For Immediate Release
Former US AG, Senior Justice Officials and Top Military Officers Urge Supreme Court to Review Indefinite Detention Case
Respected Leaders Join ACLU Case Challenging Sweeping Presidential Authority That Deprives US Residents of Basic Constitutional Rights
WASHINGTON - Former
United States Attorney General Janet Reno, Former FBI Director William
Sessions, Major General Antonio M. Taguba and other former government
and military officials today are joining the American Civil Liberties
Union in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the president's
authority to indefinitely imprison a legal resident of the U.S. without
charge or trial. Several former top government and military leaders are
signing on to friend-of-the-court briefs in the ACLU case of Ali Saleh
Kahlah al-Marri, who has been detained in solitary confinement at a
Navy brig in South Carolina since June 2003.
"This unprecedented expansion of
executive authority within the borders of the United States is not only
at odds with more than 200 years of history, but it is wholly
unnecessary," argue several former federal judges and former senior
Justice Department officials in their brief. "The federal government is
eminently capable of both protecting our nation's security and
safeguarding our proud tradition of civil liberties."
Retired military officials also express concern about the heightened role of the military in detaining Americans on U.S. soil.
"The unlawful military detention of
civilians undermines the necessary combination of trust and distance
between military personnel and civilians," say several retired U.S.
generals and admirals in their brief. "The quality and character of the
United States military would be undermined by a more extensive
involvement in domestic law enforcement."
Al-Marri was first arrested in
December 2001 at his home in Peoria, Illinois, where he was living with
his wife and children. His case was scheduled to go to trial in July
2003, but was halted on the eve of trial when President Bush took the
extraordinary step of designating al-Marri an "enemy combatant" and
transferring him to a military brig in South Carolina. At the brig,
al-Marri was detained incommunicado for 16 months and subjected to
torture and other abuse. The government continues to hold al-Marri
indefinitely as an "enemy combatant" based upon uncorroborated
allegations that he has ties to al-Qaeda, although no evidence has been
presented to sustain these allegations. He is the only remaining person
detained as an "enemy combatant" in the United States.
In 2007, a three-judge panel of the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the government
cannot hold individuals arrested in this country in military detention
without charge. However, in July 2008, the full appeals court
overturned that ruling in a narrowly divided decision.
"The ACLU is asking the Court to
reverse the lower court decision that gave the president sweeping power
to deprive individuals in the United States of their most basic
constitutional rights," said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the
ACLU National Security Project and lead attorney for al-Marri. "In
America, no one - not even the president - is above the law and the
government cannot simply lock people up forever without charge."
Five friend-of-the-court briefs in
support of the ACLU are being filed today by former U.S. attorney Janet
Reno, former FBI director William Sessions and other former federal
judges and top Justice Department officials; retired military officers
Major General Antonio M. Taguba, Brigadier General David M. Brahms,
Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter and Rear Admiral John D. Hutson; The
Constitution Project and Rutherford Institute; several professors of
legislation; and several professors of federal courts and
The briefs and more information about the case will be available later today at: www.aclu.org/almarri
The ACLU's certiorari petition for Supreme Court review is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
Attorneys on the case are Hafetz,
Steven R. Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU; Aziz Huq and Emily
Berman of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law; Andrew
J. Savage, III of the law firm Savage & Savage, P.A.; John J.
Gibbons and Lawrence S. Lustberg of the law firm Gibbons, P.C.; and
Sidney S. Rosdeitcher of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton
& Garrison, LLP.