U.S. resident’s imprisonment endangers rights

Freedom New Mexico

The U.S. Supreme Court wisely decided this month to review the case of Ali Saleh Khalah al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident who was apprehended by the federal government and held for more than five years in a Navy brig.

He stands accused of being an al-Qaida operative. A three-judge panel of 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled the Bush administration could not leave him in military prison indefinitely, but the full appeals court sided with the administration.

This case was bound to make it to the nation’s highest court given the stakes involved. As Bloomberg news succinctly explains, the case also will provide an early test for the new Obama administration. It can side with President Bush’s assertion that a president can indefinitely detain legal residents based on suspicions of terrorist activity, or it can call for al-Marri to be tried in the civilian courts for specific crimes.

Even if al-Marri is, as the administration alleges, an al-Qaida-trained operative sent to the United States to disrupt the financial system, the president’s approach should be deeply troubling to Americans concerned about unchecked government power.

The question at the heart of the case: Does the president have the power to imprison legal American residents indefinitely without filing any charges against them?

The Bush administration tells us we are at war, and that only a handful of residents have been subjected to such treatment. But anyone concerned about liberty can see the problem. The only standard for detention is the government’s belief that one is an enemy of the nation.

A person can be imprisoned, denied contact with family members, and even tortured. There’s no due process, no chance to have a day in court to state one’s case. This is chilling.

A government with such powers could round up its critics with impunity. Which is why it is crucial the Supreme Court deny the government the power to do such things and to demand that