An unnamed American citizen is being detained in Iraq as an “enemy combatant,” and although the man has requested an attorney, the U.S. government is denying him his right to one, authorities say.
The American Civil Liberties Union reports that the man has been detained since September on allegations that he fought in Syria with the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS). The government has not provided any proof of its allegations against the man, the ACLU says, and both the Pentagon and the Justice Department have denied a request by the organization to offer legal assistance to the man.
After a habeas corpus petition was filed on the man’s behalf in Washington, D.C., a hearing took place Thursday. During that hearing, the judge asked an attorney for the Justice Department whether or not the man had been advised of his rights and whether he had asked for an attorney. The DOJ attorney told the judge that the Department of Defense had not released that information.
“You’re not answering my question, and I’m not trying to be impatient, but I’m growing impatient,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said after some back-and-forth. “I’m amazed you didn’t come to this hearing with that information.”
After the judge gave the Justice Department until 5 p.m. to provide an answer to her question, it was revealed that the man had been advised of his Miranda rights and that he had asked for an attorney.
Through the Justice Department filing, it was also revealed that the man has been interrogated by the FBI as well as other people, presumably for intelligence purposes.
From the filing:
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.
The ACLU has asked Judge Chutkan to order the government to ask the man whether or not he wants to challenge his detention in court and if he wants to be represented by the ACLU or have the court appoint other lawyers for him. The U.S. government opposes this and is continuing its efforts to get the case filed by the ACLU dismissed, arguing that since the ACLU has never met with the man, its attorneys do not have the standing to file on his behalf.
Judge Chutkan called that a circular argument and said the barrier was one of the government’s own making because it refuses to name the American citizen. In addition, she noted that the ACLU is not just some random person attempting to get involved in the case.
Another hearing in the case is set for Dec. 8.
“It’s been two-and-a-half months—I’d like to know how long you think you get to do this to a United States citizen ... six months? A year?” Chutkan asked. “Basically, it’s just, ‘Trust us, we know what we’re doing.’”
She later noted, “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.”
Read more at the ACLU.