Pentagon Transfers Al-Marri Into Custody of US Marshals

By Lindsey Ellerson

Mar 10, 2009 9:12am

Suspected Al Qaeda sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri was transferred from Pentagon custody into that of the U.S Marshals this morning.

This morning Al-Marri was served with an arrest warrant this morning at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, SC. At 10 am this morning, he will make his first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert S. Carr in federal court in response to the two-count indictment charging al-Marri with providing material support to al-Qaeda and conspiring with others to do the same.

Arrested in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001, Al-Marri — a native of Qatar — has been held as an "enemy combatant" in solitary confinement in that Navy brig since June 2003. Until the end of February, no charges had been brought against him.

Almost immediately after taking office, President-elect Obama made moves to follow through on his campaign promise on the matter of whether a U.S. president can hold a civilian in military detention indefinitely without filing any charges against him. As a candidate, Obama said that he rejected "the Bush administration’s claim, that the president has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants." Complicating the matter, Al-Marri is not a U.S. citizen, though he was in the U.S. legally.

The U.S. government alleges in court papers that Al-Marri "was directed by al Qaeda leaders to enter the U.S. before Sept. 11, 2001, to serve as a sleeper agent, facilitate terrorist activities subsequent to Sept. 11 and explore computer hacking methods to disrupt bank records and the U.S. financial system."

But it’s unclear that any evidence supporting those charges would be admissible in a U.S. court. Some of the evidence comes from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, who provided information under conditions that include waterboarding.

"After 87 months of extraordinary incarceration, Mr. Al-Marri looks forward to his first court appearance since being transferred to the Consolidated Naval Brig Charleston in June of 2003," said his attorney, Andrew Savage. "Starting tomorrow he will employ the most fundamental rights granted to all citizens and lawful residents of the United States in his review of the charges contained in the  indictment and the Government’s evidence against him. He believes that this will result in his repatriation to his homeland and return to his family, a goal that he has pursued for more than seven years."

– Jake Tapper and Jason Ryan

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