Constitution Wins, Bush Loses Again

Brian Zick

Zinie Chen Sampson for AP reports: RICHMOND, Va. - The Bush administration cannot legally detain a U.S. resident it believes is an al-Qaida sleeper agent without charging him, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday. The court said sanctioning the indefinite detention of civilians would have "disastrous consequences for the constitution — and the country." In the 2-1 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the federal Military Commissions Act doesn't strip Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and the only person being held as an enemy combatant on U.S. soil, of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court. It ruled the government must allow al-Marri to be released from military detention. (…) "To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the President calls them 'enemy combatants,' would have disastrous consequences for the constitution — and the country," the court panel said. Al-Marri's lawyers argued that the Military Commissions Act, passed last fall to establish military trials after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, doesn't repeal the writ of habeas corpus — defendants' traditional right to challenge their detention. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog has details.

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