- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003


Reversing course, Pentagon officials have decided to allow a U.S.-born terrorism suspect access to a lawyer, the Defense Department announced yesterday.

The Defense Department will make arrangements over the next few days for a lawyer to visit Yaser Esam Hamdi “subject to appropriate security restrictions,” a Pentagon statement said.

Mr. Hamdi is being held as an “enemy combatant,” a designation the Bush administration says denies him rights to a lawyer or a trial.

The Supreme Court is considering whether to hear an appeal from a public defender, Frank Dunham, who challenged Mr. Hamdi’s detention and wanted to act as his lawyer.

Mr. Dunham said last night he assumed he would be able to meet with Mr. Hamdi, although he had not been formally notified by the military. He added that this would not affect his arguments before the Supreme Court.

“U.S. citizens shouldn’t be held without counsel for long periods of time,” Mr. Dunham said. “I don’t think it cures all the ills of this enemy combatant situation, especially for U.S. citizens.”

The Pentagon announcement came one day before the Bush administration was scheduled to file a response at the Supreme Court to that appeal.

Mr. Hamdi is being held in the U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. He was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001. Originally taken to the prison for terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he was transferred to the United States in April 2002 after military authorities determined he had been born in Louisiana and therefore is a U.S. citizen.

The Pentagon statement said that allowing Mr. Hamdi access to a lawyer “is not required by domestic or international law and should not be treated as a precedent.”

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