US Drops Term 'Enemy Combatant'

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 13, 2009 6:19 PM CDT
Attorney General Eric Holder signs autographs at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, after making remarks commemorating African American History Month.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
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(Newser) – The Obama administration said today it is abandoning one of President Bush's key phrases in the war on terrorism: enemy combatant, the AP reports. The Justice Department said in legal filings that it will no longer use the term to justify holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But that won't change much for the detainees at the US naval base in Cuba—President Obama still asserts the military's authority to hold them.

Despite criticisms that the change is mere window dressing, there are some changes in legal principles in Obama's stance. The DoJ said authority to hold detainees comes from Congress and the international laws of war, not from the president's own wartime power, as Bush had argued. And the DoJ said prisoners can only be detained if their support for al-Qaida, the Taliban or "associated forces" was "substantial."