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In his first public comments about Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings limiting the government’s power to detain enemy combatants, U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft suggested that the due process demanded by the Court might be provided outside the civilian justice system. Asked if military tribunals might be one alternative, Ashcroft suggested that not all of what the Supreme Court identified as constitutional due process for individuals detained as enemy combatants would have to be “judicial processes.” Other processes, about which he declined to elaborate, “can be respective of rights,” he said. Ashcroft was in Atlanta Tuesday to meet with the Northern District of Georgia’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, a task force composed of local law enforcement officials and headed by the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. Ashcroft’s remarks focused on a warning that al-Qaida intends to strike somewhere in the United States this summer or fall. He also called for expansion of the USA Patriot Act. He briefly entertained questions about Monday’s Supreme Court rulings in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, No. 03-6696, and Rasul v. Bush, No. 03-334. Ashcroft said he was “pleased” that the Supreme Court had sustained presidential authority to detain enemy combatants, and he declined to characterize the decisions as a setback for the White House. “We are studying the decisions to make sure those powers are used appropriately,” he said. “The Court held that individuals detained by the U.S. have certain procedural rights. We are working to … determine how we will adjust our procedures.” Monday’s opinions overturned a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling affirming that uncharged enemy combatants who were American citizens could be detained indefinitely without federal judicial review. In a majority opinion in Hamdi, the Court concluded that, while Congress had authorized the detention of combatants in certain “narrow circumstances,” citizens must be given a meaningful opportunity to contest their detention before a neutral decision maker. The Court also reversed a D.C. Circuit ruling that had upheld the indefinite detention, without formal charges, of suspected enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In that case, the high court determined that federal courts have the jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of detaining foreign nationals captured abroad in the war on terrorism.

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