A federal appeals court Tuesday endorsed the government's sweeping authority to detain terrorism suspects whom it can link to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and affiliated groups.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a lower court's decision in 2008 that the government may continue to detain a Yemeni, an admitted cook for a group allied with the Taliban. The prisoner, Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani, has been held at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002.
The decision would make it more difficult for some detainees to win release through federal lawsuits challenging their confinements because it so strongly backs the government's authority, legal experts said.
"This is a big win for the government," said Robert Chesney, a national security law professor at the University of Texas.Two of the judges on the three-judge panel were George W. Bush appointees: Janice Rogers Brown and Brett Kavanaugh. "Viewed in full, the facts show Al-Bihani was part of and supported a group—prior to and after September 11—that was affiliated with Al Qaeda and Taliban forces and engaged in hostilities against a U.S. Coalition partner. Al-Bihani, therefore, falls squarely within the scope of the President’s statutory detention powers," the court wrote.