INGTON - The Obama administration has restricted the process under which a terror suspect can be held and dropped the phrase "enemy combatant" the other day.
In a statement, the US Justice Department said it had filed documents with the federal court in Washington setting up a new standard to underwrite the government's authority to hold detainees at the notorious Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) military prison.
The Bush administration had relied on the president's authority as commander in chief of the armed forces for such authority, without authorisation from Congress.
But the Justice Department said the new standard "draws on the international laws of war to inform the statutory authority conferred by Congress. It provides that individuals who supported al-Qaeda or the Taliban are detainable only if the support was substantial. And it does not employ the phrase 'enemy combatant.'"
A declaration by US Attorney General Eric Holder, also filed with the court, stated that the government is making an interagency review of detention policy for those captured in armed conflicts or counter-terrorism operations. The review will include individual evaluation of the status of each prisoner at Guantanamo.
A couple of hundred detainees are still at the prison inside the US Naval Base at Guantanamo, which President Barack Obama has said will be closed within a year.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it was "deeply troubling that the Justice Department continues to use an overly broad interpretation of the laws of war that would permit military detention of individuals who were picked up far from an actual battlefield or who didn't engage in hostilities against the United States."
"Once again, the Obama administration has taken a half-step in the right direction," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement. "The Justice Department's filing leaves the door open to modifying the government's position; it is critical that the administration promptly narrow the category for individuals who can be held in military detention so that the US truly comports with the laws of war and rejects the unlawful detention power of the past eight years."