- Washington Post -
A federal appeals court yesterday backed the president's power to indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil without any criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital during wartime to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.
The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member and U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 and a month later designated an "enemy combatant" by President Bush. The government contends that Padilla trained at al Qaeda camps and was planning to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. Padilla has been held without trial in a U.S. naval brig for more than three years, and his case has ignited a fierce battle over the balance between civil liberties and the government's power to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A host of civil liberties groups and former attorney general Janet Reno weighed in on Padilla's behalf, calling his detention illegal and arguing that the president does not have unchecked power to lock up U.S. citizens indefinitely.
Federal prosecutors asserted that Bush not only had the authority to detain Padilla but also that such power is essential to preventing terrorist strikes. In its ruling yesterday, the three-judge panel overturned a lower court.
Uhhhh...yeah, Your "Honor"? Those are the sort of facts you determine through an arraignment process. You know, with a grand jury? Where in the CONSTITUTION does it give the President carte blanche to toss people in jail at nobody else's whim but his own? This is insanity.
- The ruling limits the president's power to detain Padilla to the duration of hostilities against al Qaeda, but the Bush administration has said that war could go on indefinitely.
The decision reignited the passions triggered by Padilla's arrest at O'Hare International Airport in May 2002.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hailed the ruling as reaffirming "the president's critical authority to detain enemy combatants who take up arms on behalf of al Qaeda."
After all these years, I'm still waiting for someone to explain to us why it is critical for the President to be able to point his finger at someone, label them a terrorist, and toss them in prison, without charges, indefinitely. If he's a terrorist, just charge him. People would cease to care. Honestly.
- But Avidan Cover, a senior associate at Human Rights First, said the ruling "really flies in the face of our understanding of what rights American citizens are entitled to." Opponents have warned that if not constrained by the courts, Padilla's detention could lead to the military being allowed to hold anyone who, for example, checks out what the government considers the wrong kind of reading materials from the library.
Or has a Gadsden Flag on their car, or flying in their yard. Or who participates in "low-level terrorism" by protesting against the war, or, say, protesting against illegal indefinite detentions.