Was the lengthy detention of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri at a naval brig a political move or necessary to protect American lives? The suspected enemy combatant agreed to a plea bargain in Peoria on Thursday. Kirk Lippold, USS Cole commander when it was attacked in 2000 by al-Qaida operatives, tells the Peoria Journal Star the detention was “absolutely necessary.” Says Lippold: “You don’t wait for a murderer to commit a murder before you do something.” On the other side fall civil libertarians who decried the Bush administration’s policy toward enemy combatants, saying it was unconstitutional and flew in the face of basic liberties afforded to all people within the United States.
In the plea agreement filed Thursday, al-Marri admitted to being an al-Qaida operative and to reaching out to such high-level terrorists as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, before and after that fateful day. The agreement stopped short of stating what his mission was or why he was dubbed an “enemy combatant” and held without charges since 2003. Why was the case shifted from military authority back to federal court. University of Richmond law Prof. Carl Tobias believes it had a lot to with the presidential election. “I think the Bush people had a position and they weren’t going to change,” he said. “Then, the Obama administration came in, and they didn’t want to stick with that position.”