Critics say a Justice Department legal motion this week raises the possibility that any of the millions of immigrants living in the U.S. could be subject to indefinite detention if they are accused of ties to terrorist groups, the Washington Post reports. In a paper filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Justice Department lawyers argue that an antiterror law approved by Congress last month allows the government to detain any foreign national declared to be an enemy combatant, even if he is arrested and imprisoned inside the United States.
The government argues that a challenge by alleged al-Qaeda sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri should be dismissed because the former Bradley University graduate student has no standing in regular civilian courts. Under the new Military Commissions Act, the Pentagon plans to place him into its new military trial system as soon as his criminal case is dismissed. In the past, foreign nationals arrested in the U.S. have had the right to challenge their imprisonment for immigration violations or other alleged crimes in U.S. civilian courts. In the Marri case, the Justice Department argues for an exception for those arrested as enemy combatants. A Justice Department spokesman said that “enemy combatants are not entitled to preferential treatment merely because they have succeeded in entering our borders with the intent to harm American citizens or interests.”