The justices said they would consider the appeal from Yaser Esam Hamdi, whom the U.S. government has labeled an enemy combatant ineligible for ordinary legal protections and a danger to the United States.
Hamdi’s case tests the legal and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens captured in the U.S.-led war or terrorism, and raises questions about the balance between security and liberty. (Related story)
It is the second major terrorism-related case the high court will hear this term.
Friday’s announcement by the Supreme Court is another in a recent series of legal setbacks for the Bush administration in terrorism cases. The White House had strongly urged the high court to stay out of the Hamdi case, or delay it pending an appeal in the similar case of another U.S.-born terrorism suspect.
Last month appeals courts in San Francisco and New York issued rulings that challenged the Bush administration’s authority with alleged enemy combatants. (2nd U.S. Circuit ruling) (9th U.S. Circuit ruling)
In November the Supreme Court agreed to hear two appeals over whether hundreds of terrorist suspects in secret custody are being held unlawfully. (Full story)
Parents of four detainees brought the first appeal accepted by the high court in November. Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal are British citizens, and David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib are from Australia. Hicks is one of six detainees President Bush has recommended face military tribunals.
Hamdi’s attorney had argued his client had a right to hear any charges against him in a U.S. civil court. He was captured in 2001 on the battlefield in Afghanistan. He was initially held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but later was transferred to a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Pentagon said recently it had finished its interrogation of Hamdi and had agreed to allow a federal public defender to meet with him for the first time.
The administration won its argument in a lower court that Hamdi may be held indefinitely and without the usual legal rights due to U.S. citizens, and wanted that ruling to stand.