Trump administration struggles to deal with US enemy combatant


The Trump administration is weighing how to proceed with a U.S. citizen it has held as an enemy combatant since September in a unusual case that could threaten the legal underpinnings of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The man, known only as John Doe, has presented a difficult case for the administration since he was first picked up by Syrian Democratic Forces as an alleged ISIS fighter and turned over to the U.S. eight months ago.

Officials believe they lack sufficient useable evidence to try him in court, but for security reasons, are loathe to simply release him.

A D.C. appeals court on Monday blocked the government from transferring Doe to Saudi Arabia, where he also holds citizenship, further limiting the administration’s options and raising the possibility that the Trump administration could take the case to the Supreme Court.

The administration is also bracing for a possible ruling by a separate federal judge that the government lacks the authority to detain Doe in the first place. It’s unclear when this decision will come down, but it could mark the first time the courts have weighed in on the controversial legal rationale that both the Trump and Obama administrations have used to justify the use of force against ISIS.

The Justice Department said this week that it is “reviewing [the appeals court] decision and considering our next steps.”

“Both domestic and international law confer on the U.S. military broad discretion over battlefield operations, including the transfer of individuals captured on overseas battlefields,” it said.

In the meantime, Doe remains in U.S. military custody in Iraq, where he is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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