Critics of his imprisonment claimed his civil rights were violated and that he was denied due process of law under the U.S. Constitution, including imprisonment without formal charges and denial of legal representation.
In June 2004, the United States Supreme Court rejected the U.S. government's attempts to detain Hamdi indefinitely without trial.
The Department of Defense exhausted all its courses of legal appeal and was forced to comply with a court order to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, and release the identity of all the captives taken in the war on terror held in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps. The DoD missed the court order's deadline of March 3 2006, but finally released an official list of the captive's names on May 15 2006. On that list Hamdi's name is spelled Himdy Yasser. His Guantanamo detainee ID number is 009. The DoD reports he was born on November 17 1979, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Among the surrendering Taliban forces, some non-Afghan fighters, known as Afghan Arabs, instigated a prison riot among the 600 prisoners by detonating grenades they had concealed in their clothing, attacking Northern Alliance guards and seizing weapons. An American CIA operative interviewing prisoners, Mike Spann, was killed, becoming the first U.S. combat fatality during the invasion. The prison uprising was quashed after a three-day barrage of rockets and heavy gunfire from U.S. AC-130 gunships and Black Hawk helicopters. About 50 Northern Alliance soldiers and more than 500 Taliban prisoners were killed during the prison uprising. Two American prisoners, Hamdi and John Walker Lindh, were among the survivors.
Armed with the federal appeals court finding, the Bush administration refused Hamdi a lawyer until December 2003 at which time The Pentagon announced that Hamdi would be allowed access to counsel because his intelligence value had been exhausted and that giving him a lawyer would not harm national security. The announcement said the decision "should not be treated as a precedent" for other cases in which the government had designated U.S. citizens as "illegal enemy combatants". (José Padilla is the only other U.S. citizen known to be imprisoned by the U.S. government as an "illegal enemy combatant"). Frank Dunham, Hamdi’s lawyer, was allowed to meet with Hamdi for the first time in December 2003, more than two years after Hamdi was incarcerated. Under guidelines drafted by Pentagon lawyers, military observers attended and recorded the meetings between Dunham and Hamdi, and Dunham was not allowed to discuss with Hamdi the conditions of his confinement. [Mr. Hamdi actually met his lawyers for the first time in February 2004. After that initial meeting, Hamdi was allowed to have confidential discussions with his attorneys without military observers or video or audio taping in a room at the Navy Brig in Charleston, South Carolina.]
Hamdi's father petitioned a federal court for Hamdi's rights to know the crime(s) he is accused of, and to receive a fair trial before imprisonment. The case was eventually decided by United States Supreme Court.
In April 2004, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Hamdi's case (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld), embracing the basic rights of U.S. citizens to due process protections, and rejecting the administration's claim that its war-making powers overrode constitutional liberties.
In October 2008 91 pages memos drafted in 2002 by officers at the Naval Consolidated Brig, Charleston became public. The memos indicate that officers were concerned that the isolation and lack of stimuli was driving Yasser Hamdi, José Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri insane.
Some supporters of the government's right to detain Hamdi indefinitely argued that he had renounced his citizenship by virtue of enlisting in a foreign army. The Center for American Unity brief argued that Hamdi was never actually a United States citizen, despite his birth in the U.S. Their brief argued that the policy of birthright citizenship is based on a flawed interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The American Bar Association; American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Committee, Trial Lawyers For Public Justice, and Union For Reform Judaism filing jointly; the Cato Institute; Experts on the Law of War; Certain Former Prisoners of War; Global Rights; Hon. Nathaniel R. Jones, Hon. Abner J. Mikva, Hon. William A. Norris, Hon. H. Lee Sarokin, Hon. Herbert J. Stern, Hon. Harold R. Tyler, Jr., Scott Greathead, Robert M. Pennoyer, and Barbara Paul Robinson filing jointly; International Humanitarian Organizations and Associations Of International Journalists filing jointly; and a group of international law professors filing jointly submitted amici curiæ briefs to the court on behalf of Hamdi.
Opponents of the U.S. government's detention without trial of U.S. citizens argued that the practice violated numerous constitutional safeguards and protections, as well as international conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory.
"An interrogation by one's captor, however effective an intelligence-gathering tool, hardly constitutes a constitutionally adequate fact-finding before a neutral decision-maker," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The U.S. Supreme Court opinion reasserted the rule of law in American society: "It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our nation's commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad."
Justice O'Connor added, "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."
The Supreme Court decision in Hamdi did not say that the government cannot detain enemy combatants: it can detain enemy combatants for the length of hostilities. However, they must give some sort of due process for determining their status as an enemy combatant. Although Congress has recognized the existence of the Pentagon's administrative procedure, the CSRT, the Supreme Court has not recognized it as providing due process.
The Bush administration claimed that U.S. law does not apply to "illegal enemy combatants" and, furthermore, the Bush administration asserted the right to decide which U.S. citizens are "enemy combatants," ineligible for protection of their rights as enshrined in the United States Constitution.
Some legal scholars hailed the Supreme Court decision as the most important civil rights opinion in a half-century and a dramatic reversal of the sweeping authority asserted by the White House after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Though Hamdi renounced his U.S. citizenship, it is unclear under these circumstances if the renunciation was "voluntary" as required by the Supreme Court's decisions in Afroyim v. Rusk and Vance v. Terrazas, especially since the U.S. presently holds that formal renunciations are only valid if made before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer outside the U.S. If Hamdi ever tries to reclaim his U.S. citizenship, his renunciation may thus be subject to challenge before a U.S. court.
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