A panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the fourth district has ruled that the government cannot detain resident aliens as combatants.
The appeals panel ruled that Bush had overreached his authority and that the Constitution protects U.S. citizens and legal residents such as Marri from unchecked military power. It also rejected the administration’s contention that it was not relevant that Marri was arrested in the United States and was living here legally on a student visa. (Source: Washington Post)
This is a case in which I strongly agree with the court’s ruling. It is very easy for the military or security authorities to claim that they need additional powers in order to protect us, and when we are frightened, we tend to go along. Many people who would be horrified, hire an attorney, and sue the government agencies responsible should their own home be illegally entered nonetheless cheer when such a thing happens in a police drama, for example.
We need to think about these things as though they could happen to us. How would we feel? What recourses would we have? Now there’s a strong probability that the individual involved in this case deserves to be arrested, but if that is true, then it should be possible to find a judge who will agree to that. He can be charged with whatever offenses are appropriate and tried.
There is good reason to provide special circumstances for the battlefield, where there can be much confusion and time is critical. There are even good reasons for such considerations to apply to U. S. citizens who are caught fighting against the United States. But none of those circumstances do not obtain in this case. This is just a matter of convenience for the law enforcement authorities, a convenience we can’t afford to provide them.