updated 10/31/2008 9:09:24 PM ET 2008-11-01T01:09:24

A lower court should be able to resolve a challenge to President Bush's authority to detain the only suspected enemy combatant held on U.S. soil, the federal government said in a brief filed Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Solicitor General Gregory Garre wrote that a challenge by Ali al-Marri of his enemy combatant designation can be resolved in federal court in South Carolina, where he is detained. Recently, former generals and U.S. Justice Department officials filed briefs on his behalf exhorting the high court to review Bush administration authority to continue holding the Qatar native as an enemy combatant.

Al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident, has been held in solitary confinement at a U.S. Navy brig near Charleston since 2003. He was living in Illinois when he was arrested by the FBI in December 2001 as a material witness to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The government says federal agents found evidence that al-Marri, who was charged with credit card fraud in 2002, had links to al-Qaida terrorists and posed a national security threat. Authorities shifted his case from the criminal system and moved him to the military brig after he was declared an enemy combatant.

Al-Marri's attorneys have asked the high court to review an appeals court decision that the administration can detain anyone suspected of being an al-Qaida member. That request was supported in last week's briefs by former military generals and U.S. Justice Department officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. The court also ruled that such suspects must have an adequate opportunity to challenge their military detention.

One of al-Marri's attorneys urged the justices to hear his case, rejecting Garre's claims it can be settled by a lower court.

"The president's claim — that he can order the military to seize people living in the United States, including American citizens — and lock them up forever without trial abandons 230 years of tradition and defies the principles on which this country was founded," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The Supreme Court should grant review to make clear that in America, the president is not a king," said the lawyer, who is involved in the ACLU's National Security Project in New York.

The Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will take the case.

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