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American Kangaroo Justice

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. A graduate of Harvard University, Rothschild prior to coming to The Progressive worked as the editor of Multinational Monitor, a magazine founded by Ralph Nader.

The Progressive, Jul. 3, 2003

"The Bush Administration is using a system of kangaroo justice. It bounces from one legal designation to another in an effort to keep untried and unconvicted people penned up. Ali Saleh Kahlal Al-Marri is a perfect example. Al-Marri, a student from Qatar who was pursuing graduate studies in Peoria, was first detained by the F.B.I. as a material witness, a designation the Justice Department has been using illegitimately to hold suspects. Then, the Justice Department charged Al-Marri with lying to the F.B.I. and credit card fraud. Weeks before his trial on those charges was to start, the Bush Administration declared him an 'enemy combatant,' removed him from prison in Illinois, and tossed him into a military brig in South Carolina."
"Bush has arrogated to himself the sole power to label someone an enemy combatant, and at the moment, Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, both American citizens, are so designated. Al-Marri, who is not a citizen, is now the third in this dubious class. By branding people enemy combatants, Bush has pulled an end-around the Constitution, which grants to all persons the right to due process of law and equal protection, as well as the right to an attorney and to a trial. As Human Rights Watch has pointed out, 'This kind of military detention has no place in a country committed to the rule of war.' "
"There's no rhyme or reason to Bush's use of this designation, either. The American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, was not labeled an enemy combatant. He was allowed access to the courts. Zacarias Moussaoui also was granted such access, which may yet be withdrawn. Hamdi, Padilla, and Al-Marri have been denied this. On what basis does the Bush Administration distinguish between these two groups? Could it be that when the government thinks its case is weak it just slaps the novel designation of 'enemy combatant' on the person? This is an amazing assertion of Presidential power. Actually, it's a regal power, pre-Magna Carta. Who gave Bush the throne?"