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Brennan Center Files Brief in Al-Marri v. Spagone

A litmus-test, this Supreme Court case presents first major challenge of Bush Counterterrorism policy for Obama Administration.

January 21, 2009

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Susan Lehman, (212) 998–6318
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998–6289 or (646) 265–7721

Supreme Court Case First Major Challenge of Bush Counterterrorism Policy for Obama Administration

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to repudiate the Bush Administration’s extraordinary claim to be able to seize and detain citizens and lawful aliens from U.S. soil without the Constitution’s requirement of a criminal trial in the case of Al-Marri v. Spagone.

Al-Marri is the first major legal challenge in 2009 to Bush Administration counterterrorism policies. Its outcome will determine whether those policies will continue, or in their central measure, be abandoned.

“This is a litmus-test case,” noted Aziz Huq, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security, “Will the Bush Administration’s broadest claims of authority to detain without trial survive the '08 election?”

At issue in Al-Marri v. Spagone is the President’s legal authority to seize a legal U.S. resident on U.S. soil and have him detained by the military as an “enemy combatant.”

Mr. al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar and legal U.S. resident, was arrested in Peoria, Illinois, in 2001 as a material witness in the FBI’s investigation of 9/11.  In 2002, he was charged with credit card fraud and other criminal offenses.  Mere days before his criminal trial was due to commence, in June 2003, President Bush designated him an “enemy combatant,” and, without any hearing or notice, had him moved to a Navy Brig in South Carolina, where the government has subjected him to torture and other cruel treatment. At the time of Mr. al-Marri’s detention, he had been in solitary conferment for eighteen months. Six years later, Mr. al-Marri still remains in solitary confinement without criminal charge or trial.

In December 5, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States of America granted Mr. al-Marri’s petition for certiorari, and agreed to hear the case. The Government has 30 days to respond to today’s filings. Oral arguments are scheduled for March.

Additional information and court documents can be found on the Brennan Center for Justice web site by clicking here.

For additional comment or to schedule an interview with Aziz Huq, contact Susan Lehman, Communications Director, at or (212) 998–6318.