"Dirty bomb" suspect urged Supreme Court to consider terror suspect appeal

"Dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla has asked the Supreme Court to limit the U.S. government's power to hold him and other U.S. terror suspects indefinitely and without charges. The case of Padilla, who has been in custody more than three years, presents a major test of the Bush administration's wartime authority. The former gang member is accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive device.

By then, one Bush justice will be on the bench, and a second could be on the way. John Roberts replaced the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist who died in September. Bush named Harriet Miers to succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, but on Thursday Miers withdrew her nomination, the AP reports.

Padilla's case has sharply divided the courts. A federal judge in South Carolina ordered the government to either charge him or release him from detention. However, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that the president has the power to use military detentions for Americans "closely associated with al-Qaida, an entity with which the United States is at war."

Officials contend Padilla received weapons and explosives training from al-Qaida and planned an attack with a type of "dirty bomb." The New York-born convert to Islam was one of just two U.S. citizens held as enemy combatants. The second, Louisiana native Yaser Hamdi, who has Saudi parents, was released a year ago after the government said he no longer posed a threat to the United States and no longer had any intelligence value. A.M.

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