No more ‘enemy combatants’

NO MORE ‘ENEMY COMBATANTS’…. I just got back to my desk and haven’t been able to dig into this in any meaningful way, but this seems like a development that could have significant practical implications.

The Obama Administration today dropped the term “enemy combatant” to describe those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and increased the legal threshold needed to detain them.

The Justice Department disclosed the move in a court filing in response to a federal judge’s order seeking a definition of the term “enemy combatant.”

Judges have said the definition will play a key role in determining whether the government has justified the confinement of scores of detainees who are challenging their status in U.S. District Court.

In a break with the Bush Administration’s policies, the Justice Department said it would only seek to detain those who “substantially supported” the Taliban, Al Qaeda or associated forces or participated in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Bush Administration had argued it could detain those who provided support to those groups and others “engaged in hostilities” against the United States and its allies.

The Justice Department did not define “substantially supported” in the court papers but said the term would not include those who “provide unwitting or insignificant support” to terror groups. “The particular facts and circumstances justifying detention will vary from case to case,” they wrote.

Though dropping the term “enemy combatant” will have little practical effect, it is a symbolic move by the Obama Administration to break with the past.

There’s an AP report with additional details, and Adam Serwer has some initial analysis.