the government, no ?

  2. These appear to be good moves, but the final disposition of all of this is the key.

  3. One would think that if he was so clearly dangerous the would have charged him with something more than CC fraud and lying to the government, no ?

    Tom, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that he has not been charged with anything because the government is trying to protect the ‘sources and methods’ it used to discover his links to Al Qaeda.

    I don’t believe we should imprison him indefinately, so what do we do with him? Deport him back to Qatar? What if they don’t want to take him??

  4. PL already said it for me.

    Here’s hoping that the smart guys can figure out a way to thread the needle on this.

  5. Tom, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that he has not been charged with anything because the government is trying to protect the ‘sources and methods’ it used to discover his links to Al Qaeda.

    I don’t believe we should imprison him indefinately, so what do we do with him? Deport him back to Qatar? What if they don’t want to take him??

    Why should anything be “done to him” without a trial and the goverment offering proof of something.

    I don’t trust the government to do basic tasks, but now we are supposed to just take their word that he is dangerous? Considering how many people are wrongly arrested and detained why should anyone take that claim at face value?

    If he is clearly a dangerous man, then tell me why he is dangerous and prove that he is dangerous.

    Considering that he is a legal resident, and that they had orginally charged him with CC fraud and lying, then convict him of that (CC fraud shouldn’t be hard to prove without revealing secrets and methods) and then use that as a pretext to deport him back to his own country. We can then tell them we think he is providing material support to terrorists and let them deal with him.

    But up until now no one has proved that he has done ANYTHING wrong much less justifying the use of the word “clearly”. Clearly all we have are accusations and we shouldn’t be taking the governments word for it.

  6. Didn’t the government accuse him of plotting attacks that would have caused grave harm to our banking system?

    In that case, he can stuff the crotch of his prison jumpsuit and strut around proclaiming “Mission Accomplished!”

  7. R C Dean,

    Rep. Murtha has offered to house them in Pennsylvania. Problem solved!

    thoreau,

    Time to move on, he’s an ex-president. Please direct your attention to the new guy, who will screw you over in all new ways.

  8. PL, I’m not letting go until Bush is sentenced to prison for his crimes. He tortured people, torture is a crime, and no person is above the law.

  9. That’s the sort of power routinely exercised by kings, dictators, and strongmen throughout history, but it has no place in a constitutional republic.

    Except during the Civil War, WWI and WWII. Its very cute that you think that the skull drudgery of covert work has always been carried out with legions of lawyers in broad daylight but honestly, does everything you know about espionage come from movies?

    There have always been people fight in the shadows using very politically dangerous methods. Bush’s mistake was bringing them out into the open. Now we all have take responsibility and can no longer comfort ourselves with pleasant mythologies.

  10. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!

    John Murtha: not a chickenshit.

  11. Shannon-

    You obviously are not ready to live in a free society. If you tell me what metro area you live in I’ll find you directions to the nearest Uzbek consulate, so you can apply for citizenship there.

  12. Shannon,

    You do realize that three of the most hated Presidents among libertarians are Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR, right?

    So that offering up the Civil War, WWI and WWII as precedents doesn’t really help your argument here.

  13. Fluffy,

    Good point. Reminds me of all the conservative and faux-libertarian hawks in 2002/2003 who said “But, but, even Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac agree with our claims about Saddam’s WMD program!”

    As we all know, the best way to get support from libertarians is to appeal to the authority of Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac.

  14. Its very cute that you think that the skull drudgery of covert work has always been carried out with legions of lawyers in broad daylight but honestly, does everything you know about espionage come from movies?

    Hilarious, considering everything you know about espionage comes from 24.

  15. It just struck me how odd it is to read the headline Obama Reexamines the President’s Power to Disappear Enemies and think “Yay! The president is going to take a long, hard look at the question of the president’s power to disappear people!”

    But here we are.

  16. In defending its treatment of him and similarly situated detainees, the Bush administration argued that the president has the unreviewable authority to seize and imprison anyone he unilaterally identifies as an enemy, including legal residents and citizens arrested on U.S. soil.

    Jacob,

    I recall kings, dictators, and strongmen throughout history jailing and executing a whole hell of a lot more than one or two folks. Yea, you did not mention Stalinl, are you juust meaning Bush is Hitler or re we to think this alludes to Pinochet level?

    Perhaps you mean Ventura, a well known strongman of politics and screen. “I don’t have time to bleed”.

  17. That’s the sort of power routinely exercised by kings, dictators, and strongmen throughout history, but it has no place in a constitutional republic.

    And the sort of power exercised by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

  18. I feel truly blessed to be alive at this moment in history. We still have shameless Bush supporters defending every hideous act authorized or performed by that administration, and we’re on the cusp of having the shameless Obama supporters defending every hideous act authorized or performed by his administration.

  19. And the sort of power exercised by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

    And Woodrow Wilson! Libertarians’ three favorite presidents!

  20. ChicagoTom, you are right.

    I had a brain fart when I was typing my response. Why aren’t we prosecuting him for CC fraud?

    Any of the actual conversations with AQ can be kept secret.

    CC fraud should be pretty easy to prove without jeopardizing state secrets.

  21. We’ve had a whole mess of presidents who owned slaves, too. I guess the 13th amendment doesn’t apply in the White House.

  22. I recall kings, dictators, and strongmen throughout history jailing and executing a whole hell of a lot more than one or two folks.

    My germs! My germs! They never hurt anyone — they never had the chance!

  23. I dont have a lot of background on this case other than the enemy combatant/detention of legal resident angle –what makes this person “clearly a dangerous individual”?

    Well if he was studying computer science, that would rate a “special skills enhancement” for sentencing under the current crop of one-size-fits-all-unless-you’re-actually-good-at-being-a-criminal guidelines.

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