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Obama signals major shift in US anti-terror policy

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.

Legal analysts are drawing parallels between the Al-Marri case and that of Jose Padilla (c.), who was held as an enemy combatant for three and a half years in a different wing of the Charleston brig.

J. Pat Carter/AP

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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 two-paragraph order came shortly after a two-count federal indictment was unsealed in Illinois charging Ali Saleh Al-Marri with conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda.

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.

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