The WaPo has a lengthy piece in today's paper about Ali al-Marri, 'the enemy combatant'. al-Marri is a Saudi / Qatar citizen arrested in Peoria Illinois in December 2001, for financial crimes, and eventually declared an 'enemy combatant' and held without trial ever since in a Navy brig in Charleston SC.
You may recall that on June 11, 2007, in al-Marri v. Wright, (pdf of decision) the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Military Commissions Act cannot deny al-Marri his constitutional right to a trial. The court ruled that al-Marri must be released from military detention and either freed or placed in US civilian detention where the federal government would have to charge him with crimes.
The WaPo article is an interesting read and makes a very good case for believing al-Marri was a key Al-Qaeda operative. The Government insists that al-Marri was sent to the US pre-Sept 11, to establish cover as a student with his wife and 5 children, and act as an entry point contact for Al-Qaeda operatives entering the US.
It's hard to read this piece and not conclude that the FBI / DoJ blew it in a huge way by picking this guy up when they did. If even half of the FBI's allegations are true, al-Marri would have been the key to uprooting much of Al-Qaeda's US operatives had they placed him under extremely tight surveillance, bugged his phones, etc. Instead, they panicked and swept him up before he could get fully set-up. In fairness, hindsight is alway 20/20 and we must recall what was going on at the FBI in the weeks and months after Sept 11, and the very real fear that another attack was immanent. But these guys are supposed to be pros....
Unfortunately, their panic in 2001 may result in this guy getting sent back to Qatar or Saudi Arabia, and not bungling or incompetence, but liberty will be blamed.
Read the article. It's fascinating. And tell us what you think in comments.