Government Admits Secretly Detained American Has Asked for a Lawyer

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

November 30, 2017 6:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The government told a federal court today that a U.S. citizen detained by the U.S. military in Iraq has asked for an attorney.

The unidentified American has been held since mid-September for allegedly fighting with ISIS in Syria. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a request with the court to be put in contact with the American for legal assistance, and the government is fighting the ACLU’s request.

“This admission by the government reinforces our demand that the citizen be given access to a lawyer, which is his fundamental right under the Constitution,” said ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz. “The Trump administration’s position that it can secretly lock up an American without charges or the ability to challenge the detention in court is not how our legal system works.”

At a hearing in the case this morning, Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered the government to say by 5 p.m. whether the man had been advised of his right to an attorney and whether he had asserted that right.

The government’s response stated that FBI agents questioning the American “for law enforcement purposes” advised him of his Miranda rights.

The response went on to say, “The individual stated he understood his rights, and said he was willing to talk to the agents but also stated that since he was in a new phase, he felt he should have an attorney present. The agents explained that due to his current situation, it was unknown when he would be able to have an attorney, and the individual stated that it was ok and that he is a patient man.”

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

Today’s government’s filing is here:

More on the details of the case is here:

All documents filed in the case are here:

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