Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a law empowering the president to use all appropriate and necessary force against anyone suspected of engaging of terrorism against the United States. Soon after, the president ordered U.S. military forces into Afghanistan.
Yaser Hamdi (defendant) was seized in Afghanistan and held on suspicion of involvement with the Taliban. Hamdi was interrogated by military officials before being transferred to the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There, officials learned that Hamdi was an American citizen.
Hamdi’s father petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus on Hamdi’s behalf, arguing that Hamdi’s detention violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The government asserted that Hamdi was an “enemy combatant” and could be held indefinitely without formal charges or proceedings.
The U.S. Supreme Court took up the question of whether Hamdi’s detention was constitutional, and a sharply divided Court ultimately concluded that a U.S. citizen was entitled to an opportunity to contest the factual basis for his detention before a neutral decision-maker as a matter of due process.
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), is now included in numerous law school casebooks as one of the most important modern cases construing the nature of executive authority and separation of powers.
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