Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Chilling Day

This should frighten us all.

Sept. 15 - The first U.S. government-declared "enemy combatant" in the war on terror will soon be released from a military prison in South Carolina under an agreement that will allow him to fly home to Saudi Arabia as a free man, administration officials tell NEWSWEEK.

The agreement to free Yaser Esam Hamdi represents a stunning reversal for the Bush administration, which argued for more than two years that the former Taliban fighter was potentially so dangerous that he had to be detained indefinitely in solitary confinement with no access to counsel and no right to trial.

But in a landmark ruling last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Hamdi, an American citizen, be allowed to consult with his lawyer and challenge the basis for his imprisonment. This pushed the case back into federal court and forced the Justice Department to mount a hasty retreat.

The result, officials say, is a highly detailed agreement that is expected to be made public later this week. It will result in Hamdi being flown back to Saudi Arabia on a U.S. military aircraft without ever being charged with any terror-related activity—a symbolic victory for critics who have long pointed to the case as a prime example of what they see as the Bush administration's overreaching in combating the terrorist threat.

Still, Justice Department officials said today the agreement contains important provisions to protect U.S. interests, including requirements that Hamdi renounce his U.S. citizenship, agree not to return to the United States and consent not to travel to an extensive list of countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq or Syria, where he could be presumably be recruited for terrorist activity. Hamdi is also supposed to keep Saudi authorities notified of his whereabouts—a requirement that even government officials say will do little, if anything, to restrict his movements in the country.

So, our government keeps a guy locked up for 3 years without trial because he's too dangerous to let go. When he was allowed to challenge his imprisonment, the JD backed off. And, then, to end the whole thing they're going to require that he renounce his citizenship.