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Friday, September 09, 2005

Some sanity from the courts

A crucial factor in this country's fight in the war on terror is the ability to make the distinction between a criminal and an enemy combatant. This means that we have to look at the activities of the person in question and decide whether we are dealing with a delusional US citizen who entertains apocalyptic fantasies or someone who has concrete plans and connections with a foreign enemy. In the case of Jose Padilla, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has gotten it right:

A federal appeals court Friday sided with the Bush administration and reversed a judge's order that the government either charge or free "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla.

The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the president has the authority to detain a U.S. citizen closely associated with al Qaida.

"The exceedingly important question before us is whether the President of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with al Qaeda, an entity with which the United States is at war," Judge Michael Luttig wrote. "We conclude that the President does possess such authority."

Judge Luttig gets it. We are not talking about some street thug who is throwing molotov cocktails into nightclubs. This is a man who wanted to employ a weapon capable of killing hundreds of thousands and making an entire city uninhabitable. Furthermore, he was in direct communications with a foreign organization that had the potential to bring this about. As the 4th Court has now recognized, that makes him an enemy of the United States and puts him under military jurisdiction.

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