WASHINGTON (CN) - Having triggered a federal judge’s fury earlier Thursday, prosecutors assured the court this evening that a U.S. citizen captured on the Islamic State battlefield has been informed of his right to an attorney.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a 5 p.m. deadline from the bench this afternoon at a hearing over the status of an American whom the government has classified as an enemy combatant after capturing him allegedly fighting on behalf of the Islamic State group around Sept. 14.
Though the man’s name, age and precise location remain under wrap by the government, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed a petition for habeas corpus on Oct. 5 as his next friend. The group wants the court to allow attorneys to meet with the American, advise him of his rights and provide him with legal representation if he wants it.
In a 3-page response to Judge Chutkan's order, filed at 5 p.m. on the dot, Justice Department attorney Kathryh Wyer revealed that the accused combatant has asked for an attorney but also agreed to speak to FBI agents.
"The individual stated he understood his rights, and said he was willing to talk to the agents but also stated that since he was in a new phase, he felt he should have an attorney present," the filing states.
At this morning’s hearing, ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz cited an Oct. 29 report by Washington Post, attributed to anonymous sources, that says the man was read his Miranda rights after refusing to speak to interrogators and has demanded an attorney.
Chutkan expressed concern at the hearing about the suspect’s access to counsel, but Wyer repeatedly refused at the hearing to give a direct answer on this point.
Insisting that the ACLU doesn't have standing to bring the case, Wyer argued that the question of whether the American has been advised of his constitutional rights is irrelevant.
An impatient Chutkan asked Wyer several times to clarify this argument.
"That would be a very extraordinary position indeed," Chutkan said.
Wyer said she would need to consult with the Department of Defense before saying whether the man was informed of his constitutional right to an attorney, and whether he had invoked that right.
Though the judge called herself an "avid reader" of the Post, she declined to speculate about the newspaper’s Oct. 29 article, saying that she wants to rely on statements from counsel instead.