For over 17 years, Moath al-Alwi has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge. A Yemeni citizen, al-Alwi is one of Guantánamo’s “forever prisoners,” those whom the U.S. government has not charged with a crime but is unwilling to release. On June 10, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in his case, the latest setback in al-Alwi’s long effort to obtain due process rights. Even though the court wouldn’t take al-Alwi up, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that it would only be a matter of time before the court had to grapple with the forever prisoners and the scope of the government’s power to hold them.
The Supreme Court rejection — and Breyer’s comments — briefly brought al-Alwi’s case back to national attention. Little noted, however, were the eyebrow-raising assertions that the government has made in this case about its powers to indefinitely detain not just al-Alwi, but anyone — including U.S. citizens.