The last enemy combatant on American soil

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, better known to some as EC#2, lives in Charleston, S.C., spends his nights watching Jon Stewart (“the Jewish guy”) and Stephen Colbert because he’s not allowed to watch the news.

For the past five years his home, if you will, has been in the US Naval Consolidation Brig – an entire prison wing to himself.  A 32-inch widescreen television to watch the Jewish Guy, access to fitness equipment, a cell for sleeping, a cell he turned into his personal library, an area for entertaining guests and another he uses to house cleaning products.

You know, the norm for prisoners in the US, especially ones with vague ties to Osama bin Laden.

As the last enemy combatant being held prisoner on US soil, Marri’s conditions weren’t always so, well, nice.  He wasn’t always affectionately called “the Emir of the S.H.U.” by his lawyers.

Inside the Charleston brig, documents show, officials were ordered to follow the same rules as those at Guantánamo. Lustberg, however, says, “I’ve been to Guantánamo. Marri was far more isolated. He had no contact with any other detainees. Most days, he had no human contact at all.”

For the first six months, Marri was kept in an eight-foot-by-ten-foot cell with one blacked-out window, no social interaction, and nothing to do or to read. An internal report, declassified in 2005, showed that during this period the Department of Defense ordered the removal of the mattress, pillow, and Koran of a detainee in the brig. Marri was also deprived of visits from the Red Cross, in violation of international laws. He was denied hot food, and consistently felt cold: he was given no socks, and his bed had only a stiff “anti-suicide” blanket—one that cannot be made into a noose. Andrew Savage, the local counsel for Marri in Charleston, says, “It was a psychological effort to devalue him. He was going crazy. He thought the smells from the nearby paper mill were poisoning him.” At other points, Marri started feeling “tingles” all over, and began hallucinating that microphones had been installed in his cell. “He was getting delusional,” Savage said.

When unidentified interrogators finally showed up at the brig, Marri told them that he needed three things: a blanket, shoes, and socks. If he was given those, he said, he would talk to them in another six months. “He said, ‘You deprive me? I’ll deprive you,’ ” Savage said. Instead, “the interrogators got rougher.” Marri was chained in a fetal position on the floor. When he started to chant prayers rather than listen to the interrogators’ questions, Savage said, they tried to silence him by wrapping duct tape around his mouth. When he kept humming, they tried to gag him. But as they started to tape a sock in his mouth he began to choke, causing the agents to panic and stop. The episode was documented by closed-circuit surveillance cameras, Pentagon officials have confirmed.

Marri has never stood trial and probably never will.  Though his circumstances certainly seem suspect, his story makes it seem like he was a sleeper agent, there has never been definitive proof that he was a terrorist.

Luckily, his conditions got better.  What stands out in the article, besides him being the only “enemy combatant” being held prisoner on American soil, is how his story predicted that the Bush Administration would make a mockery of the Constitution.

On the morning of June 23, 2003, only days before Marri’s defense team was to make its arguments about suppressing the laptop and other evidence, one of his lawyers received a phone call informing him that a U.S. Attorney would be making an unexpected appearance at the courthouse that day. President Bush, the lawyers soon learned, had signed an executive order directing the military to seize Marri. “We should have seen it for what it was—the foreshadowing of an Administration that was going to forsake the Constitution in the war on terror,” Lawrence Lustberg, one of the earliest defense lawyers on what has come to be Marri’s team, said. “From then on, we didn’t see Marri or hear from him again until late 2004. He just went into the abyss.”

Much like the country.  It’s frightening to look back and realize that we just let it happen.  The citizens of the country were more than willing to stand by and let Bush and co. shred our government and everything that makes us American.

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