An impressive array of respected military and civilian leaders filed friend-of-the-court briefs today asking the Supreme Court to reject the president’s authority to indefinitely imprison a legal resident of the U.S. without charge or trial. The ACLU represents Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been detained in solitary confinement at a Navy brig in South Carolina since 2003.
Here’s some background: Mr. al-Marri was first arrested in December 2001 at his home in Peoria, Illinois, where he was living with his wife and children. His case was scheduled for trial in June 2003, but was cancelled the day before it was set to begin when President Bush took the extraordinary step of designating al-Marri an "enemy combatant" and transferring him to a military brig in South Carolina. At the brig, al-Marri was detained incommunicado for 16 months and subjected to torture and other abuse. The government continues to hold al-Marri indefinitely as an "enemy combatant" based upon uncorroborated accounts that he has ties to al-Qaeda, although no evidence has been presented to sustain these allegations. He is the only remaining person detained as an "enemy combatant" in the United States.
The Supreme Court has the opportunity to definitively end the Bush era by repudiating the counterproductive anti-terrorism policies of the last eight years. But don’t just take it from us — the widespread support from leaders across the political spectrum speaks volumes to the urgency of turning the page on a lawless era. Among the individuals and groups signing on to friend-of-the-court briefs are: former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, former FBI Director William Sessions, former senior diplomats, former judges, leading legal scholars and experts, nonprofit religious groups, as well as the Cato Institute, Constitution Project and Rutherford Institute.
As Jonathan Hafetz, al-Marri’s lead counsel, said: “The outpouring of such widespread support among the nation’s top civilian and military leaders shows that the tide has turned against the Bush administration’s claim of a boundless and endless ‘war on terror’ — a claim that has served neither America’s security nor its commitment to justice.”
Indeed. Nothing less than the restoration of the rule of law is at stake in the outcome of al-Marri’s case. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will get it right.