Terrorists in a Different Legal Category

The Bush administration is claiming that the old legal categories don’t work for suspected terrorists.

There are civilians, who can be prosecuted in ordinary courts, and soldiers, who can’t be prosecuted for fighting the enemy.

But the administration proposed a new category in 2001, that of “unlawful enemy combatant,” according to a column by Adam Liptak in the New York Times. The administration puts supporters of al-Qaida or the Taliban in that category, and claims it should be allowed to detain them indefinitely.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that approach on Monday, saying the president may not indefinitely detain a civilian arrested here on suspicion of terrorism.

Glenn M. Sulmasy, an international law professor at the Coast Guard Academy, told the Times that new approaches are needed to fight terrorism.

“It is a hybrid warrior we’re fighting in a hybrid war,” he said, “and it doesn’t fit neatly in the criminal justice structure or in the law-of-war structure.”

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