Detaining 'Enemy Combatants'

Article excerpt


In an important legal test of national security vs. individuals' rights, the Supreme Court today will hear the cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, two U.S. citizens detained as "enemy combatants." Their cases are the most current part of this heated national debate, as civil liberties advocates question the president's authority to detain enemy combatants indefinitely without access to a lawyer or the scheduling of a trial date. Last week, the Supreme Court heard a case concerning non-U.S. citizens being held as enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr. Padilla and Mr. Hamdi have been detained indefinitely in a South Carolina military brig without access to a lawyer or a judge. Mr. Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, suspected of conspiring with al Qaeda to set off a "dirty bomb." Mr. Hamdi was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

The most controversial aspect of Mr. Hamdi's and Mr. Padilla's situation is their citizenship. However, U.S. law plainly states citizenship can be revoked if a person serves in the armed forces of a foreign state. Although al Qaeda is not a nation-state with geographical borders, it possesses the financial resources and the fighting manpower of such a state. Mr. Padilla's case proves more troubling, for he was arrested on U.S. soil. The administration argues that to release him would be a threat to national security. …