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Author Topic: Clarifying "enemy combatant"
fugu13
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quote:
"The term 'enemy combatant,' " according to a Defense Department order last year, includes anyone "part of or supporting Taliban or Al Qaeda forces or associated forces."

In a hearing in December in a case brought by detainees imprisoned in the naval facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a judge questioned a Justice Department official about the limits of that definition. The official, Brian D. Boyle, said the hostilities in question are global and may continue for generations.

The judge, Joyce Hens Green of the Federal District Court in Washington, asked a series of hypothetical questions about who may be detained as an enemy combatant under the government's definition.

What about "a little old lady in Switzerland who writes checks to what she thinks is a charitable organization that helps orphans in Afghanistan but really is a front to finance Al Qaeda activities?" she asked.

And what about a resident of Dublin "who teaches English to the son of a person the C.I.A. knows to be a member of Al Qaeda?"

And "what about a Wall Street Journal reporter, working in Afghanistan, who knows the exact location of Osama bin Laden but does not reveal it to the United States government in order to protect her source?"

Mr. Boyle said the military had the power to detain all three people as enemy combatants.

NYTimes Enemy Combatant story
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Teshi
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I think that trying to "trap" people (Mr. Boyle, I mean) like this distorts the real issue.

I totally understand and agree that America needs to be careful on this issue, especially when "enemy combatants" and ordinary civilians are really deliniated only by a bomb in the case of the first definition. Essentially, it seems to make everyone 'guiltless' until they are ready to kill. I realise this is pretty much how it works in regular criminal courts. Since it's difficult to catch people before they actually commit the crime basically the detainee either has to be on his or her way to kill or have actually killed. A broader definition allows apprehension before the actual event.

Now, the second definition does allow for a group of unarmed people sitting in a room to be arrested. Are they a terrorist cell planning to blow up tens of people or are they a group of people talking about raising money, of them being a terrorist. If you knew for sure the first, there would be no question, but of course you will never know for sure...

The world of terrorism is a one filled with fog and grey areas, lines that are not crossed until it's too late, ifs, buts and ands. This broadening of the definition is no doubt an effort to allow more of these grey areas to be covered.

Personally, I would prefer a more detailed "directive" type defintion that deals with cases in a more individual light.

quote:
Mr. Boyle said the military had the power to detain all three people as enemy combatants.
It would allow these people to be arrested, but it's unlikely that they would actually be detained. The article is written in such a way to draw attention the fact that these innocent people could be arrested, as indeed it should, however, the likelyhood that they would be arrested and held is small (I would not say impossible). However, we must realise that terrorism is such a grey area that some changes must be made to allow for more legitimate arrests.

I know that sounds awful.

AGain, I think that, AT LEAST the word "knowingly" should be included i.e. "The term 'enemy combatant," includes anyone "knowlingly part of or supporting Taliban or Al Qaeda forces or associated forces."

Yes, it will cause problems when people say "I swear I had no idea," but it will acknowledge the fact that obviously, true innocents cannot be detained.

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Rakeesh
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I'm curious if anyone thinks the last example isn't an "enemy combatant", provided protection was given to the source.
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fugu13
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Teshi: what's important to note is that they wouldn't be arrested, because that would imply admission to our judicial system. The courts would not touch them, they would be taken into military custody.

We have a system set up for civilians who do things against the law: the courts. Calling these people 'enemy combatants' so we wouldn't need to deal with the inconvenience of a court deciding the merits of the government's case is incredibly troublesome at best.

As the article points out, a definition the courts are leaning towards for "enemy combatant" is someone captured wielding a weapon against the united states on a foreign field of battle. This rather derives from the term -- someone working intentionally against the US (enemy) in combat (combatant).

Are others culpable to various degrees? Sure! But letting the executive branch be the one to decide culpability in the case of anyone having any vague relation to any organization we have labeled terrorist is a rather different thing (particularly as which organizations we label terrorist change with political winds). We have three branches of federal government: legislative, executive, and judiciary. Lets leave all the adjudicating we can up to the branch that's supposed to do it, because to do otherwise is to suggest its possible for a President to lock pretty much anyone he wants to up indefinitely, with no appeal.

I say pretty much anyone because connections to terrorism are everywhere. Family in Ireland? Almost certainly you have connections to a terrorist organization. Ever been in the middle east in any capacity? Almost certainly you have connections to a terrorist organization. Lots of environmentalist friends? Almost certainly you have connections to a terrorist organization.

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fugu13
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Rakeesh: I don't think the last example is an enemy combatant, I think the last example is a reporter (unlawfully) withholding a source, and subject to the full weight of the judicial system in attempting to extract that source.
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Rakeesh
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Oh, right. Yeah, I agree they're not "combatants", I spoke wrong there. What I meant to ask was if anyone thought such a reporter shouldn't be detained for witholding that sorta thing.
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MrMojoDriver
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"I think that trying to "trap" people (Mr. Boyle, I mean) like this distorts the real issue. "

The real issue is the abuse of power by our government. Protect Your Freedom, Repeal the Patriot Act.

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fugu13
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Detainment by the justice system is very different from detainment by the military (which I know you're not arguing for; I'm pointing out Mr. Boyle argued the latter was acceptable and legal!)
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JTruant711
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Protect Your Freedom. Obey the law.
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fugu13
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Ah yes, because obeying the law is always the path to freedom. I can think of no historical counterexamples to that notion whatsoever.
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fugu13
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(though as I feel I must point out, neither of the first two people would have necessarily been breaking the law, yet the position by the Bush administration is that the executive branch has the right to detain them indefinitely despite that minor issue)
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JTruant711
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Hahahaha!
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