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An Update: The Right to Counsel, More Important Today
By Anthony Lewis
In the four decades since Gideon v. Wainwright was decided,
there has been no moment when the principle of the right to counsel
seemed to me as important as it does today. That is because the
principle is under profound assault by the government of the United
The Department of Justice, at the direction of Attorney General
John Ashcroft, advanced the claim that any American citizen can be
indefinitely detained if the President designates him an “enemy
combatant.” The detainee cannot challenge that designation in any court,
the DOJ says — and may not speak to a lawyer acting for him.
That astonishing proposition was put forward by government lawyers
in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen who was captured
by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and taken, eventually, to a Navy brig in
Virginia. The circumstances of his capture — whether he was with the
Taliban or al Qaeda forces, for example — are not known as I write this
in September, because the g
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