Arguments put forth in Padilla case

Government claims Bush may indefinitely jail suspected terrorist

July 20, 2005|By Andrew Zajac | Andrew Zajac,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

RICHMOND, Va. - A government lawyer contended yesterday that President Bush has the authority to indefinitely imprison former Chicago gang member and accused terrorist Jose Padilla without charges even though Padilla is an American citizen who was captured in the United States.

Solicitor General Paul Clement told a three-judge panel at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here that emergency powers given to the president by Congress a week after the Sept. 11 attacks include the power to hold U.S. citizens as enemy combatants outside of the traditional legal system.

He was trying to persuade the judges to overturn a lower court judge's order either to try Padilla in the criminal justice system or release him.

"It would be very, very odd to read that [the congressional resolution authorizes] the use of force in Afghanistan, but not in the U.S.," Clement said.

Furthermore, Clement argued, Padilla had been at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, so he fell under the president's emergency powers.

But Padilla's lawyer, Andrew Patel, said Congress has not explicitly empowered the president to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens who are arrested in this country.

Padilla has been held without charges since he was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in May 2002 after returning from Pakistan.

Authorities said Padilla had received training in weapons and explosives from al-Qaida and planned either to blow up apartment buildings by diverting the flow of natural gas within them, or set off a crude radioactive device or "dirty bomb," officials said.

"We accept whatever [charges Clement] wants to prove," Patel said. "I may be the first lawyer to stand here and ask that his client be indicted by a federal grand jury."

Presiding Judge J. Michael Luttig pressed both sides about the limits of presidential power.

He wondered whether "real world circumstances" made it unreasonable to accept Patel's argument that the president can't use the military to detain U.S. citizens.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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