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Setback for Bush: High Court Agrees to Hear Hamdi Case

The Bush Administration suffered another setback today in its persistent legal fiction that it can hold American citizens indefinitely, without criminal charges and without access to a lawyer by unilaterally declaring them to be "enemy combatants": The Supreme Court today agreed to hear the case of Yaser Hamdi--over the objections of the Administration:

Over the administration's objections, the court said it will consider the treatment of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a suspected Taliban foot soldier held at a U.S. naval brig in South Carolina. The government calls Hamdi an "enemy combatant" and says he is ineligible for ordinary legal protections.

Hamdi's case (and that of Jose Padilla, whose case may also be taken up) "raise basic legal and constitutional questions about the breadth of executive power and the rights of terror suspects to defend themselves in court."

....The Bush administration has maintained that it alone has the power to designate someone an enemy combatant - and that the label means a detainee can be held in open-ended military custody without access to courts, lawyers and sometimes family or other outsiders.

...."The court has really drawn a line in the sand," said Deborah Pearlstein, a lawyer and national security specialist at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, which has been a frequent Bush administration critic. "It is recognizing that, yes, the executive has some wartime powers, but they are not unlimited."

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