In a case that defense lawyers warned could create a “constitutional black hole,” a federal judge expressed exasperation Thursday at the U.S. government’s secret detention of an American citizen in Iraq for more than two months.
The American, who has not been publicly identified, allegedly fought for Islamic State in Syria and surrendered to a U.S.-backed militia on Sept. 14. He has not been charged or given access to a lawyer while in custody, as U.S. law normally requires.
For now, U.S. officials have designated the man as an “unlawful enemy combatant,” the status used for foreign suspects held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while the Trump administration tries to figure out how to handle his case.
“This is the nightmare scenario, where the government has locked up an American citizen in secret,” Jonathan Hafetz, a senior lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in court Thursday. The group has filed a habeas corpus petition, saying that holding an American without access to a lawyer is a violation of his constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen.
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