File:Yasser Hamdi in Afghanistan.jpg

Yaser Esam Hamdi (born September 26, 1980) is a former American citizen who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. It is claimed by the U.S. government that he was fighting against U.S. and Afghan Northern Alliance forces with the Taliban. He was named by the Bush administration as an "illegal enemy combatant", and detained for almost three years without receiving any charges.

He was initially detained at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was later transferred to military jails in Virginia and South Carolina after it became known that he was a U.S. citizen.

Critics of his imprisonment claimed his civil rights were violated and that he was denied due process of law under the U.S. Constitution, including imprisonment without formal charges and denial of legal representation.

On June 28, 2004, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the United States Supreme Court rejected the U.S. government's attempts to detain Hamdi indefinitely without trial.

On September 23, 2004, the United States Justice Department released Hamdi to Saudi Arabia on the condition that he give up his U.S. citizenship.

Identity confusionEdit

The Department of Defense exhausted all its courses of legal appeal and was forced to comply with a court order to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, and release the identity of all the captives taken in the war on terror held in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps. The DoD missed the court order's deadline of March 3, 2006, but finally released an official list of the captive's names on May 15, 2006. On that list Hamdi's name is spelled Himdy Yasser. His Guantanamo Internment Serial Number was 9. The DoD reports he was born on November 17, 1979, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Early yearsEdit

According to his birth certificate, Hamdi was born to Saudi Arabian parents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on September 26, 1980.[1] As a child, he left the U.S. with his parents to live in Saudi Arabia.[2] According to the Charleston Post and Courier Hamdi ran away from home and trained at a Taliban camp. They reported he only spent a few weeks at the camp, "where he quickly became disillusioned".


In late November 2001, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Hamdi was captured by Afghan Northern Alliance forces in Konduz, Afghanistan, along with hundreds of surrendering Taliban fighters who were then sent to the Qala-e-Jangi prison complex near Mazari Sharif.

Among the surrendering Taliban forces, Afghan Arabs instigated a prison riot by detonating grenades they had concealed in their clothing, attacking Northern Alliance guards and seizing weapons. The prison uprising was quashed after a three-day battle which included heavy airsupport from U.S. AC-130 gunships and Black Hawk helicopters. One American was killed and 9 were injured along with about 50 Northern Alliance soldiers. Between 200 to 400 Taliban prisoners were killed during the prison uprising. Two American prisoners, Hamdi and John Walker Lindh, were among the survivors.

Hamdi surrendered on the second day of fighting, with a group of 73 surviving prisoners after Coalition forces began flooding the underground basements where the remaining prisoners had hidden themselves. American officer Matthew Campbell approached him, demanding to know his origin, to which Hamdi replied "I was born in America... Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you know it, yeah?".[3]

Armed with the federal appeals court finding, the Bush administration refused Hamdi a lawyer until December 2003 at which time The Pentagon announced that Hamdi would be allowed access to counsel because his intelligence value had been exhausted and that giving him a lawyer would not harm national security. The announcement said the decision "should not be treated as a precedent" for other cases in which the government had designated U.S. citizens as "illegal enemy combatants". (José Padilla is the only other U.S. citizen known to be imprisoned by the U.S. government as an "illegal enemy combatant"). Frank Dunham, Hamdi’s lawyer, was allowed to meet with Hamdi for the first time in December 2003, more than two years after Hamdi was incarcerated. Under guidelines drafted by Pentagon lawyers, military observers attended and recorded the meetings between Dunham and Hamdi, and Dunham was not allowed to discuss with Hamdi the conditions of his confinement. [Mr. Hamdi actually met his lawyers for the first time in February 2004. After that initial meeting, Hamdi was allowed to have confidential discussions with his attorneys without military observers or video or audio taping in a room at the Navy Brig in Charleston, South Carolina.]

Hamdi's father petitioned a federal court for Hamdi's rights to know the crime(s) he is accused of, and to receive a fair trial before imprisonment. The case was eventually decided by United States Supreme Court.

In January 2004, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Hamdi's case (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld), embracing the basic rights of U.S. citizens to due process protections, and rejecting the administration's claim that its war-making powers overrode constitutional liberties.

2002 memosEdit

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Shortly after September 26, 2002, a Gulfstream jet carrying David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, John Rizzo, William Haynes II, two Justice Department lawyers, Alice S. Fisher and Patrick F. Philbin, and the Office of Legal Counsel's Jack Goldsmith flew to Camp Delta to view Mohammed al-Kahtani, then to Charleston, South Carolina to view Jose Padilla, and finally to Norfolk, Virginia to view Hamdi.[4]

Upon viewing Hamdi curled in a fetal position in his cell, Goldsmith wrote "it seemed unnecessary to hold a twenty-two year old foot soldier in a remote wing of a run-down prison in a tiny cell, isolated from almost all human contact, and with no access to a lawyer".[4]

There were 91 pages of 2002 memos drafted by officers at the Naval Consolidated Brig, Charleston, which did not become public until six years later.[5][6] The memos indicate that officers were concerned that the isolation and lack of stimuli was driving Yasser Hamdi, José Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri insane.

