Court Sets 5 p.m. Deadline for U.S. to Say If Secretly Detained American Has Asked for Lawyer

Order Comes in ACLU’s Challenge to Military Detention of U.S. Citizen Held for Over 2 Months

November 30, 2017 1:00 pm

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

WASHINGTON — In a hearing today, a federal district court judge asked a Justice Department attorney two key questions about a U.S. citizen detained by the U.S. military in Iraq for over two months: whether he has been advised of his constitutional rights and if he had asserted his right to an attorney. When the government attorney said she could not answer, Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered the government to provide the answers by 5 p.m. today.

The unidentified U.S. citizen has been held since mid-September for allegedly fighting with ISIS in Syria. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a request with the court to be put in contact with the American so he has the opportunity to obtain legal assistance.

The U.S. citizen has asked at least twice for a lawyer, according to media reports. Judge Chutkan said that she wished to obtain that information directly from the government itself.

“We’re pleased that the court is taking steps to ensure that the Trump administration finally begins to respect this U.S. citizen’s basic rights,” said ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz, who argued in court today.

The ACLU filed a habeas corpus petition on the man’s behalf on October 5, demanding that the Trump administration justify its continued detention of the American without charge and without access to a court. The government has said that it is holding the citizen as an “enemy combatant.”

Because the government is denying the citizen both access to counsel and the ability to challenge his detention himself, the ACLU has filed as a “next friend” of the American. The government argued that the ACLU does not have standing to file the petition on the U.S. citizen’s behalf.

“The government’s sweeping argument that it can keep a U.S. citizen locked up for months without releasing his name or allowing lawyers to contact him should send chills down the spine of every American,” Hafetz added.

The case, ACLU Foundation v. Mattis, is in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

More on the details of the case is here:

All documents filed in the case are here:

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release