Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Supreme Court Accepts "Enemy Combatant" Case

There is a lot of interesting things happening right now, which I suppose is to be expected given the abuse of powers that has infected the country for the past eight years will soon be if not cured than at least we've made it to the waiting room.

The Supreme Court, despite Bush and Co.'s objections, will hear the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who was designated an "enemy combatant" by the Bush administration and held in a military brig for the past five years. He was originally arrested for credit card fraud, but some where along the lines this was changed by executive order essentially ejecting him from the American legal system. 

The question the Supreme Court will examine is whether the President has the authority to arrest and imprison a person/civilian indefinitely without and part of the judicial branch of the government getting involved. In other words, no trial, no reading of charges, no defense, no appeal... All of this because Bush labeled him an "enemy combatant."

It's surprising that the Supreme Court will hear this for a couple of reasons. First, there is a new administration coming in which will, it seems likely, change this stance. If it seems like the issue will go away, the SC is likely to let it happen. They could have postponed ruling on viewing the case until the new administration. Second, I expected Bush to change the status of this person so he would be tried in a criminal court to avoid having this case come before the SC and therefore establishing some amount of precedent for it. Since the SC would have then had no reason to review this case, they would have chosen to not and the US Court of Appeals in Virginia's ruling in favor of Bush would have stood. 

However, it is really good news that they will hear this case since it seems really, really unlikely that the SC will rule in favor of Bush and this needs to be nipped in the bud. Since the case won't be herd until March it will fall under Obama's presidency. Here is what he should do: keep al-Marri labeled as an enemy combatant and get this thing to a ruling. The only way to squash this as a precedent is not through executive order but through the courts. If Obama changes this notion, it will only apply for his administration and if another lunatic with no regards for the constitution comes into power, the precedent will be there for the President to make this decision. If Obama is against this, he needs to fight to keep that power in the courts. Some of you might be thinking, "But what if he wins and this becomes a recognized legal practice?" The problem is, if it doesn't go to court now, this will be a recognized legal practice. The only way to tank it is to take it all the way.

The Rational Moderate

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