U.S. Supreme Court amici curiæ briefsEdit

Twelve U.S. Supreme Court amici curiæ briefs were filed in the Hamdi case, including three in support of the U.S. government and nine on behalf of Hamdi. Supporters of the U.S. government's position included the American Center for Law and Justice; Citizens for the Common Defence; filing jointly, the Washington Legal Foundation, U.S. Representatives Joe Barton, Walter Jones, and Lamar Smith, and Allied Educational Foundation [5]; and, also filing jointly, the Center for American Unity, Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement, National Center on Citizenship and Immigration, and U.S. Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Smith, Tom Tancredo, Roscoe Bartlett, Mac Collins, Joe Barton, and John Duncan.

Some supporters of the government's right to detain Hamdi indefinitely argued that he had renounced his citizenship by virtue of enlisting in a foreign army. The Center for American Unity brief argued that Hamdi was never actually a United States citizen, despite his birth in the U.S. Their brief argued that the policy of birthright citizenship is based on a flawed interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. [6]

The American Bar Association; American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Committee, Trial Lawyers For Public Justice, and Union For Reform Judaism filing jointly; the Cato Institute; Experts on the Law of War; Certain Former Prisoners of War; Global Rights; Hon. Nathaniel R. Jones, Hon. Abner J. Mikva, Hon. William A. Norris, Hon. H. Lee Sarokin, Hon. Herbert J. Stern, Hon. Harold R. Tyler, Jr., Scott Greathead, Robert M. Pennoyer, and Barbara Paul Robinson filing jointly; International Humanitarian Organizations and Associations Of International Journalists filing jointly; and a group of international law professors filing jointly submitted amici curiæ briefs to the court on behalf of Hamdi. [7].

Opponents of the U.S. government's detention without trial of U.S. citizens argued that the practice violated numerous constitutional safeguards and protections, as well as international conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory.

U.S. Supreme Court decision Edit

On June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court issued a decision repudiating the U.S. government's unilateral assertion of executive authority to suspend constitutional protections of individual liberty.

"An interrogation by one's captor, however effective an intelligence-gathering tool, hardly constitutes a constitutionally adequate fact-finding before a neutral decision-maker," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The U.S. Supreme Court opinion reasserted the rule of law in American society: "It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our nation's commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad."

Justice O'Connor added, "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

The Supreme Court decision in Hamdi did not say that the government cannot detain enemy combatants: it can detain enemy combatants for the length of hostilities. However, they must give some sort of due process for determining their status as an enemy combatant. Although Congress has recognized the existence of the Pentagon's administrative procedure, the CSRT, the Supreme Court has not recognized it as providing due process.

Legal significance Edit

The Hamdi decision reaffirmed the importance of separation of powers among the branches of the government, and, in particular, the role of the judiciary in reviewing actions of the executive branch infringing the rights of citizens even in emergencies. During the American Civil War, the Supreme Court prohibited military detention of noncombatant Americans without appeal or writ of habeas corpus, as long as the courts were functioning. A 1971 law condemned the detention of Japanese-Americans without legal recourse during World War II and prohibited the imprisonment of American citizens except pursuant to an act of Congress.

The Bush administration claimed that U.S. law does not apply to "illegal enemy combatants" and, furthermore, the Bush administration asserted the right to decide which U.S. citizens are "enemy combatants," ineligible for protection of their rights as enshrined in the United States Constitution.

Some legal scholars hailed the Supreme Court decision as the most important civil rights opinion in a half-century and a dramatic reversal of the sweeping authority asserted by the White House after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Release Edit

On October 9, 2004, Hamdi was released and deported to Saudi Arabia after agreeing to renounce his U.S. citizenship and promising to comply with strict travel restrictions preventing him from travel to the United States, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Hamdi was also required to notify Saudi Arabian officials if he ever plans to leave the kingdom and he had to promise not to sue the U.S. government over his captivity.

Though Hamdi renounced his U.S. citizenship, it is unclear under these circumstances if the renunciation was "voluntary" as required by the Supreme Court's decisions in Afroyim v. Rusk and Vance v. Terrazas, especially since the U.S. presently holds that formal renunciations are only valid if made before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer outside the U.S. If Hamdi ever tries to reclaim his U.S. citizenship, his renunciation may thus be subject to challenge before a U.S. court.[citation needed]

See also Edit


  1. Birth Certificate: Yaser Hamdi [1] 1980-09-26
  2. Hanahan brig: The next Guantanamo? [2] Tony Bartelme 2009-03-15 mirror
  3. Worthington, Andy, The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison, Pluto Press. ISBN 0745326658 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mayer, Jane, "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals", 2008. p. 199
  5. Military concerned for detainees' sanity, records show [3] Carol Cratty 2008-10-08 mirror
  6. 2002 Navy Consolidated Brig emails about the captives' mental health [4] mirror

External links Edit