This week, the Supreme Court delivered a decision was as brief as it was significant. The Court vacated the recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that the President can detain Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was lawfully in the United States as a student when he was arrested in 2001. The ruling will relieve the Obama Administration of the necessity of having to choose whether to support or oppose the Bush Administration’s arguments.
In a one-paragraph ruling the Court negates one of the few big wins of the Bush Administration and rejects the Fourth Circuit’s extreme ruling on presidential authority.
To the credit of the Obama Administration, the government has now decided to move al-Marri into the federal system to face conventional criminal charges with full rights of a defendant. This makes the matter moot before the Supreme Court. It was a decision that the Obama Administration desperately wanted. If the Court had proceeded to hear the case, Obama would have had to either embrace the argument of the Bush Administration or publicly reject it. Obama recently has been criticized for continuing some of the Bush Administration’s most controversial positions in the national security area, including threatening a federal court that it would remove a piece evidence from a case after the court rejected its legal arguments. It is an unprecedented claim and is an effort to keep the court from reviewing a document that the media has reported is connected to the NSA surveillance program. It is a perfectly thuggish threat and one that even the Bush Administration never carried out.
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