ACLU: Trump must transfer detained US ISIS suspect to federal court

ACLU: Trump must transfer detained US ISIS suspect to federal court
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Friday urged the Trump administration to immediately transfer a U.S. citizen accused of fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from military detention to the federal court system.

“If the reports about the U.S. citizen are accurate, his ongoing military detention is unlawful as a matter of domestic law, and his constitutional rights to habeas corpus and to a lawyer must be respected,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero wrote in a letter Friday to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman Mattis The US can't go back to business as usual with Pakistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default MORE and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE.

“If the government has legitimate grounds to suspect the citizen fought with ISIS, he should immediately be transferred to the federal criminal justice system for criminal charges. On no account should the Defense Department resurrect the past policy of ‘enemy combatant’ detention of U.S. citizens, which proved to be a legal and moral failure.”


On Sept. 14, the Pentagon confirmed it is detaining a U.S. citizen captured on the battlefield fighting for ISIS.

“Syrian Democratic Forces turned over to U.S. forces an American citizen who surrendered to SDF on or around Sept. 12,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said in a statement at the time. “The U.S. citizen is being legally detained by Department of Defense personnel as a known enemy combatant.”

On Friday, U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the International Committee for the Red Cross will soon meet with the citizen, whose identity and detention location have not been released.

Officials also told the AP it’s unclear whether the citizen will be turned over to the Justice Department. Other options are to keep him in military detention or hand him over to Iraqi authorities if he is believed to have committed war crimes in that country.

The American captured this month was the not the first one captured on the battlefield. In the first case, Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 27, was brought to the United States by the Obama administration for trial in federal court. He was convicted in June of providing material support to ISIS.

But the fighter captured this month is the first American captured since President Trump took office. On the campaign trail, Trump indicated he was open to detaining U.S. citizens at Guantanamo Bay and trying them at the military commissions there. It is currently illegal to try U.S. citizens at military commissions.

In his letter, Romero said the United States does not have legal authority to hold alleged ISIS fighters in military detention since the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) covers only al Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces.”

“The AUMF, which Congress passed days after and in direct response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, cannot be stretched to cover individuals allegedly fighting for ISIS, a group that did not exist at the time and that has publicly opposed al-Qaida,” he wrote.

Romero added that indefinite military detention without charge “has proven to be unlawful and illegitimate, resulting in prolonged (and ongoing) legal battles, human suffering, and the erosion of the United States’ moral standing in the world.”

Further, he said, federal courts are the only “legitimate option” since they have convicted more 620 people on terrorism-related charges since Sept. 11, 2001, while military commissions have convicted eight, four of which have been overturned in whole or part.

“The course you take with respect to the U.S. citizen in Defense Department custody is a critical test for this administration’s adherence to the rule of law,” Romero wrote.

“I accordingly urge you transfer him to the United States and the federal criminal justice system without any further delay. Because the U.S. citizen has a right to counsel, my staff is available to help inform him of his rights and assist him in securing legal assistance.”