An “Enemy Combatant” By Any Other Name Is Still A Detainee, Possibly Without Rights
Yes, the Obama administration will no longer refer to certain detainees as “enemy combatants”, but they retain the right to detain in the same manner as those previously categorized that way.
The disclosure came in a court filing by the Justice Department in response to orders by federal judges, who sought clarity on the government’s legal justification for holding about 241 detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Though dropping the term “enemy combatant” was a symbolic break from the Bush administration, the practical effects of yesterday’s action won’t be known for months.
The Bush administration insisted it had the right to detain anyone it labeled this way indefinitely. All they had to do was say the person was associated with al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The Justice Department said yesterday that it would seek to hold only terror suspects who “substantially supported” those groups and not those who “provide unwitting or insignificant support” to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
“The particular facts and circumstances justifying detention will vary from case to case,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.
What’s really behind this decision seems to be suits brought by 200 detainees who want the Justice Department to look at them each individually to determine if they are “enemy combatants.”
“The definition of the central legal term ‘enemy combatant’ is not a moving target, varying from case to case, and the court intends to rule on that definition before the parties reach a critical point in these proceedings,” Judge John D. Bates wrote in a February order seeking the Justice Department’s definition. At least two other judges had requested the government to provide them with the same definition by yesterday.
Therefore, this seems like a cosmetic change, still giving the government broad powers to detain those it deems unsavory, and without due process. This is disturbing, and I hope more clarification is forthcoming about how the Obama administration plans to go about the detention process.Click here for reuse options!
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