War on Terror

Obama’s Civil Liberties Test

Obama faces an early test over his attitude to the rule of law. Should he proceed with the trial of “enemy combatant” Ali al-Marri, a Qatari student the Bush administration believes to be an Al Qaeda sleeper agent who was a legal resident of America when arrested in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001? As The New York Times reports, “The legal principles established in [Marri’s] case are likely to affect the roughly 250 prisoners at Guantánamo.” Intelligence officials say Marri is exceptionally dangerous, making deportation problematic, while trying him on criminal charges could be difficult, too, because evidence against him may have been obtained through torture. The prosecution case rests partly on info supplied by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-confessed architect of the September 11 attacks, but the CIA admits Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding, and evidence obtained from him may therefore be inadmissible. Obama must decide his administration’s course of action by February 20.