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US Supreme Court to Rule on Foreign Abductions - 2003-12-01

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review whether American law enforcement agents can legally abduct people from other countries wanted for crimes in the United States. The ruling could have a direct impact on the war on terrorism.

The nation's top court will be taking on a case dating back to 1985, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration hired Mexican bounty hunters to seize and bring to the United States a Mexican doctor charged in the torture and death of an American DEA agent working in that country. It did so after the Mexican government refused U.S. requests to cooperate.

Mexico called the kidnapping a violation of its sovereignty, and a U.S. appeals court later ruled the DEA had no authority to instigate it. The nine Supreme Court justices will now decide whether the U.S. government has the right to go after a suspect wanted in the United States, if the host government refuses to cooperate.

Bush administration lawyer Theodore Olson argues a ruling against the government would jeopardize U.S. efforts to arrest people, including al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who may be involved in terrorist attacks against the United States, and hiding out in other countries. He also says such a ruling would place America's allies in the war on terrorism at risk by allowing lawsuits to be brought against them as well.

A ruling in the case is expected by July.