DOJ appears to reveal country where US is seeking to transfer American ISIS suspect

The Justice Department appeared to reveal the name of the country where the US is trying to transfer an American accu...

Posted: Apr 26, 2018 7:26 AM
Updated: Apr 26, 2018 7:26 AM

The Justice Department appeared to reveal the name of the country where the US is trying to transfer an American accused of fighting for ISIS in a court filing Tuesday afternoon.

The government last week was blocked by a DC district court judge from transferring the man, a dual US-Saudi national who has been held by the US military as an enemy combatant in Iraq since September, to a country with a "strong" and "sovereign interest."

While the government has been careful to redact the name of the country that agreed to receive the accused fighter, in a filing Tuesday appealing the district court's preliminary injunction, the government included the word "repatriate," suggesting that the country is Saudi Arabia.

"As the State Department has explained, '(w)hile (redacted) understands that delays may occur, it is vital diplomatically that the United States is able to follow through promptly on its commitment to repatriate this (redacted),' " the government wrote.

A filing submitted last week by the Justice Department included a signed statement from a State Department official with the same language as in Tuesday's filing, but with a line redacted where the words "to repatriate this" appeared in Tuesday's filing.

The government has written in past filings that it "protected the identity of countries" to which the man could be transferred "so as not to harm diplomatic discussions with those countries."

The Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday on the filing.

The ACLU, which is representing the unnamed American citizen, has brought rare judicial scrutiny onto the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the law that the government is relying on in part to justify the man's detention, and how it applies to ISIS, a group that did not exist when that statute was passed.

Justice Department attorney James Burnham said earlier this month in court that the government would likely move to dismiss the case as moot if the man is transferred out of US custody.

In its brief Tuesday, the government argued that district court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan had entered the block on the transfer "in error" because the ACLU had not met the requisite legal standards, and added that the block "is interfering with the State Department's ability to conduct international diplomacy and the US military's ability to relinquish custody of a detainee whom it no longer wishes to detain."

The ACLU said in its own brief to the appeals court that the block on the transfer was proper and asked the court to reaffirm it.

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