Reno 911

Weighing in on matters “war on terror detention and purported adjudication policy” is none other than former Clinton Administration Attorney General Janet Reno, who joined a number of former Justice Department officials in filing an amicus curae (or friend of the court) brief before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond opposing the government’s asserted authority to detain and try (as enemy combatants outside the regular court system) resident aliens, such as the subject at hand, Saleh Al-Marri of Qatar.
Regular readers are, of course, quite familiar with him, having been first introduced to him in our interview with David Hicks’ lawyer Josh Dratel, and then, of course, in our interview with Al-Marri’s own counsel, Jonathan Hafetz.
You will recall that the Bush Administration has asserted the authority to detain anyone at all, including citizens (such as Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi) whether picked up “on a battlefield”, like Hamdi, or at an airport in Chicago, like Padilla; Illinois seems especially battlefield-like to the Bush Administration, as Mr. Al-Marri was picked up while a student at Bradley University in Peoria, and after a time as a regular criminal defendant, has spent the last few years as a prisoner in the same naval brig in Charleston, SC that Padilla once called home. Even as it appears that the case against Padilla himself brought in the court system may crumble (and has been sharply criticized by a federal judge for problems in charges and evidence), and hence, the basis for the open-ended detention of this supposedly dangerous terrorist appears ever more shaky… the government continues to assert its right to hold whomever it wants for however long it wants without the usual niceties of… constitutional due process… of any kind.
Since the Supreme Court conveniently allowed the government to transfer Padilla to the civilian criminal justice system just in time to enable it to duck the hard question of whether a “war on terror” can justify an end run on the Constitution at least as to citizens (probable answer: NO)… the Bush Administration is repackaging the question as a matter of immigrant bashing (Mr. Al-Marri happens to be a resident alien, legally here, at the time of his arrest, and ordinarily, hence entitled to the full panoply of due process rights that citizens get… or so we all thought…)
The Bushmen hope that if they “win” this one (and they will have a very friendly forum in Richmond, insofar as it already said it was a.o.k. with extra-legal and extra-constitutional unlimited in camera detention of citizens in the Padilla case… still unclear what the Supreme Court might do), they can reassert their divine right to detain citizens who they accuse of being political enemies unlawful combatants, and hence keep us safe from those terrorists whose greatest fear might be that we remain a constitutional republic. This is sort of the way that the Russians used to burn down villages ahead of Napoleon’s or Hitler’s advancing armies i.e.., we must destroy our Constitution to save it, or else the terrorists will have won… that kind of thing.
Perhaps the new Democratic controlled Congress might consider enacting an appropriate limitation or two on this sort of executive overreaching. Particularly as it becomes clear that the Bush Administration has yet to prove virtually anything against those to whom it has given this extraordinary treatment… whether in the brig, at Gitmo, at the “black prisons”… or anywhere else… (except for those rare occasions when it has actually brought cases in the regular court system.)
Some of us find that kind of situation… more than a tad troubling.