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Obama DOJ drops 'enemy combatant' classification, narrows scope of detention

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] dropped the term "enemy combatant" from its legal lexicon Friday while limiting the range of persons eligible to be held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Summarizing a memo [PDF text] submitted to the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the Department said in a press release that the new criterion for detention "does not rely on the President’s authority as Commander-in-Chief independent of Congress’s specific authorization" under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force [text] passed by Congress in September 2001. The AUMF authorized the use of force against nations, organizations, or persons the president determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the September 11 attacks, or harbored such organizations or persons. The Department also said the filing

draws on the international laws of war to inform the statutory authority conferred by Congress. It provides that individuals who supported al Qaeda or the Taliban are detainable only if the support was substantial. And it does not employ the phrase "enemy combatant."
Rights advocates had lobbied aggressively [JURIST comment] for the terminology change, which was effectuated as part of the Obama administration's general review of US detention policies, put in motion by a series of executive orders [JURIST report] issued in late January. The Justice Department said Friday that "further refinements of the government’s position" on detention might come as that review process continues.

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