What is an 'enemy combatant', and is NYC terror suspect Saipov one?

Suspect in recent New York terror attack could be labeled an enemy combatant and could be held without charge or trial.

PHOENIX – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in this week’s attack in New York, should be labeled enemy combatant, a term that hasn’t been used since President George W. Bush was in office.

But what does "enemy combatant" mean?

"He would be treated the same way as someone, for instance, we captured as prisoner of war,” said retired United States Air Force Brig. Gen. Terry Woods.

Woods is an attorney practicing in the Phoenix area now.

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He said it is not common to label a suspect an enemy combatant for something that happened on U.S. soil, but it's not unheard of.

The declaration would take away some of Saipov's rights.

"The government can hold him without charging him with a crime, without giving him access to a lawyer,” said Woods. “The government can interview him to try and obtain intelligence information from him."

Who knows what kind of intel he may have, but it would be done in a place like Guantanamo Bay.

"In a nutshell, he'll get more due process as a criminal than he would as an enemy combatant," Woods said.

Whether it's fair is open for debate.

But Woods said he doesn't think Saipov will get much sympathy from the public.

"The Constitutional right is to a fair trial, not a sympathetic trial,” he said.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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