A federal appeals court has ruled President Bush can order the indefinite jailing of civilians imprisoned in the United States. The five-to-four decision effectively reverses last year’s ruling that the administration cannot label US residents “enemy combatants” and jail them indefinitely without charge. The ruling came in the case of the only person still held as an enemy combatant on US soil. Ali al-Marri was arrested six years ago at his home in Peoria, Illinois, where he lived with his wife and five children. He was initially charged with credit card fraud and lying to federal agents. But in June 2003, President Bush declared him an enemy combatant and ordered him into military custody. He has spent the last four years in solitary confinement at a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Al-Marri’s attorney Jonathan Hafetz said, “This decision means the president can pick up any person in the country — citizen or legal resident — and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial.”
Attorneys for the Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr have released more video footage of his interrogation at Guantanamo Bay. The then-sixteen-year-old Khadr is seen in a distressed state and begging for help from Canadian officials. He appears to break down, weep and whisper what sounds like “help me.” Khadr was fifteen years old when US troops imprisoned him in Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr’s attorney, Nathan Whitling, said the tapes show a frightened teenager.
Nathan Whitling: “Contrary to everything the Canadian public has been told about Omar Khadr, the tapes do not show a dangerous terrorist, but instead a frightened, wounded Canadian boy pleading for help from Canadian officials. Instead of helping, they casually dismiss his claims of abuse and mistreatment and tell him that they will do nothing for him.”
Khadr’s lawyers released the footage following a Canadian Supreme Court ruling in May that the Canadian government had to hand over key evidence against him to allow a full defense of the charges he is facing. The Canadian government had vigorously fought the tapes’ being made public. Another Khadr attorney, Dennis Edney, said the footage underscores the grounds for his release.
Dennis Edney: “We are hoping that the Canadian public will recognize that you put aside any concerns of guilt or innocence — that has to be determined in a properly constituted court, which of course is not Guantanamo Bay — and look at compassion, as we feel the children have a special significance in society. This kid has suffered enough. This kid needs to come home. This kid is not a terrorist.”
Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah have begun a prisoner exchange along the Israel-Lebanon border. Earlier today, Hezbollah handed over coffins believed to contain the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured during Israel’s attack on Lebanon two years ago. In return, Israel has released the bodies of around 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters. It’s also expected to release another five living prisoners. More than 10,000 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners remain in Israeli jails.
The Bush administration has decided to send an envoy to the latest round of international nuclear talks with Iran. Undersecretary of State William Burns will attend the six-nation meeting in Switzerland on Saturday. Burns will be the highest-ranking Bush administration official to take part in the talks so far.
Economic concerns are growing with more signs of weakening financial markets. On Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke told lawmakers economic growth is at “a sluggish pace” with few signs of improvement. The US dollar continued to decline, reaching a new low against the euro. In California, thousands of anxious customers endured long lines to withdraw funds from the troubled bank IndyMac. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took control of the bank Friday after it succumbed to huge losses from defaulted mortgages. The Los Angeles Times reports many customers reported being denied access to tens of thousands of dollars in their accounts. At the White House, President Bush tried to allay economic fears by assuring account-holders they’re insured up to $100,000. Bush also called his decision to lift a ban on offshore oil drilling a means to boost the economy.
President Bush: “I heard somebody say, ‘Well, it’s going to take seven years.’ Well, if we’d have done it seven years ago, we’d be having a different conversation today. I’m not suggesting we’d have completely created a — you know, changed the dynamics in the world, but it certainly would have been, we’d have been using more of our own oil and sending less money overseas.”
The White House has lost a showdown with Congress over cutting Medicare funding. On Tuesday, the House voted to override President Bush’s veto of a bill reversing his cuts in payments to physicians who treat Medicare patients and funding for premium assistance to the elderly and disabled. The administration’s plans had stoked fears doctors would opt out of treating Medicare patients altogether. The Senate also voted to override Bush’s veto earlier in the day.
On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain each delivered lengthy speeches Tuesday on their foreign policy agendas. Both agreed on boosting the US occupation of Afghanistan but differed over the Iraq war, which Obama called a distraction in the so-called war on terror.
Sen. Barack Obama: “This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the twenty-first century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe. I am running for president of the United States to lead this country in a new direction and to seize this moment’s promise.”
A new Washington Post poll shows Obama with an eight-point lead over McCain nationwide.
In Massachusetts, the State Senate has voted to repeal a law used to ban out-of-state gay couples from marrying. The law denies couples marriage licenses if they can’t legally wed in their home state. The measure dates back more than one hundred years, when it was passed to deny marriage licenses to interracial couples. The State House is expected to vote on repealing the law later this week.
And an American soldier who refused to serve in Iraq has been deported from Canada. Robin Long was expelled Tuesday, just one day after a Canadian federal court rejected his appeal. He’s expected to be returned to his unit at Fort Knox, Kentucky.