Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has claimed the authority to hold terrorism suspects in indefinite military detention – even suspects captured far away from any battlefield who have never taken up arms against the United States. Relying on a dangerously overbroad interpretation of the laws of war, the administration asserts that it can hold non-combatant suspects – possibly for their entire lives – until the end of the so-called "war on terror," without ever charging them with a crime or putting them on trial.
But the fight against terrorism is not a traditional war. It has no geographic or temporal limitations. How will it end? How would we know if it did? And where is it taking place?
So far, individuals have been captured in over fifty countries, and the list is sure to grow. The system is illegal and un-American. We must uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, and that means treating suspected terrorists as suspected criminals, not warriors, and charging them and prosecuting them in ordinary federal courts. We can't let our government use the threat of terrorism to justify a system in which individuals picked up anywhere in the world – including, perhaps, here in the United States – can be held indefinitely by the military without charge or trial.