Judge: Obama gets chance to weigh in on detainees


WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge has decided to give the Obama administration time to weigh in on some of the legal cases brought by terror detainees held by the United States, and the Supreme Court has granted a delay in the case of an alleged terrorist sleeper agent.

U.S. District Judge John Bates gave the new president and his Justice Department until February to tell him whether they want to change the government’s position on the definition of “enemy combatant.” Prisoners from U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan are challenging their detention as so-called enemy combatants in federal court.

“The new presidential administration may wish to review the government’s current position regarding the appropriate definition of ‘enemy combatant’ to be used in these and other habeas cases,” Bates said Thursday.

The Obama administration has until Feb. 9 to weigh in on Guantanamo Bay cases and Feb. 20 to step in on cases involving detainees at Bagram Airfield.

President Barack Obama on Thursday issued several executive orders reining in secretive U.S. counterterror policies and ending harsh interrogations.

Bates said those orders indicate “significant changes to the government’s approach to the detention, and review of detention, of individuals currently held at Guantanamo Bay. A different approach could impact the court’s analysis of certain issues central to the resolutions of (Bagram Airfield) cases as well.”

The Supreme Court also granted the administration a month’s delay in the case of alleged al-Qaida sleeper agent Ali al-Marri, the only person being held as an enemy combatant in the United States.

Obama has directed the Justice Department to review al-Marri’s case. Lawyers for the Qatar native agreed to the delay.