WASHINGTON - The Justice Department's war on terrorism has drawn intense scrutiny from the left and the right. Now, a chief architect of the USA Patriot Act and a former top assistant to Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft are joining the fray, voicing concern about aspects of the administration's
At issue is the government's power to designate and detain "enemy combatants," in particular in the case of "dirty bomb" plot suspect Jose Padilla, the Brooklyn-born former gang member who was picked up at a Chicago airport 18 months ago by the FBI and locked in a military brig without access to a lawyer.
Civil liberties groups and others contend that Padilla - as an American citizen arrested in the U.S. - is being denied due process of law under the Constitution.
Viet Dinh, who until May headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, said in a series of recent speeches and in an interview with The Times that he thought the government's detention of Padilla was flawed and unlikely to survive court review.
The principal intellectual force behind the Patriot Act, the terror-fighting law enacted by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Dinh has steadfastly defended the Justice Department's anti-terrorism efforts against charges that they have led to civil-rights abuses of immigrants and others. While the Patriot Act does not speak to the issue of enemy combatants, his remarks still caught some observers by surprise...