The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that a wartime president can detain U.S. citizens under the classification of enemy combatants indefinitely and not allow them to seek counsel or a lawyer is cause for alarm. While this ruling pertains to U.S. citizens who are captured in enemy territory; the court left potential room for the same rule to apply to citizens captured within the United States. The ruling of the federal appellate court is an egregious violation of the rights of U.S. citizens and the Constitution.

Similar to much of the legislation proposed and promoted by the Bush administration, this court decision is ambiguous and leaves room for abuse. There is no definition provided as to what constitutes an “enemy combatant.” Furthermore, there is room for the ruling to be expanded to all citizens regardless of where they are detained.

This court decision demotes certain citizens to a second-class status that is not protected by the Constitution and who are not accorded the same rights as citizens. Particularly they are not informed of why they are being detained and are not allowed to seek legal counsel. It is illegal to deny U.S. citizens the right to a lawyer and to detain them without properly informing them of what they are being accused. The framers of the Constitution were well aware of the kinds of abuses the government is capable of against its citizens in the name of security. It takes some pretty suspect maneuvering on the part of the Bush administration and the courts to overturn these sacred rights.

The court ruling denies the rights accorded to all U.S. citizens by the Constitution. Citizenship is unconditional. The rights of citizens cannot be revoked, regardless of their actions. Even criminals committing the most heinous crimes are allowed legal counsel; people considered ‘enemy combatants’ (whatever that means) need to be accorded these rights as well.

Because this ruling calls into question the very nature of the Constitution and the fundamental rights of citizens, the Supreme Court must intervene in this case. The Supreme Court needs to take a bigger role in examining post-Sept. 11 legislation, paying special attention to legislation and court decisions which affect the core of what the Unites States holds dear. Legislation regarding increased executive power and homeland security has squeaked through Congress in the climate of fear and gone largely unnoticed or challenged by the majority of the public. Individual citizens may not have the knowledge and power to challenge sweeping legal changes; the Supreme Court does.

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