Chilling "Enemy Combatant" Ruling

Court Allows Indefinite Detentions of U.S. Citizens on U.S. Soil

Just days before the 4th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, a federal court in Richmond, Va. has issued a ruling that should send a chill down the spine of every freedom-loving American, said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has ruled that the President can indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil in the absence of criminal charges, in order to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. The ruling came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member who was designated an "enemy combatant" in 2002 by President Bush, and has been held in a U.S. Navy brig for three years without trial.

Neas had the following statement:

“This decision means that one man – the President - can imprison an American citizen, and hold him without trial – not for days or weeks or months, but for years, and without specific authorization by Congress.

“We know nothing of Padilla’s guilt or innocence. But every American, no matter how heinous his alleged crime, deserves his day in court and the judgment of the American legal system. It is our birthright, and the ultimate safeguard of all our freedoms.

“To give such power to any presidential administration sends a chill down my spine. What’s next?

“The anniversary of the terrible crimes of 9-11 should remind us not only of the need to protect our nation from further attack, but of the equally compelling need to protect the constitutional rights and freedoms that have kept us free from tyranny for two centuries.”

Neas said People For the American Way Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the case before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, will support efforts to seek review of the decision in the Supreme Court. He noted that the decision was written by Judge Michael Luttig, who has been mentioned as a possible Bush Administration choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

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