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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Citizen detained overseas: Where's the outrage?

I'm surprised the righties aren't all over this story:
In 2001, Jack Smith, a citizen of Perioa, Illinois, was in the Qatar legally, on a student visa. He was a computer science graduate student at the American University in Qatar, where he had earned an undergraduate degree a decade earlier. In Qatar, he lived with his wife and five children.

In December, 2001 he was detained as a "material witness" to suspected acts of terrorism and ultimately charged with various terrorism-related offenses, mostly relating to false statements Qatar's security aparatus claimed he made as part of a terrorism investigation. Smith vehemently denied the charges, and after lengthy pre-trial proceedings, his trial on those charges was scheduled to begin on July 21, 2003.

But his trial never took place, because in June, 2003--one month before the scheduled trial--Qatar's Emir declared him to be an "enemy combatant." As a result, Qatar told the court it wanted to turn him over to the U.S. military, and thus asked the court to dismiss the criminal charges against him, and the court did so (the dismissal was "with prejudice," meaning he can't be tried ever again on those charges). Thus, right before his trial, Qatar simply removed Smith from the jurisdiction of Qatar's judicial system--based solely on the unilateral order of the Emir--and thus prevented him from contesting the charges against him.

Instead, the administration immediately transferred Smith to a miltiary prison. Smith was kept in solitary confinement, denied all contact with the outside world, including even his own attorneys, not charged with any crimes, and given no opportunity to prove his innocence. Instead, Qatar simply asserted the right to detain him indefinitely without so much as charging him with anything.
It has everything the right loves in their outrages--a Christian family man living peacefully with his family in a Muslim country held without charge and without access to anyone who could help him clear his name. Admittedly, there's no video tape or threats of beheading--the right loves them some gore--but what gives?

Oh.

Wait.

I know what the problem is:
In 2001, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was in the United States legally, on a student visa. He was a computer science graduate student at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where he had earned an undergraduate degree a decade earlier. In Peoria, he lived with his wife and five children.

In December, 2001 he was detained as a "material witness" to suspected acts of terrorism and ultimately charged with various terrorism-related offenses, mostly relating to false statements the FBI claimed he made as part of its 9/11 investigation. Al-Marri vehemently denied the charges, and after lengthy pre-trial proceedings, his trial on those charges was scheduled to begin on July 21, 2003.

But his trial never took place, because in June, 2003--one month before the scheduled trial--President Bush declared him to be an "enemy combatant." As a result, the Justice Department told the court it wanted to turn him over to the U.S. military, and thus asked the court to dismiss the criminal charges against him, and the court did so (the dismissal was "with prejudice," meaning he can't be tried ever again on those charges). Thus, right before his trial, the Bush administration simply removed Al-Marri from the jurisdiction of the judicial system--based solely on the unilateral order of the President--and thus prevented him from contesting the charges against him.

Instead, the administration immediately transferred al-Marri to a miltiary prison in South Carolina (where the administration brings its "enemy combatants" in order to ensure that the executive-power-friendly 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over all such cases). Al-Marri was given the "Padilla Treatment"--kept in solitary confinement, denied all contact with the outside world, including even his own attorneys, not charged with any crimes, and given no opportunity to prove his innocence. Instead, the Bush administration simply asserted the right to detain him indefinitely without so much as charging him with anything.
Draw your own conclusions, of course. But this makes me feel outraged. How can I not? How can anyone not? How can anyone not see how fundamentally wrong and un-American this is?

There is no evidence that this man did anything other than sit around at home with his family, go to school, and follow the laws of the United States. And he can't see his lawyer? Welcome, as they say, to Dick Cheney's America. Two months . . .

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