Friday, September 09, 2005

Know Thine Enemy

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued this spot-on opinion in the case of José Padilla. Briefly, Padilla is the wannabe dirty bomber who was captured in Chicago three years ago after having fought against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Lyle Benniston, writing at SCOTUSblog, says:

The ruling . . . did not go as far as the Administration had asked. The Court did not rely upon the President's claim that he has "inherent authority" as Commander in Chief to order the designation and detention of terrorist suspects. Rather, it relied only on the resolution Congress passed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the President to respond. The Supreme Court similarly avoided the "inherent authority" claim when it upheld detention of citizens captured in foreign battle zones in its decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld -- so far, the only other case of detention of a citizen named as an "enemy combatant."

The Circuit Court commented: "Like Hamdi, Padilla associated with forces hostile to the United States in Afghanistan....And, like Hamdi, Padilla took up arms against United States forces in that country in the same way and to the same extent as did Hamdi....Because, like Hamdi, Padilla is an enemy combatant, and because his detention is no less necessary than was Hamdi's in order to prevent his return to the battlefield, the President is authorized by the AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution] to detain Padilla as a fundamental incident to the conduct of war."

That the ruling did not go as far as the administration asked doesn't alter the fact that the ruling was a victory for the administration, and for Americans. After all, Padilla's counsel raised four arguments for Padilla's release, all of which failed. Lawyers don't lose when they lose some of their arguments, they lose only when they lose all of their arguments.

Judge J. Michael Lutting wrote for the three-judge panel. I applaud his ability (and that of his confreres) to see through the legal cant and get it right: An enemy of the United States is an enemy of the United States, even if he happens to be a U.S. citizen. To put it another way, not all non-citizens are enemies of the United States, but some citizens -- not just Hamdi and Padilla -- are enemies of the United States.