Big blow to the Bush administration. The important distinction here is that they can’t hold them on US soil. I’m sure this guy could be held at Guantanamo, but not here.

From the NY Times:

The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled yesterday that the president may not declare civilians in this country to be “enemy combatants� and have the military hold them indefinitely. The ruling was a stinging rejection of one of the Bush administration’s central assertions about the scope of executive authority to combat terrorism.

The ruling came in the case of Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar now in military custody in Charleston, S.C., who is the only person on the American mainland known to be held as an enemy combatant. The court said the administration may charge Mr. Marri with a crime, deport him or hold him as a material witness in connection with a grand jury investigation.

“But military detention of al-Marri must cease,� Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel.

And what this all boils down to…

The court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, said a fundamental principle is at stake: military detention of someone who had lawfully entered the United States and established connections here, it said, violates the Constitution.

I have a lot to say about our detainee policy, but for now this is a win for the Constitution and all of our rights. Because we’re travelling down a slippery slope and I’m glad to see that the courts are throwing a little sand on there so we don’t fall too far.

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