Ali Saleh al-Marri is a convicted conspirator who entered the United States before Sept. 11, 2001, in order to create a dreaded sleeper cell here that might someday launch an attack on Americans similar to what we witnessed earlier this month in Paris. When the feds woke from their slumber on Sept. 11, they wisely began to search immigration records for persons who came here with no discernible purpose from places known to spawn terrorist groups and who had overstayed their visas. Al-Marri was one such person.
The feds arrested him, originally on the visa violation, and then, after connecting the dots, on a series of conspiracies to aid terrorist organizations here and elsewhere.
After he was arrested by the FBI in Peoria, Ill., and while he was being held in federal custody, he was kidnapped by U.S. military officials who arrived at the lockup purporting to possess the lawful authority to seize him, authorized by President George W. Bush himself.
Mr. Bush had signed an order declaring al-Marri an enemy combatant and directing the military to seize him from the custody of federal prosecutors and bring him to a Navy brig. In several of the numerous cases it lost, the Bush administration argued to federal courts that once it declared a person an enemy combatant, the person was stripped of all rights.
There was and is no such category as enemy combatant in American law. The Bush administration made it up from historical terminology. But the post-Sept. 11 era was a fearful time, and most folks accepted Mr. Bush’s unconstitutional stripping of rights from detained persons as a route to safety. Al-Marri would soon be stripped of more than his rights, and that would lead to less safety for the rest of us