He ordered the case of enemy combatant Ali Al-Marri, who has been held in solitary confinement for five years without charges, to be moved to the US criminal justice system.
J. Pat Carter/AP
In a major shift away from the controversial anti-terror policies of the Bush administration, President Obama on Friday ordered the transfer of a suspected Al Qaeda sleeper agent from a Navy brig into the US criminal justice system.
The move marks an abrupt shift away from former President Bush’s frequent assertions of commander-in-chief power to order the open-ended detention and harsh interrogation of anyone he deemed to be an enemy combatant dangerous to US national security.
Instead of seeking to defend that assertion of executive authority, the Obama administration appears to be prepared to rely instead on the criminal justice system to determine how Mr. Al-Marri should be treated.
Held in solitary confinement
Al-Marri, a citizen of both Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has been held without charge in a solitary confinement cell as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, for five years and eight months.
At one point, he complained to his lawyer that his harsh treatment and conditions of confinement were driving him out of his mind. According to legal documents, he protested by smearing the inside of his cell with his own feces.
His case sparked a contentious debate over whether an American president has the power to order a legal US resident like Al-Marri – or even a US citizen – into indefinite, incommunicado detention by the military simply by designating that person an enemy combatant.
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