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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Judge rejects Obama view on detaining Al Qaeda supporters

A federal judge has rejected aspects of the Obama administration's definition of who can legally be held as a prisoner in the war on terror.

In a 22-page decision issued Tuesday evening, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates ruled that members in Al Qaeda or the Taliban could be detained, but that mere support for Al Qaeda activities is not a sufficient basis for the government to hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

Bates said he pressed the Justice Department to explain why rendering assistance to Al Qaeda was enough to lock someone up without criminal charges.

"After repeated attempts by the Court to elicit a more definitive justification for the 'substantial support' concept in the law of war, it became clear that the government has none," wrote Bates, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush. "Regardless of the reasonableness of this approach from a policy perspective, a detention authority that sweeps so broadly is simply beyond what the law of war will support. The government's approach in this respect evidences an importation of principles from the criminal law context," Bates said.
"We're reviewing the court's opinion," a Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said.


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