Due Process Rights of Enemy Combatant, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (amicus) 

Yaser Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan as a member of the Taliban, and was detained for a time at Guantanamo Bay. After it was learned that he was born in Louisiana, and therefore may be a U.S. citizen, he was transferred to Norfolk, where he has remained detained incommunicado. The federal public defender filed a habeas petition on behalf of Hamdi. The government claims that Hamdi is an “enemy combatant,” and therefore has no right to counsel or access to the courts. 

As evidence of Hamdi’s enemy combatant status, the government has produced nothing more than a short affidavit by a State Department official with no first-hand knowledge about Hamdi. The government argues that they should not have to produce anything more than that, and that the court’s should defer to the executive branch’s determination of enemy combatant status. The district court held that the affidavit was insufficient to show that Hamdi was an enemy combatant, and ordered the government to produce more information. The government appealed, and the issue went to the Fourth Circuit. We and the national office filed an amicus brief in support of Hamdi’s contention that the government may not take away all of a citizen’s constitutional rights by simply designating him an enemy combatant. Oral arguments were held in Fourth Circuit on October 28, 2002.

On January 8, 2003, the Fourth Circuit ruled that Hamdi was legally detained, and dismissed his petition. A petition for rehearing en banc was subsequently filed and rejected. On January 9, 2004, the Supreme Court granted Hamdi’s petition for certiorari. We and National filed a brief in the Supreme Court on February 20, 2004, and arguments were heard on April 28. On June 28, the Supreme Court held that due process required that United States citizen being held as enemy combatant be given meaningful opportunity to contest factual basis for his detention.

Court Documents

Decision, June 28, 2004- U.S. Supreme Court  (pdf)
Brief Amicus Curiae of ACLU- U.S. Supreme Court (pdf)
Brief Amicus Curiae of ACLU and ACLU of Virginia- U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit (pdf)


Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia; Steve Shapiro, Lucas Gutentag, Arthur Eisenberg, Robin Goldfaden, National ACLU

Date filed

October 25, 2002


U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit