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U.S. moves to stop Hamdi meeting with lawyer

Hamdi, center, was captured last year during a prison uprising in Afghanistan.  

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

NORFOLK, Virginia (CNN) -- Government prosecutors late Friday asked a federal appeals court to grant an emergency stay to prevent the so-called second American Taliban from meeting with an attorney in his military cell Saturday.

The Justice Department asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to issue an emergency stay to block the meeting between U.S.-born terrorism suspect Yaser Esam Hamdi and court-appointed public defender Frank Dunham Jr.

A lower federal court in Norfolk this week rejected the government's arguments that an unmonitored jail cell meeting could represent a national security threat, and ruled the meeting could occur as early as noon Saturday.

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In its appeal, filed Friday evening, the government again cited national security concerns.

"The District Court's order is based on the unprecedented creation of a generalized right of immediate access to counsel by enemy combatants who are being detained by the military during the midst of the very hostilities that led to their capture," the government argued.

"This case directly involves the president's core constitutional functions as commander in chief in wartime: the capture, detention, and treatment of the enemy and the collection and evaluation of intelligence vital to the national security," the government appeal said.

In a series of requests contained in the stay order, the government also asks the stay be granted at least until the government has an opportunity to explain its reasons for wanting to keep Hamdi confined without private communications.

The prosecutors said "any contacts with outsiders may well interfere with the success of interrogation efforts."

"The military has determined that he should continue to be detained as an enemy combatant in accordance with the laws and customs of war," the government said.

Hamdi remains in military custody at the Norfolk Naval Station Brig at Norfolk.

His status is unique. He is the only U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan and brought to the United States, but not charged.

John Walker Lindh, the other "American Taliban," has been criminally charged in a civilian court.

Hamdi, born in Louisiana to parents born in Saudi Arabia, is in legal limbo because he has been declared an "enemy combatant."

He was transferred to the United States from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba because of his citizenship, but he remains in military hands while Justice Department lawyers decide whether they will file charges against him.




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