There was tremendous rejoicing in media/left circles when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals administered “a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration” (as one of the networks put it) by saying that suspected al Qaeda agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri could not be held as an enemy combatant. (He had been arrested on U.S. soil.)

One was left, reading the press, with the impression that the government might have some flimsy case against al-Marri. Now the Washington Post has done a full-scale story on the man whose civil rights were such a burning issue.

You have to have a high tolerance for the surreal to get through the Post piece-e.g.:

“Beneath the legal maneuvers are mysteries that Marri has never addressed:

“What was behind his travels between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the United States? What was the purpose of his computer research on hacking, and on how to buy and mix large quantities of chemicals into deadly hydrogen cyanide gas? Why did he possess more than 1,000 stolen credit card numbers? Does he have a connection to Dhiren Barot, the now-jailed British al-Qaeda leader who plotted to blow up buildings in the United States and England, and who may have inspired last month’s attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow?

“And was he rushing to the American heartland on Sept. 10, 2001, on orders “from Osama bin Laden, or to beat the cutoff date for college enrollment?”

Might I hazard a guess?

But the story is nevertheless brilliantly reported and full of chilling information.

I wonder how many lives the Bush administration has saved by keeping Al-Marri behind bars.

And those quotes in the Post headline? Thank the Fourth Circuit.