Hamdi may go free but Padilla doesn't get his day in court because the Supreme Court ruled that his lawyers had filed their paperwork in the wrong court district. The Supreme Court also ruled that the 'enemy combatants' held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba can make legal appeals to U.S. courts.
Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan and held for three years without trial and until recently without legal representation may soon be released. His potential upcoming release appears to be a consequence of the recent Supreme Court decision requiring that American citizens held as enemy combatants must have a right to appeal their status. Faced with actually having to go to a real court with real rules it appears that the Bush administration has instead decided to release Hamdi.
Was Yaser Hamdi guilty of a crime? If the information we have been fed about Mr. Hamdi is correct, that he was found on the battlefield apparently fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, then it seems reasonable to believe that he should be charged with a crime. Rather than giving Hamdi his day in court and if he is guilty making sure justice is done it would appear that the Bush administration would rather make a mockery of American civil rights by holding a U.S. citizen for three years without charges and then when forced to face American justice let a possible criminal go.
Jose Padilla, an American citizen arrested on American soil originally as a material witness and later as an enemy combatant and now held for over two years was also only recently allowed to meet with his lawyer. His case also made it to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that Padilla's lawyers had filed their case in the wrong court district. Given the Hamdi case I would imagine that Padilla will eventually get his day in court but not until his lawyers refile in the right court district.
The Supreme Court also ruled on appeals from non U.S. citizens being held as enemy combatants by the U.S. military in Cuba. The government argued that because Cuba is not U.S. territory and the people being held are not U.S. citizens the U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction. The Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the detainees do have redress to American courts. The ruling seems largely based on the unique nature of America's legal status in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Hamdi case can be tracked here, the Padilla case here and the Guantanamo case here. Each of the Supreme Court rulings starts with a short summary that I found to be consistently excellent. If you want to understand the details without having to wade through oceans of legal text the introductory summaries are well worth reading. The Zacarias Moussaoui case, one of the Bush administrations few attempts to use American courts to try a terrorist, can be tracked here.
If the idea of living in a police state where the President has the unilateral right to declare anyone he pleases an 'enemy combatant' and throw them into a hole forever disturbs you then I might humbly suggest donating to the ACLU.