ACLU Fighting To Defend Prisoner Illegally Detained By Trump Administration


A man is being held in Iraq by the U.S. military with no charges filed. He is being denied a lawyer after requesting one. This is a U.S. citizen, who requested a lawyer after being informed of his rights under the Miranda Law. The ACLU is in court, fighting to be allowed access to the man in order to represent him. The government won’t even release the name of the man being held, nor information on why he is being detained. And they are in court arguing that the ACLU has no right to represent this citizen. How insane is that? From the ACLU:

“The government is resisting our efforts to make contact with the man so he can challenge his detention, in an outrageous violation of the basic rights guaranteed to every American by the Constitution.”

The “unnamed detainee” is being held Iraq. The military will not disclose his name or where he is being held. He was originally picked up as an “enemy combatant” in mid-September. It has been alleged that the man was in Syria fighting alongside ISIS. Not surprisingly, the government has produced no evidence of that. According to the ACLU:

“The Pentagon and Justice Department ignored our initial request to offer him legal assistance. We then filed a habeas corpus petition on his behalf in court in Washington, demanding that the government justify the man’s detention.”

The government is not representing itself well in court. During the first hearing, when asked if the citizen had been informed of his rights under the constitution and if he had asked for an attorney, the government lawyer dummied up and used the excuse that the Defense Department hadn’t released that information. Judge Tanya Chutkan was not taking their evasiveness well, and told them so:

“You’re not answering my question, and I’m not trying to be impatient, but I’m growing impatient. I’m amazed you didn’t come to this hearing with that information.”

The judge then ordered the government lawyers to return with the information by 5 p.m., which they sheepishly did. They informed the judge that the man had been advised of his Miranda rights and that he had requested an attorney. It was also disclosed that the individual being detained has been interrogated by more than one agency, supposedly for “intelligence purposes.” From the government’s official statement:

“The individual stated he understood his rights, and said he was willing to talk to the agents but also stated that since he was in a new phase, he felt he should have an attorney present. The agents explained that due to his current situation, it was unknown when he would be able to have an attorney, and the individual stated that it was ok and that he is a patient man. The individual then asked whether when he saw the agents next with his attorney, would it be at his current location or somewhere else. The agents told him they were uncertain when they would see him again. No further questioning of the individual for law enforcement purposes has taken place.”

While fighting to get the habeas corpus case dismissed, the government is arguing that the ACLU cannot file on the citizen’s behalf because they haven’t had contact with him (while he has been detained in an unnamed place and hidden from basically everyone). The judge is having none of that mess, stating that since the government refuses to even release the name of the detained individual, their argument is pretty much null. The judge also informed the government that the ACLU is not just some random individual trying to insert themselves without any connection, saying, “This is what they do.”

The judge has scheduled a second hearing for December 8. While the government promises that it is “diligently” working toward a “final disposition” for this unnamed man, the judge asked:

“It’s been two and a half months — I’d like to know how long you think you get to do this to a U.S. citizen… Six months? A year? Basically, it’s just, ‘Trust us, we know what we’re doing.’”

In her final statement to the government, the judge offered an ominous statement:

“The government could snatch any U.S. citizen off the street and hold them as an enemy combatant… for as long as it took to come to some ‘final disposition.’ That kind of unchecked power is, quite frankly, frightening.”

While the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has seen the prisoner, it is not their job to find an attorney — they were merely granted access to make sure that the conditions the prisoner is being held in are in compliance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention. The government’s argument is based on the premise that allowing ICRC access has given the prisoner ample opportunity to seek legal guidance. Apples and oranges. The government is dead wrong on this and their treatment of an American citizen is appalling.

Featured image from CNN video screen grab