Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross have met with a U.S. citizen held by the Pentagon at an undisclosed location as an enemy combatant.
The man was handed over to U.S. forces about three weeks ago by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-allied militia made up mostly of Kurds. His name has yet to be released. But the Associated Press reported last week, citing unnamed “senior U.S. officials,” that the American captive was being held at a detention site in Iraq, suggesting he was perhaps in Kurdistan. A Department of Defense spokesman declined to comment.
“The ICRC confirms that it has been able to visit a U.S. citizen, captured in Syria and currently held by the U.S. authorities,” spokesman Marc Kilstein said Monday evening. “In accordance with our confidential approach, we are not in a position to comment on the individual’s identity, location, or conditions of detention.”
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson added on Tuesday that the meeting took place on Friday, a day after the Department of Defense disclosed that it had formally notified the international humanitarian agency of the identity and whereabouts of the U.S. citizen captive.
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The Pentagon has declined to name the man, give his age, say where he is held or provide his place of birth — after initially disclosing the existence of the only known American citizen in U.S. military custody who is held as an Islamic State fighter. A Pentagon statement said he was handed over to U.S. forces “on or about Sept. 21” and described him as a “known enemy combatant.”
The capture has created a policy conundrum for the Trump administration.
In his campaign, President Donald Trump said he would load up Guantánamo with prisoners. But if the American is to be charged with a crime, he cannot go to Guantánamo, where by law only non-citizens can be tried by military commission. Moreover, if he were to be sent to the war-on-terror detention center in southeast Cuba, he could not be later sent to a federal court for prosecution under a different provision of U.S. law enacted during the Obama administration that prevents the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to U.S. soil.
On Friday, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, wrote Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, based on reports of a U.S. citizen in detention, “his ongoing military detention is unlawful as a matter of domestic law, and his constitutional rights to habeas corpus and to a lawyer must be respected.
“If the government has legitimate grounds to suspect the citizen fought with ISIS, he should immediately be transferred to the federal criminal justice system for criminal charges,” he added.
Romero also copied in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his correspondence. As of Monday, he had not received a response.