Liberty Planet Weblog

Obama sidesteps US terror suspect law

Posted on: March 1, 2012

Barack Obama, the US president, has announced measures that would allow civilian investigators to handle cases of terror suspects.

The new steps are seen as a means of sidestepping the 2011 law that requires terrorism suspects to be brought before military courts.

Tuesday’s directive provides more flexibility to the president in deciding whether or not to use military tribunals to try foreign terror suspects, and is likely to upset members of the US Congress who included the rule in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

The changes include situations in which the FBI, not the military, would be allowed to retain custody of al-Qaeda terrorist suspects who are not US citizens but are arrested by federal law enforcement officers.

The new White House issued rules are the result of a December compromise between the Obama administration and a majority of Republicans and some Democrats who wanted a bigger military role and a reduced role for civilian courts in terrorism-related cases.

The new law that emerged requires military custody for non-US citizen members of al-Qaeda or “associated forces” involved in planning or attempting an attack on the United States or coalition partners, unless the president waives that provision.

The new rules outlined seven circumstances in which the president could place a suspect in FBI, rather than military, custody.

Military custody could be waived when it would impede counterterror cooperation with another government or when it could interfere with efforts to secure an individual’s cooperation or confession.

Other exceptions to military custody include: when a legal permanent resident of the US is arrested inside the country, military custody could interfere with efforts to conduct a trial, an individual is arrested by state or local authorities and transferred to federal custody, among others.



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