WASHINGTON — The Biden administration pulled back on Friday from a Trump-era claim that detainees at the Guantánamo Bay wartime prison have no due process rights under the Constitution. But it stopped short of declaring that noncitizens held at the American naval base in Cuba are covered by such legal protections, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Instead, in a much-anticipated brief before the full Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Justice Department took no position on the question of whether Guantánamo detainees have any due process rights. The muddled outcome followed a sharp internal debate among the Biden legal team.
The brief was filed under seal because it contained classified information about the detainee at the center of the case, a 53-year-old Yemeni man, Abdulsalam al-Hela, who has been held without charge or trial at the wartime prison since 2004. But while it was not immediately available for public viewing, officials described its views — or lack thereof — on due process.
The question of whether the Constitution’s guarantee that the government cannot deprive people of “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” applies to non-American detainees held at Guantánamo has been raised since the George W. Bush administration first brought wartime prisoners there for indefinite detention without trial in 2002. It has never been resolved.
While it is not always clear what process is “due,” a precedent establishing that the clause covers such detainees would give them a greater basis to ask a court to scrutinize how the government is treating them across matters including their continued detention, their medical treatment and whether evidence derived from torture may be used against
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