Defense lawyers representing several Guantánamo detainees are challenging the Obama administration’s new definition for enemy combatants, arguing that the president’s retooled formula is still too broad and violates traditional laws of war.
On March 13, Justice Department lawyers filed papers outlining the new standards they would use to decide who the government could and could not detain in the war on terror. The revamped guidelines did away with the term “enemy combatant” while slightly narrowing the definition of who could be held. And whereas the Bush administration argued that the president had inherent constitutional authority to detain suspected militants and terrorists indefinitely, the Obama White House says the power comes exclusively from the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan, which Congress passed in 2001.
In their Friday filing , the detainees’ lawyers — a group that included Peter Ellis of Boston’s Foley Hoag, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul Leder of Washington’s Richards Kibbe & Orbe — argue that the president is still overstepping his legal bounds. They point out that the AUMF says nothing explicit about detention powers, and that the Supreme Court, in cases such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), has chosen to apply a narrow reading of the resolution.