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Judge wants more government information on Hamdi

Hamdi, center, was captured in Afghanistan and declared an
Hamdi, center, was captured in Afghanistan and declared an "enemy combatant."  

From Kevin Bohn
CNN Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. District Court judge on Friday ordered the U.S. government to produce more information about how it came to classify Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen who fought with the Taliban, as an enemy combatant.

Judge Robert Doumar set a deadline of next Wednesday for government prosecutors to produce information on the criteria used and who made the determination. The government so far has given the court only limited information about Hamdi's classification.

Hamdi is being held in a Navy brig in Norfolk, Virginia, though he has not been charged with any crime. His father has filed suit trying to force the government to allow his son access to a public defender.

"While it is clear that the executive [branch] is entitled to deference regarding military designations of individuals, it is equally clear the judiciary is entitled to a meaningful judicial review of those designations when they substantially infringe on the individual liberties, guaranteed by the United States Constitution, of American citizens," Doumar wrote in his ruling.

Doumar has previously ordered the government to produce more justification for classifying Hamdi as an enemy combatant and said Hamdi should be able to see a lawyer.

Read key documents in the case (FindLaw) (PDF) 
Order: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (Aug. 16, 2002) 
Opinion: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld 
Gov't brief to 4th Circuit: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, et al. 

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An appeals court has narrowed the scope of Doumar's power to oversee the case, and has said Hamdi does not have the right to see a lawyer but that the lower court can look into why he was classified as an enemy combatant.

Among the issues Doumar said he was trying to determine was whether the executive branch had the right to make the classification; whether the designation of enemy combatant violated Hamdi's constitutional right of due process; and on what basis Hamdi's continued detention without charges serves the national interest.

"While the executive may very well be correct that Hamdi is an enemy combatant whose rights have not been violated, the court is unwilling on the spare facts before it to find so at this time on the basis" of the declaration provided to the court so far, Doumar said in his order. "Therefore it is necessary to obtain the additional facts requested."

The order to produce more information comes after a contentious hearing earlier this week in which the government failed to answer many of Doumar's questions. Doumar said that because of the national security concerns involved, any materials produced by the government would be kept under seal.

After being captured last fall in Afghanistan, Hamdi was sent to Guantanamo Bay along with other detainees from the Afghan campaign. He was transferred to U.S. soil last April after investigators came to believe Hamdi was an American citizen.

Hamdi was born in Louisiana to Saudi Arabian natives who then took their son back to Saudi Arabia while he was still a youngster.

"The Justice Department is reviewing the order of the District Court, and will consider all appropriate options," Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said in a statement.

Public defender Frank Dunham, who is trying to meet with Hamdi, told CNN he is pleased with the court's order but called it only a "baby step" because "we think he should have the opportunity" to see a lawyer.

"What is needed is a giant step," Dunham said.




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